In the most basic terms, a sauce is any
flavorful liquid used to accompany food. It can be as simple as melted
butter or as complex as a Mexican mole made of chili peppers, onions,
chocolate, stock, and dozens of other ingredients. Sauces are important
for adding moisture to dry foods and enhancing the taste of bland foods.
In order to thicken sauces, keep cooking to
further reduce the liquid in a sauce, which will also concentrate the
flavors. Or add a thickener, such as flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, rice
or mashed potato flakes. When thickening a sauce with flour, cornstarch,
or arrowroot, first blend the thickener with a little bit of cold water
or broth to create a paste. Then, whisk the paste into the sauce. The
initial blending process helps prevent lumps.
To thicken a sauce that contains eggs, add
some of the hot sauce to the eggs in a separate cup, stirring to blend.
Then, stir the egg mixture into the sauce. The initial blending helps
prevent curdling. Always cook egg-based sauces over very low heat. To
thin, just whisk in more liquid until the sauce has reached the desired
Smooth and satiny finished sauces could be
achieved by whisking in cold unsalted butter, a little bit at a time,
over low heat. Use 1 tablespoon butter for every 1/2 cup liquid. The
butter should incorporate smoothly into the sauce without melting into
an oily puddle. Avoid letting the sauce boil after you have added the
Always place the saucepan in a cast-iron
skillet set over a low flame, which will help to buffer the heat if
sauces are required to be kept delicately warm. To reheat, always reheat
sauces slowly over low heat to reduce the risk of curdling, seizing, or
breaking (you'll know a broken sauce when you see the fat separating
from the rest of the ingredients).
To deepen the color of brown sauce, add a
drop of Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy-Master, commercially available products
made from caramelized sugar. Avoid using too much, as these products are
very potent. You can also add instant coffee granules or unsweetened
cocoa powder. For each 2 cups sauce, mix 1 teaspoon instant coffee or
unsweetened cocoa with 1 tablespoon of the sauce in a separate cup.
Whisk back into the simmering sauce.