About Sauces

About Sauces

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 point.

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 flavor.

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