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La Technique: Saucy

Class four was all about taking what we had done previously in the stocks class and adding onto it. You take a stock and add a binding element (liason) and you come out the other side with a basic sauce. Seems pretty simple, right? It is, actually. There are all sorts of liasons out there including flour, potato starch, arrowroot, cornstarch, double cream, mustard (as we saw in our mayo the class before), egg yolk (hollandaise), etc.

We made a roux (50% fat + 50% flour by weight) first and took it through its stages of white to blond to brown. Then, made another roux, took it just to the white stage, added cold milk a little nutmeg and cayenne pepper and ended up with a bechamel. Bechamels aren’t used that much anymore – there were once used as a cheater’s trick to get a cream sauce, when no cream was available or too expensive. Some people today use them for lasagna but I personally don’t see the need. If you add some cheese to the bechamel, you end up with a mornay sauce. Using cheddar and others and covering a casserole of al dente elbow pasta and bake for 30 minutes or so and you have a dinner of good ole mac and cheese. Who knew something so American was actually so French…

Taking our Brown suace that we made the day before and reducing with some shallots, peppercorns, thyme and wine then finishing with some cold butter, we ended up with a bordelaise sauce. Unfortunately, the wine provided was pretty acidic and the final sauce didn’t taste so good. All you tasted was acid. Acidity and salt compromise one another, meaning you can remove acidity with salt or vice versa, but the salt that would’ve been required here would have made the sauce too salty… In other words, you really should use “decent” wine when cooking. I won’t drink two buck chuck, but it works OK for some things in the kitchen. It’s the only way I’ll let Kelly buy it.

We made Fond de veau lie too, but this was nothing exciting, yet. You just take some arrowroot and add it to a little madeira and then mix it into your veal stock. This was then saved for a later class.

What we did make this class that was exciting, and something I made at home this weekend, was Sauce Espagnole and a derivative – Sauce chasseur, or Hunter’s Sauce. This stuff is REALLY good and while time consuming, fairly easy. We took the veal stock we made the class before (at home I found a brand of stock called Culinary something or other – It’s ingredients were very simple, like “Veal stock, Beef Stock, red wine, vegetable mirepoix, salt” and it tastes just as good as what we made at the school by the time we got to the sauce) and added it a pot that first contained butter and bacon we had browned in it, along with mirepoix that had browned as well and a little flour that had been cooked until the flour taste had been removed (white roux). Simmer all of that together with a tomato or two and some tomato paste for about an hour and then strain out all the bits. At home I was left with about 6 cups of sauce espagnole (I started with two liters of stock) and it smelled and tasted of porky, tomatoey and beefy delicious, but it isn’t something you’d use on its own. It’s just another base. I put 5 cups in the freezer, breaking them into one cup ziplock packages for easy use later, and kept a cup out for my Hunter’s sauce.

The Hunter’s sauce is made by browning some mushrooms in butter, adding finely diced shallots, deglacing with white wine, flambeing with a little cognac, adding the sauce espagnole and reducing to a rich and thick sauce that can be poured over almost anything. We pan-roasted some chicken at home and put it on that, along with a turnip puree for a comforting saturday night dinner.

Now, you could probably skip the whole espagnole step, use beef broth and get something similar. If I was just thinking about one meal, then that’s exactly what I would do. You won’t, however, get the same depth of flavor. The Chasseur sauce is deep, earthy and complex and that happens only because of all the build-up. This dinner took a couple hours to prepare, but we have 5 more cups of Espagnole in the freezer that will last for maybe six months and can be used for many other things. What other things? I don’t know. I’ll have to ask the chef on Tuesday…

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