Most of the grand sauces and some
contemporary sauces can be prepared in advance, then cooled and stored.
When you are ready to serve them, you will need to reheat the sauce
quickly and safely. This is most easily accomplished over direct heat,
although in the case of some very delicate cream sauces, you may prefer to
use a double boiler.
Once the sauce is at the correct
temperature, check it carefully for the best possible flavor, aroma,
texture, color and appearance. Make any necessary adjustments to the sauce
either now, or after the sauce has been finished according to need.
Holding a Finished Sauce
Some sauces are suitable for holding in a
steam table during service. As noted, they must be brought as quickly as
possible up to service temperature. Then, they are generally transferred
to clean bain-marie and placed in hot water bath.
Those sauces that have been thickened with a
starch will be prone to developing a skin if they are left uncovered. Some
chefs like to top the sauce with clarified butter. This creates an
airtight seal that prevents a skin from forming on the surface of the
sauce. Others prefer to use a fitted cover for the bain-marie or a piece
of parchment paper cut to fit directly onto the surface of the sauce.
Plastic wrap can also be used.
Emulsion sauces, such as hollandaise-type
sauces and beurre blancs, need special care. They may not hole up in a
steam table, since temperatures could be high enough to cause the sauce to
break. Find another warm spot in the kitchen, or use a vacuum bottle
(preferably one with a wide neck). Be sure that any emulsified sauces that
remains after service are discarded to avoid food-borne disease.
Plating and Presentation
Sauces do add flavor, moisture and texture
to a dish. They also serve to enhance its visual appeal. There are some
principles used in applying sauces to foods.
Maintain the temperature of the sauce, be
sure that hot sauces are extremely hot, warm emulsions sauces are as warm
as possible without danger of breaking, and cold sauces remain cold until
they come in contact with hot foods. The temperatures of the sauce, the
food being sauced, and the plate should all be carefully monitored.
If the food being served has a crisp or
otherwise interesting texture, it is generally best to pool the sauce
beneath the food, spreading it in a layer directly on the plate. If an
item could benefit from a little "cover" or the sauce has more visual
appeal, spoon or ladle it evenly over the top of the food. Use common
sense when you determine portion sizes for sauces. There should be enough
for the guest to enjoy the flavor of the sauce with each bite, but not so
much that the dish looks swamped. Not only does this disturb the balance
between the items on the plate, it also makes it difficult for you to
carry the food from the kitchen to the table without at least some of the
sauce running onto the rim, or worse, over the edge of the plate.
Sauces should be artfully applied to foods,
but they should never look as if they were "touched" or labored over.
Foods should appear fresh and as natural as possible.