Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School
I had no idea there were so many types of sauces. From savory to sweet, the list is endless. Growing up in the Midwest, “sauce” meant BBQ or booze, not Beurre Blanc.
Wow, I have a lot yet to learn!
Sauces add flavor, texture, moisture, and visual appeal to food. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted. Finally… a French word I can pronounce!
This is what mayo should look like. The yellow color comes from the egg yolk. Store-bought mayonnaise is white because it doesn’t contain egg yolks and is made by combining oil, emulsifiers, proteins and a few other undesirable things like calcium disodium EDTA. See how simple it is to make here. It is even quicker with an immersion blender. Really all you need to know is the ratio: mayonnaise is 20 parts oil to one part liquid (plus yolk).
“A sauce gives the chef the chance to create something with the perfect texture, balance of acid and richness, complexities of flavor, and visual appeal that will change a plate from just a serving of protein, vegetable and starch into a unified culinary statement.” – Joe Abuso
There are two types of sauces – classical and contemporary. In ‘classical’ French cuisine, sauces are the defining component and based upon the 5 Mother Sauces. (see week 2 blog) All other sauces are considered ‘contemporary.’
Classical vs. Contemporary Sauces
- Classical – velouté, béchamel, demi-glace, hollandaise, mayonnaise, and crème anglaise. (basically anything that will clog your arteries)
- Contemporary – infusions, purées, vinaigrettes, salsas, pasta sauces, Asian-style dipping and chutney, to name a few.
What makes contemporary sauces different from classical:
- Less time to prepare.
- More likely to be specifically tailored to a given food or technique.
- Lighter color, texture and flavor.
- More likely to be thickened and finished using emulsions, modified starches or reduction and less likely to contain roux.
- From what I can see… a whole lot healthier!
Selecting the appropriate sauce:
- The sauce’s flavor should not overpower the food
- It should be compatible with main ingredients’ cooking technique.
e.g. If you are roasting or sautéing, make a sauce with the drippings.
French de jour
Fond - A classic French culinary term meaning the browned caramelized and concentrated bits or residue that remain in the pan after cooking meat. The fond is what you are after when you “deglaze” a pan for flavoring sauces and making gravies. This is what made veal broth in our second class so yummy.
Nap or Nappe – French word that means to completely coat food with a light, thin, even layer of sauce or jelly. Also refers to the ability of a liquid to “coat the back of a spoon”. This is what our Beurre Blanc had to do.
Saucier for the evening
Our group project was a contemporary sauce of Vinaigrette. I guess I didn’t consider salad dressing to be a sauce. Rona suggested Orange-Basil vinaigrette, which turned out to be a winner.The base of vinaigrette is three parts oil/fat to one part acid. So we used three parts olive oil and one part orange juice, then added fresh basil and orange zest. Let your head go with whatever you have in your kitchen. Other projects of the evening were harrissa, tapenade, and my personal favorite, Salsa Verde. Naturally I choose that for my homework assignment.
I have several vegetarian friends, so I thought I would make two meals that would go great with the salsa verde. I grilled filet mignon and tofu. I am not a lover of tofu, but I was surprised at how good it tasted grilled. In class we were served salsa verde with roasted fingerling potatoes. That is a great option as well.
From New School of Cooking
- ½ bunch mint leaves
- 2 bunches Italian parsley (leaves only)
- 4 scallions
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 3 T capers
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 T red wine vinegar
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Chop all of the ingredients finely and mix together. Season.
Serve on meat, roasted potatoes or a tofu steak
- 1 package of extra firm tofu
- salad dressing or marinade of your choice
- Drain extra firm tofu and cut in half so you have two large flat ‘steaks’. Pat tofu dry with paper towel.
- Marinate tofu in your favorite dressing or marinade sauce.
Note: Marinade containing a little sugar is best, as it will caramelize. So add a bit of sugar, rice wine vinegar, honey, agave or maple syrup to your marinade.
- Prepare your barbecue grill with a non-stick cooking spray or by rubbing it with oil.
- Heat grill.
- Place tofu on grill for 5-7 minutes on each side until well browned, brushing occasionally with extra marinade.
- Top tofu steaks with a generous dosing of the salsa verde.
Salsa verde is so versatile and easy to make. I hope you will add it to your cooking repertoire. If you serve it on something else, please let me know.
French sauces no longer intimidate me, nor should they intimidate you. I challenge you to try your hand at sauce making… see how simple it can be.
“A well made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”
- Grimod de la Reynière
Brilliant quote from someone whose name sounds like a French sauce!
…and then, she paused for thought