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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Understanding Sauces - A background and all there is to know


Sauces comprise the honor and glory of French Cookery. They have contributed to its superiority... Sauces are the orchestration and accompaniment of a fine meal, and enable a good chef or cook to demonstrate their talent..."      
Curnonsky; Cuisine et Vin de France



A little bit of kitchen talk today.

A read into the background of sauces is a good way to understand the liquids that flavour our dishes! Afterall, if sauces could do that to the French cuisine, just think of what they can do to yours!! Once we grasp the understanding of ingredients, their functions, textures and flavours it becomes easier to construct our own dishes and come up with signature food creations.
the definition... Sauces are seasoned liquids that can be hot or cold. they are either served with, or used in the making of a given dish.

the functionality...
Sauces are used to add flavouring that is compatible with the ingredients used in making a dish.
The Evolution of SaucesThe early versions of French sauces such as the Cameline, poivrade, Robert... were either very spicy or sweet and sour due to their dependence on condiments which produced such flavours.
They were basically made using hot stocks/broths, which are mainly wine based, also using other cooking juices and were sometimes mixed with dried breadcrumbs.

In the 17th and 18th Century more refined and aromatic sauce preparations were created including sauces like: Béchamel, Soubise, Duxelles and mayonnaise sauces. However, the real start of the whole sauce classification process was the work of the renowned French chef and pastry cook Carême.

There is a great amount of finesse, talent, and knowledge involved in the preparation of sauces. therefore; the Sauce Chef of the kitchen staff had always been considered to be a great technician and this position as a prestigious one. This goes to show what mastering this part of the cooking process can do to your cooking at home. After all a simple steak or as simple an ingredient as asparagus can be transformed with as simple as a good Hollandaise sauce with a sprinkling of good fresh dills for instance. Even you images will look better than simply pausing a bear steak!


the classification...Sauces are classified into 3 main categories
  1. Hot Sauces: have numerous versions and preparation. 
They are subdivided into Brown Sauces and White Sauces 
Basic Brown Sauces include: Tomato Sauce, Espagnole and Demi-glace.  
Basic White Sauces include: Béchamel and Velouté: the two have innumerable variations. 

     2. Cold Sauces: have many variations and are usually based on mayonnaise or vinaigrette.

     3. Dessert Sauces: these can be hot or cold. They can be poured over the dessert or served separately. Custard cream is a popular dessert sauce, there is also chocolate sauce and fruit sauces. Dessert sauces may often be made out of fruits in the form of a puree, jelly or juices of baked fruits.

Chateaubriand with Bearnaise Sauce & Chunky Mustard Sauce
The repertoire was gradually increased by introduction of new sauces derived from different cuisines and their ingredients. Hence the namings: Sauce à la Russe, Sauce à l'Italienne, sauce à la Polonais...
Also added to the repertoire of sauces are those based on the use of a specific ingredient like:
Red or White Wine  :    Bourguignonne Sauce
Fresh Cream           :    Normande Sauce
Fresh Butter           :    Beurre Blanc
Mustard                  :   Dijonnaise Sauce
Shallots                  :   Bordelaise Sauce
Onions                  :    Lyonnaise Sauce
Garlic                   :    aïoli
 
Then evolved the tendency to produce lighter sauces, and nowadays chefs use a mixture of sauces derived from curd cheese, yoghurts... Names of sauces can often reflect its ingredients; like Paprika Sauce, Truffles Sauce...etc


the conclusion...
A sauce can be thick or thin. Sauces can be clear, strained or with visible ingredients in them. They can be used to season raw food such as tomato with vinaigrette in a salad, it can be served with a cold dish like mayonnaise on the side of cold cuts, it can also be served with a hot dish like chateaubriand with béarnaise, or sole normande. Some sauces can be part of the dish like coque au vin and ragouts, or can be separate accompaniments to a dish...

the preparation...Ideally, deep heavy saucepans should be used to prepare sauces, as they evenly distribute heat and prevent sauces from burning or curdling. The techniques used in preparing sauces are: deglazing, reducing, thickening, emulsifying, thinning with liquid, enriching with cream or egg...etc


The 4 Classic Methods of Sauce preparation
  • Mixing together the cold ingredients like in the preparation of a vinaigrette.
  • Emulsification: mixing together liquids that do not normally stay mixed. in this method an emulsifying agent is used to hold the ingredients together. This method is used for cold sauces such as mayonnaise, tartare..etc.
  • Making a roux is widely used. It involves heating butter and flour together to form a paste. this method is used in sauces like Béchamel.
  • Cooking a stock | Broth and thickening it is a widely used first stage to prepare a variety of sauces. these sauces may be thickened by butter or cornflour, or a brown or white roux could be added to them...etc

Some Sauces that you might want to try (click the links for the recipes)



A wide variety of ingredients can be used in the preparation of sauces, and it is the perfect place to start your experimentation. Mastering sauces can transform any dish from simple to sophisticated. It will transform your cooking for sure and will be your way to reflect a new you in the kitchen.  Whether to simply garnishing a food, or to place on the side for a more interactive eating experience, to even setting the mood of sharing on a communal table... sauces allow you to do so much with your food and overall eating experience. Go for it, and start experimenting with sauces... 

Let's chat -  Most my friends enjoy their burgers with Mayonnaise, I always prefered mine with mustard and ketchup instead. I am not a huge fan of Mayonnaise, I only like to use it sparingly, and perhaps only with certain cold cuts. My friends laugh and think am crazy!! Are you a Mayo fan or a Mustard lover?

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