Whether they are classics or contemporary,
selecting the appropriate sauce requires an understanding of the food and
the ability to evaluate a dish's flavors, textures and colors. When
selecting a sauce, there are some points to consider. The sauce should be
suitable for the style of service. In a banquet setting, or for any
situation where large quantities of food must be served rapidly and at
their flavor peak, it is usually best to rely on the traditional grand
sauces or a contemporary sauce that shares some of the same
characteristics. One of the grand sauce's fundamental benefits is that it
may be prepared in advance and held in large quantities at the correct
temperature. In an ala carte kitchen, this advantage is less important.
Besides, the sauce should also be suitable
for the main ingredient's cooking technique. A cooking technique that
produces flavorful drippings such as roasting or sautéing, should
logically be paired with a sauce that makes use of those drippings because
the cooking liquid can become a part of the sauce instead of being
Another area to consider is that the sauce's
flavor should be appropriate for the flavor of the food with which it is
paired. Make sure the flavor of the sauce does not overpower the main
ingredient's flavor and vice versa. Although a delicate cream sauce
complements the flavor of Dover sole, it would be overwhelmed by the
flavor of grilled tuna steak. By the same token, a sauce flavored by
rosemary would completely overpower a delicate fish but nicely complements
The Grand Sauces
Hollandaise is often referred to as the
grand sauce. A sauce is considered to be grand sauce if it meets some
basic criteria - it can be prepared in large batches, and then flavored,
finished and garnished in great variety, producing the hundreds and
thousands of so-called "small sauces". Some chefs argue that hollandaise
cannot be made in advance in a large quantity and stored, and it is not
intended as a base sauce used to prepare a variety of derivative sauces,
it does not qualify as a grand sauce. Others feel that it should be
counted as one of the grand sauces. Not only do they feel that this sauce
can be used to prepare derivatives, but it can also be used as the basic
technique to yield a variety of other sauces.
The broad category of contemporary sauces
includes beurre blanc, coulis, compound butters and a variety of
miscellaneous sauces, such as relishes, salsas and compotes. The primary
factors distinguishing contemporary sauces from the grand sauces are the
They usually take less time to prepare.
They are more likely to be specifically
tailored to be a given food or technique.
They have a lighter color, texture and
flavor than some of the grand sauces.
They are more likely to be thickened and
finished using emulsions, modified starches or reduction and less likely
to contain roux.