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Selecting the Appropriate Sauce

Selecting the Appropriate Sauce

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 discarded.

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 lambs.

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.

Contemporary 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 following -

  • 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.

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