I like em Saucy Saucy Saucy
There's nothing that makes a dish tastier that putting a little sauce on it. :-) Now, there are also gravies and syrups to drizzle onto, well, whatever you're drizzling it onto, but we'll address most here as sauces. Learn about how they're made and a little about the classic sauces and you'll find it easy to whip up any sauce, gravy, or syrup. In fact, if you learn about these, making your own soup isn't far behind. Scary, I know.
For the most part, sauces are comprised of a Base, Flavoring, and typically a Thickener. I'll also just name some of the classic sauces, the recipes for which you can find under sauces, syrups, and soups in the recipes section.
Cream sauces are just that......creamy, rich, and generally very fattening. Now, I happen to be lucky and not worry about my weight too much.......but that doesn't mean if you do, you should skip cream sauces. Just use less. Then again, properly utilized cream sauces ought to have you burn off some extra calories anyway.
Most cream sauces work really well over pasta or poultry. And, if you are making a sweet cream sauce, they work perfectly over fruit for dessert. In fact, there isn't all that much difference between sweet cream sauce and custards, so learn about one, you'll learn the other.
If you are making a cream base sauce for an entree or side dish, I recommend you thicken with flour. If it's for dessert, it is usually better to thicken with egg yolk.
The most well-known butter sauce is Hollandaise, comprised mostly of butter and egg yolk. Then comes Béarnaise sauce and of course Mayonnaise. When you use oil or butter for sauce, you'll need to bind the fat with protein....in this case, egg yolk.
Use Hollandaise for eggs and vegetables, and fish. I've also used Hollandaise on steak with a little extra lemon flavor...tremendous.
Béarnaise sauce is essentially Hollandaise, but also uses tarragon herb and shallots to give it a stronger flavor. Béarnaise works well on fish or meat, but I recommend it only if you like the flavor of tarragon.
Most of your gravies will be made from stock: either beef; chicken; fish; or whatever else you're responsible for making dead.
Wines and vinegar works really well with stock-based sauces if you incorporate them properly. Just make sure you add the wine or whatever to deglaze your pan and give it a couple minutes to evaporate the alcohol before adding any cream(if you plan to do that).
Most stock sauces and gravies will be thickened with flour.
There are numerous great sauces that use tomatoes as a base, but I generally focus on simple red sauces. Great on pasta or chicken, a great red sauce is incredibly easy to make.
You'll thicken red tomato sauce just by reduction, about 10 to 30 minutes in your saucepan on medium heat.
You may not realize it, but you make infusions more that you probably realize. Tea is the most common. So, armed with that, you can add herbs, spices, and zest to your base when you heat it for the first time and then remove it later.
Infusion is best when you want the flavor of whatever fresh item you are using, but not the actual herb, zest, or spice left over in the sauce or gravy.
Most sauces will utilize several different flavors to give it balance, depth, and something to quiz your date on. Incorporation of flavor(s) is simply adding flavor during the cooking process.
For instance, if you heat some oil or butter in a pan and then slowly add flavors such as onions, herbs, horseradish, and wine at various stages, that is incorporation.
When your sauce is just about ready to be served but needs some additional flavors, then you would simply directly add it then. This is a great time to salt and pepper or add delicate flavors that heating might destroy.
Unlike slender women, sauces are always better when they are thickened. Here are the different ways to thicken a sauce. For that matter, these are also ways to thicken a slender woman. All methods of thickening a sauce will require heat.
Flour is probably the most common way you'll thicken a sauce. There are three different ways to do this:
- make a buerre manie or roux and add as you are cooking.
- sprinkle plain flour from a shaker and mix with a whisk. Do this sparingly and only to make small adjustments to the thickness of a sauce.
- mix 1 part flour and 2 parts water, mix well, then add. Same thoughts as plain flour above, use sparingly.
Cornstarch is good when you want to thicken just a little, but rapidly. Be cautious, this will cook and thicken very quickly if you aren't judicious. Avoid using this in any large quantity, as it will tend to give the sauce a chalky flavor. Mix with water(same as with flour) and add slowly to boiling or almost boiling sauce.
Great for rich creamy sauces. Egg yolks work particularly well for sweet sauces...in fact, I would only thicken a sweet sauce with either egg yolk or by reduction.
Always whip the egg yolk as light as you can get it, then carefully add it to your sauce while stirring vigorously with a whisk.
Reduction is just that: heating the sauce so that the water content evaporates, reducing the actual volume of the sauce. For so many sauces, this is the way to get a truly rich and smooth sauce. Reduction isn't always the most desirable method, if for no other reason than the time it takes to reduce a sauce. However, you will definitely want to use reduction for clear sauces, such as a glaze.
C. SOME CLASSIC SAUCES
A butter sauce. Herbal relative of Hollandaise, it uses tarragon herb and shallots in addition to the base components of Hollandaise. Works great on meat and fish.
Stock sauce. Great on rice or meat. Use drippings from the pan if available, such as in a roast. Also, mushrooms work perfectly in Brown Gravy.
A butter sauce. I use this sauce over eggs, steamed vegetables, meat, and fish. This is an incredibly easy sauce to make, albeit totally comprised of egg yolk and butter. Hey, it's your cholesterol count, not mine.
An oil sauce. This is great for pasta salads, potato salads, etc. Also, works well on a bologna sandwich.
A cream sauce. It's a tangy cream sauce that uses a bit of cheese for a distinctive flavor. You'll typically use Mornay on seafood, especially shellfish, but also is great over eggs or chicken.
Red Sauce with meat
A tomato sauce. The standard red sauce with meat over pasta is a mainstay in my kitchen.....if for no other reason is because its almost impossible to screw up and there are endless variations.
Made from just milk, flour, and butter, White Sauce is the parent sauce to so many variations. You'll want to review it in the recipes section as a White Sauce can be morphed into just about any sauce of any origin. The KKK would have a heart-attack with that one, wouldn't they?