Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #2

By Jillian Bernardini - Sep 09, 2011 - 01:06 PM
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July 8th:  Five Leading Sauces; derivatives, emulsions, and reductions

Tasting a demi-glace: pretty certain that's what heaven must be like.  Who knew I would love and enjoy creating and tasting French sauces so much!  I am definitely a sauce girl; no denying it.  Coming into Friday's class, I was slightly nervous about breaking my sauces and not seasoning them enough.  These are the two mishaps that I made my goal to avoid in the kitchen. 

Before reading our chapter on sauces for class, I never knew of the "Five Mother Sauces," considering I mainly grew up on our classic Italian tomato or Bolognese.  Of course, my mom always began with a béchamel for her macaroni and cheese, but we never called it that (or once the cheese was added, a mornay!).  Something that Kevin said in the beginning of the night truly stuck with me:  Sauce should complement food, not disguise it.  When I think about American cooking or restaurants that incorporate gravy or sauces with a dish, it can often be gloppy, thick, and practically suffocating the main components in the plate.  Creating our sauces with finesse and techniques like "monte au buerre" has given me a new perspective and education for saucing a dish. 

The mother sauces: velouté, béchamel, espagnole, hollandaise - they sound fancy, French, and intimidating, but tonight's class taught me that if you aren't afraid of butter, then these sauces are simple to create, and flavorful too.  The demonstration of espagnole and the use of "reduction" created such a rich viscosity that developed by giving the sauce time to simmer and moisture to evaporate.  Creating emulsions by hand was more intensive than reducing sauces, and I was perspiring a great deal when I had to whisk the warm butter to make the perfect hollandaise.  Hollandaise, like mayonnaise, were sauces that I used to fear, especially because my only personal experience was seeing them in their questionably shelf-stable conditions on supermarket shelves.  I only knew to stay far away.  How could a sauce made from eggs last so long at room temperature?  Now, I'm excited to show my mother that hollandaise can taste delicious and make her eggs benedict for her birthday.

                              Hollandaise on our Eggs Benedict!

Making sauces from scratch was a great way to develop those fundamental instincts of cooking: when to add more butter, more salt, and when to adapt to different cooking environments.  Another technique that I learned was cooking "au sec," which is something so simple, yet so integral to developing richer flavors.  Seeing the demonstrations and then recreating these myself has only given me more confidence in the true fundamental skills of my cooking.  Also, the macaroni and cheese that Robyn made was so decadent and rich in all the right ways that you really cannot ever have enough cheese!

I will leave you with the recipe for Beurre Blanc, with the addition of cream that allows the butter sauce to remain stable for a longer period of time.

Cream Beurre Blanc

Shallot, chopped fine           1 Tbsp.

Clarified butter                    2 tsp.

White wine                          6 fl. oz.

Heavy cream                       8 fl. oz.

Cold, unsalted butter          8 oz.

Salt, white pepper               to taste, [TT]

  1. Saute the shallot in clarified butter until translucent, but not brown.  Add the wine and reduce by half [cooking au sec!].
  2. Add the cream, bring to a boil and reduce to two-thirds.
  3. Remove from the heat, keep warm.  Whisk the cold butter into the sauce in several batches, about an ounce at a time.  Move the pan from on and off the heat to maintain a moderate temperature.
  4. Until the sauce has reached desired consistency, season with salt and white pepper, to taste.

If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can strain before serving.  However, I enjoy the textural element of the shallots.  Additionally, you can create a beurre rouge by substituting red wine for the white wine.  You can also add fresh herbs and different spices to create a more complex butter sauce!  Serve this on top of any protein [pan-seared chicken breasts, red snapper, strip steak] or with vegetables.

Happy cooking, and thanks again for reading!