Sauces are often considered one of the
greatest tests of a chef's skill. Whether they are classic, such as sauce
supreme, or contemporary, such as red pepper coulis, good sauces
demand the highest technical expertise. The successful pairing of a sauce
with a food demonstrates an understanding of the food and an ability to
judge and evaluate a dish's flavors, textures and colors. Understanding
the nuances of pairing a particular sauce with a food is something that
develops throughout a chef's ongoing experience, as lessons are learned
about how and why certain combinations have become enduring classics.
Uncovering the principles behind these pairings will form the foundation
for developing a sensitivity to sauces in particular and the skill and
artistry of cooking in general.
Sauces are not just an afterthought - they
serve a particular function in a dish's composition. It is in learning to
understand why a certain sauce will or will not work with a particular
dish that the process of developing culinary judgment begins. Certain
sauce combinations endure becomes the composition is well balanced in all
areas - taste, texture and eye appeal. Some examples of sauces that are
classically combined with particular foods will help to illustrate this
Sauce supreme is made by reducing a chicken
veloute with chicken stock and finishing it with cream. The sauce's
subtle color, smooth flavor and creamy texture complement the chicken and
help to intensify the meat's flavor. The addition of cream to the sauce
serves to "round out" the flavors.
Sauce Robert is prepared by finishing demi-glace
with mustard and garnish of julienned cornishons. Its sharp flavors
are traditionally paired with pork to cut the meat's richness. The
contrast of both flavor and texture produces an effect that is pleasing,
but not startling, to the palate. This pungent, flavorful sauce brings out
the pork's flavor but might overwhelm a more delicate meat, such as veal.
Naturally leaner foods, such as poultry or
fish are often prepared by quick cooking methods, such as grilling.
sautéing, shallow poaching, or steaming. These methods are well suited to
these tender cuts but unlike slower moist heat methods, add no additional
moisture. That is why grilled steaks are commonly served with a compound
butter or a butter-emulsion sauce such as a bearnaise. The same
rational applies to serving beurre blanc with a delicate white fish
that has been shallow poached. These sauces are rich, buttery, creamy
preparations that add a layer of suavity and succulent to food that left
un-sauced, might seem dry or bland.
Contemporary dishes take a different
approach to counteracting any potential dryness that could result from dry
heat methods. Various hot and cold compotes, relishes, chutneys or
marmalades may be substituted for the classic choices.
Lightly coating a sautéed medallion of lamb
will gives the lamb a glossy finish that gives the entire plate more eye
appeal. Brushing ribs or chicken breast with a barbecue sauce also
enhances the look of the finished dish, glazing the item with color and