How to Classic French Sauces at Home
How many of you while dining out have been served an incredible sauce, only to wish you could duplicate it at home?
I often want to ask the chef (and sometimes do) what's in his sauce and how did he make it. This section of The Reluctant Gourmet is all about sauces - how to make them and what to put them on. It will be another of my evolving pages that will grow over time as I do some research and learn more about sauce making myself.
There are many great cookbooks out there that contain techniques and recipes for making sauces. Some, including James Peterson's, Sauces and Raymond Sokolov's, The Saucier's Apprentice are entirely devoted to just this subject. So if you truly want to learn more than just the basics, I recommend you spend some time checking out your favorite cookbooks and start experimenting. After you get down some of the basic techniques, you can start substituting your own favorite ingredients and create your own homemade sauces.
When I was growing up my mom served us plain old broiled chicken, broiled pork chops, broiled steak and broiled fish with nothing on it. (it's probable where I developed my keen taste for ketchup.) But had she just sautéed these ingredients in a little butter and oil, she could have made a delicious simple pan sauce that we most likely would have refused to eat but my dad would have loved.
So if your kids are like mine and don't want any sauce on there food, (although I do ask them to at least taste it and if they don't like it they can spit it out) there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy a fine breast of chicken with shallots and garlic while you kids eat nonsauced chicken. At least it's hasn't been broiled to within an inch of it's life and who knows, maybe they will fool you and like the sauce.
Sauces can be as made as easily as throwing some simple ingredients into a food processor and served raw (pesto sauce), or as complicated as spending all day making stock reductions to prepare a classic sauce like Sauce au Poivre. The degree you want to take your cooking is up to you. Remember, almost any complicated sauce you want to prepare has an easier, less complicated way to make it.
Will the sauce taste as good as a sauce made from painstakingly preparing each ingredient from scratch. No. Will the sauce taste good. Yes, and the meal will be far better off with the sauce than without unless you ask one of your kids. It's funny, when I started this web site, I certainly wasn't thinking about kids and now my two little girls seem to be included in a lot of my writing. So let's start with a cold sauce and then look at the basics of making a pan sauce.
A classic cream sauce typically served on vegetables, fish and its most famous partner, Eggs Benedict.
Many of us have tasted pesto some time in their life. I remember several years ago it was all the rage back in New York and every restaurant you went to would serve something on the menu with pesto. The traditional Genoese version consisted of basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and oil all crushed into a paste with a food processor or mortar and pestle (pesto in Italian). But did you know there was a French version of pesto called pistou (pees-TOO) that is very similar but doesn't use pine nuts or parsley.
I learned about pistou when my wife made Soupe au Pistou from our friend Jane Sigal's Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fare - A French country Cookbook. This very popular vegetable soup from the south of France is the Italian version of minestrone. There was some leftover pistou that I stored in a jar in the refrigerator. The next day I served it on some pasta and it was delicious. Then I tried it on chicken breasts and I told my wife this stuff should be commercially made and sold as a condiment. So if you are a fan of pesto, give this a try. It's easy to make and will last a several days in the fridge. Here is Jane's recipe for Pistou.
Making Incredible Sauces at Home
If you can grill a steak, roast a chicken, or fry up some fish, you might as well take your cooking to the next level and learn how to prepare incredible sauces at home. Click here to learn more!
Making Incredible Pan Sauces at Home
If you want to elevate your cooking skills to a new level and add a whole lot more to your repitoire, learn how to make a simple pan sauce here.
Many of the sauces I make in my house start with stock reduction and demi-glace. Because they are time consuming to make and take up a lot of room in my freezer, I take a short cut by using some commercial products.