As I mentioned at the AosHQ pageover on Gab.com, today’s Recipe Tuesday will be devoted to the Horde of Deplorables who are able to cope with sauces.
What follows is a sauce-making primer from Grand Diplôme Cooking Course, Volume 2 (1971). [For ease of reading, I’ve omitted quotation marks.]
Let me remark that after having read all this, that poor little idiot is missing out on some good stuff.
Sauces are the foundation of French cooking but there is no mystery to their making—this simply depends on the perfect balance of ingredients. If proportion of flour to liquid is wrong, no amount of cooking will give a sauce the right consistency.
An inventive sauce can transform a simple dish into something superlative and, once you are familiar with the ‘mother’ (mere) sauces you can make an infinite number of variations. Sauces fall into three groups—white sauces with white, velouté and béchamel as ‘mother’ sauces; brown sauces with Espagnote as the ‘mother’ sauce; and butter sauces with Hollandaise, Béarnaise and sauce blanche au beurre as ‘mother’ sauces. Some of these sauces appear elsewhere [in this book] but, to make this lesson complete, we are repeating them or versions of them.
We also discuss liaisons in greater detail; these are mainly used for making white and brown sauces from liquids and gravies.
The proportion of flour to liquid in a sauce can vary its thickness for the following different uses:
Flowing: for serving as an accompanying suace—1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon flour to 1 cup liquid.
Coating: slightly thicker consistency for coating fillets of fish, eggs and vegetables—1 ½ tablespoons butter and 1 ½ tablespoons flour to 1 cup liquid.
Panada: thick sauce for binding which is used as a base for croquettes, fish or meat mousses—3-4 tablespoons butter and 3-4 tablespoons flour to 1 cup liquid.
Liaisons play an important part in the making of sauces. The word itself means a binding together and refers to ingredients which are used to thicken sauces and soups.
There are various ways to bind sauces:
- Kneaded butter (beurre manié) is a liaison mixture of butter and flour in the proportions of almost twice as much butter as flour, worked together on a plate with a fork to make a paste. It is added in small pieces to thicken the liquid in which food has been cooked, i.e. fish stews, casserole, etc.
This is a useful liaison to use when quantity of liquid remaining in a dish is unknown, thereby making it difficult to estimate how much flour alone should be used for thickening.
Kneaded butter should be added to hot (but not boiling) liquids. Shake the pan gently and when butter has melted (indicating flour has been absorbed into the liquid), reboil. If the liquid still is not thick enough, repeat the process.
- Feculé, i.e. arrowroot or potato starch, should be mixed to a smooth paste with water or milk and stirred into the nearly boiling liquid off the heat. Once added, bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Use with ragôuts and casseroles as well as brown sauces.
- Cornstarch can be used instead of arrowroot or potato starch but gives a slightly heavier result (most often used for sweet dishes, e.g. custard). It is added in the same way but must be simmered 3 minutes to cook thoroughly.
- A mixture of egg yolks and cream may be used to thicken and enrich velouté sauces and some cream sauces. The yolk or yolks are worked thoroughly tether with the cream and 2-3 tablespoons of sauce are stirred in, a little at a time. When well blended, this mixture is gradually stirred into the main bulk of the sauce which is then stirred continuously over low heat. This allows the egg yolks to cook slowly and gives a particularly creamy consistency to the sauce. Never boil the sauce or it will curdle.
Points to remember:
- The volume of fat and flour should be equal to give a soft liquid roux (the foundation of a flour sauce).
- If the roux is hot, the liquid should be warm or cold; if the roux is cold, the liquid must be warm. This makes blending easier and avoids a granular mixture.
- For a béchamel or white sauce, melt fat gently (do not let it sizzle), take from heat and stir in the flour (to make a white roux)
For a velouté sauce, cook flour in the fat over a low heat for a few seconds until it is a pale straw color (a blond roux) before adding liquid.
For a brown sauce, cook the flour in the fat over low to medium heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally with a wire whisk, until the flour is a rich brown (a brown roux).
- The fats used may be butter, margarine, meat drippings or oil, according to the type of sauce being made.
Brown and butter sauces below the fold.
You can improvise a brown sauce to serve with chops or hamburgers simply from homemade stock or a can of bouillon. But the brown sauce which is called a ‘sauce mère’ (a mother sauce from which other sauces are derived—as with a béchamel or velouté sauce) is a French classic.
When the famous French chef Carême (who was in his time chief cook to Napoleon, Tsar Nicholas of Russia and George IV of England) made his demi-Espagnole sauce, he described it as “gradually taking on that brilliant glaze which delights the eye when it first appears …”
The recipe has scarcely changed and today the same brilliant glaze denotes the perfect sauce. From this ‘mother’ sauce, a large number of advanced sauces can be made.
Points to Remember
- To create the perfect sauce, every detail must be right and this will take time and trouble. However, brown sauces keep well for up to a week in the refrigerator, so make double or triple quantity and store the excess in a covered container.
- Much depends on the stock with which the sauce is made. For a good flavor and a fine glossy texture, use clear brown bone stock that is free of grease and set it to a light but not too firm jellied consistency.
- Whisk the sauce briskly when it first comes to a boil and is thickening, until it is very smooth. Once simmering starts, stir gently only when necessary, as whisking will cloud the finished sauce.
- Do not add more flour than stated in the recipe. The consistency of the finished sauce should be that of heavy cream and the ‘half-glaze’ is achieved by reduction of the bone stock in the sauce, rather than by the addition of extra flour. (Flour is used at the beginning only to absorb the fat and bind the ingredients together.)
Butter sauces are always served lukewarm.
The best known butter sauces are Hollandaise and Béarnaise. Besides being served alone, a small quantity of Hollandaise is often added to a velouté or béchamel sauce for coating fish or delicate meats such as veal or chicken. Hollandaise sauce has an egg yolk base to which butter is added with lemon juice as seasoning (or vinegar, reduced so as to mellow he flavor). Béarnaise sauce is similar to Hollandaise but is sharper and flavored with herbs.
Sauce blanche au beurre (white sauce with butter)is less widely known. Made with a butter and flour roux to which boiling water and butter are added, with lemon juice as seasoning, it is served with white meats, veal or chicken, or it can form the base of a Venetian sauce (sauce Vénitienne)—sometimes called green sauce (sauce verte). Sauce blanche au beurre can become ‘mock Hollandaise’ (sauce bâtarde) with the addition of 1-2 egg yolks, and is more economical and handles easier than true Hollandaise.
Points to Remember
- The usual proportion of egg to butter in Hollandaise sauce is 1 egg yolk to ¼ cup butter; more butter may be added, but beyond a certain point the yolk will not absorb this and sauce will separate. If too little b utter is added, sauce will taste eggy.
- All butter sauces curdle easily and they must be cooked over gentle heat or, for Hollandaise and Béarnaise, in a water bath or double boiler with the water hot but not boiling. Butter sauces with a flavor base are much less likely to curdle than those with an egg yolk base, but they still must be treated with care.
- If Hollandaise or Béarnaise sauce is too thin, gentle heating will thicken it. If very thick, this is a danger signal, so take sauce from heat at once. If sauce does curdle, do not stir but take off heat and drop in an ice cube, Leave to cool a little, then stir gently. If sauce is still curdled, start from the beginning again, adding curdled mixture instead of butter to more fresh egg yolks.
- All these sauces can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for several days. If storing Hollandaise or adding it to another sauce, omit cream given in the recipe.
- All these sauces should be reheated or kept hot in a water bath or double boiler using hot, but not boiling water.