Cooking Sauces

Cooking Sauces

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 consistency.

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 butter.

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.

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