Monday, July 03, 2006

Sauce-a-palooza Redux!

We continued with the compound/derivative sauces today. I made Marsala sauce that just was not too tasty. What is it with me and the brown sauces? I can make a smackin' good beurre blanc (white butter sauce), a nice little Bechamel, and I've gotten to be pretty darn good at the Hollandaise/Bearnaise twins, but I cannot seem to pull the brown sauces together. It's like I've got some sort of "brown sauce prejudice" karma thing going on...and considering there's a lot more brown sauces in the world than white ones, I need to get my "saucerly love" going on kinda quick like, don'tcha think?

Chef Regional went over our course calendar for the next couple of weeks, and we're having a sauce test on Wednesday, after which we will "fabricate" chickens. (That's Chef Speak for whacking up meat into parts; it's not a whole class on Dr. Moreau's methods and madness...which could be more interesting and provide me with a host of new "meats" to try and not be able to make brown sauces for...sigh.)

After we do chicken, then we will move on to Fish Monday, and deal with flat fish and round fish. I know what flat fish are, but what the heck is a "round fish"? Is it just a term for all fish that aren't flat? Or, are we "fabricating" eels? Stay tuned!

Mr. Big Stuff ditched class today to have a long 4th weekend...something about his wedding anniversary, blah, blah, blah. Chef Regional reviewed everything that would be on Wednesday test...not exactly word-for-word, but definitely under the "If I were you, I'd know this" auspices. Close to the end of class, while we were doing clean up, he said that if anyone had Big Stuff's contact info, that we should let him know about the test review items from today. "Yes, Chef," we that's really going to happen. If Big Stuff is smart, he'll contact one of us tomorrow and beg for some assistance--that's probably the only way he'g going to find out anything, because no one is going to lift a hand to help him out. Sure, it's not a great team attitude, but hey--you reap what you sow. Although, I'm betting he's feeling cocky enough that he thinks the test will be all multiple choice...which is precisely what Chef Regional said it was not. He said it would be some matching, some fill-the-blank, and some listing of properties and philosophies about sauces.

I guess I'd never really given sauce much thought before culinary school. Sauce came on or with food, but who realized that there was method to the madness?

These are the purposes of sauce:

1. Introduce complementary or counterpoint flavors. An example would be a rosemary sauce for lamb, in which the strong flavor of the rosemary can stand up to the lamb.

2. Add moisture or succulence. This is especially useful if you are doing a dry heat method of cooking, like grilling or pan frying.

3. Add visual interest. A perfectly grilled piece of swordfish sitting atop a pool of roasted red pepper coulis looks very tasty (operative word: "looks" (and it probably is!)).

4. Enhance flavor. (Duh! no brainer on this one.)

5. Adjust texture. (I'm trying to remember a good example for this!)

Then, there are rules and regulations on pair sauces with food...behold:

1. Make sure the sauce is suitable for the style of service; i.e., you wouldn't want to serve a dish that required hollandaise as a choice for a large banquet. Hollandaise can be tricky to hold for service, and you don't have time to make up small batches to feed 100 people.

2. It's important to match the sauce to the main ingredient's cooking technique. The example we discussed in class was roasted chicken with pan gravy. The pan gravy is based on the drippings from the roasted chicken.

3. And, make sure the sauce is appropriate for the flavor of the food to which it is paired. Again, with the lamb and rosemary example. Rosemary works well with the lamb, because the lamb can handle the strength of the rosemary. You wouldn't pair a rosemary-based sauce with a delicate white fish like sole, because it would totatlly overwhelm the flavor of the fish.

You also have to remember that how the food is prepare might play into how you plate the sauce. If you've grilled a beautiful swordfish steak or a sauteed a crispy skinned breast of chicken, then you would put the sauce in a pool UNDER the meat. Why? So you don't obliterate the appearance of the grilled item and compromise the texture (crispiness). On the other hand, if the chicked was boiled or cooked in some manner where the initial appearance was unremarkable, you might want to nappe the sauce, or "cover" over the food with the sauce. And, most importantly, serve the right amount of sauce. You don;t want your meat to be swimming in an overabundance of sauce, nor do you want the sauce to run out before the meal is finished. Serve enough sauce to go with every bite of food; probably 1-1.5 ounces is enough.

And this, boys and girls, concludes the sauce lesson for the day, because I am tired and full from having an enormous dinner at Buca di Beppo, and I must go hibernate until morning...when I will emerge from my cocoon and take my rightful place as leader of the butterfly people...wait, this might be the wrong blog for this!

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