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Feb 21, 2018
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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5 go-to sauces that make every recipe better
By Dee Ryan // Photos by Carmen Troesser
Posted On: 02/01/2018   


One thing that separates a good cook from a great cook is the ability to make a decent sauce. While starting from scratch may seem a bit daunting, we pinkie swear it isn’t. These highly adaptable base sauces will elevate the most simple meal with minimal fear and trembling.


RED
This classic is great as a pizza sauce, on pasta or with breadsticks. Similar to a tomate mother sauce, the recipe invites you to build on flavors. Add slices of Italian sausage or mushrooms with the pancetta; add a teaspoon of fennel seed with the Italian seasoning, or try a teaspoon of orange zest (trust me). You can never go wrong with a glug of wine or vodka – just remove the skillet from heat after sauteing the celery, onion and garlic, carefully pour in the alcohol and let it cook down a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and stock. Introduce some fresh herbs as a finish – or dashes of sugar, balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper or Parmesan cheese.

1/2 cup diced pancetta or salt pork
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the pancetta in the olive oil 5 minutes.
• Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning, and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
• Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer at least 15 minutes. Simmering will continue to develop flavors, but don’t cook longer than 2 hours.
• Using an immersion blender, puree to desired texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


BROWN
I don’t want to be a bully, but if you’re not making a pan sauce each and every time you cook meat, you are wasting flavor opportunities that can never be reclaimed! And you are personally hurting my feelings. The following recipe is for steak. When cooking chicken, follow the same steps, but add a teaspoon of lemon zest with the herbs you choose, and go for a dry white wine instead of red when deglazing the pan. Gorgeous pork chops on the menu? Try substituting tarragon or marjoram for the herbs, choose a slightly sweeter white wine to deglaze and whisk in honey mustard. No matter the meat, for the love of all things good and right, be sure there are mashed potatoes on a plate with this sauce.

2 1 1/2-inch thick strip steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp. minced rosemary or thyme
1 cup chicken or beef broth, dry red wine or a combination
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

• Season the steaks with salt and pepper.
• In a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the steaks and let cook undisturbed 3 minutes. Flip the steaks and cook another 3 minutes for medium-rare, or to desired doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
• Pour off the fat from the pan, but do not wipe it clean. Return the pan to the stovetop and reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots and herbs and saute 1 minute. To deglaze, add the broth, reduce the heat to low and use a wooden spoon to scrape the fond off the bottom of the skillet. Let the sauce reduce 2 to 3 minutes.
• Pour any juices that have collected on the steak plate back into the skillet, and whisk in the mustard. Remove the skillet from heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spoon over the steaks and serve.


GREEN
A green sauce livens up any dish – be it Italian pesto, Argentinian chimichurri, Moroccan chermoula or Spanish salsa verde. Herbaceous green sauces are traditionally uncooked with a nice acidity that compliments any protein, but they are just as easily served as a snack with pita chips or a sauce for roasted potatoes. This version is based on a salsa verde, but dips a toe into the Mediterranean with the addition of tahini. Feeling frisky? Minced jalapeno or serrano add nice heat, or take it in a totally different direction with a tablespoon of currants. Try adding toasted walnuts or substituting lemon juice or sherry vinegar for red wine vinegar. Not a fan of parsley? Try other greens like watercress, arugula, fresh oregano, thyme or cilantro.

1 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. chopped shallot
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. tahini
Kosher salt and freshly ground
pepper, to taste

• Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well incorporated.


YELLOW
Curry-based sauces are built layer upon layer – spicy, creamy, a little sweet, a touch of salt. Pour this one over rice and chicken, tofu or anything fried. You can take the base in so many directions: use lime zest instead of lemon, or stir in a teaspoon of tahini for a nuttier flavor. Red or green curry paste can be sauteed in place of turmeric and curry powder. Leave out the lemon and use one teaspoon pungent minced lemongrass instead. Add a teaspoon of minced ginger or shallot with the garlic, or if you like it super spicy, try minced jalapeno, serrano or Thai chile instead of red pepper flakes.

1 13.5-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp. coconut or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

• Scoop the thick cream at the top of the can of coconut milk into a small bowl and set aside. Save the liquid coconut milk for another use.
• In a medium skillet over medium heat, add the oil, curry powder, lemon zest, garlic, turmeric and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
• Whisk in the soy sauce, brown sugar and reserved coconut cream and continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.


WHITE
Bechamel is the classic white sauce every cook should know how to make. Creamy, silky, rich and perfect, it is the sacred ground upon which all beautiful cheese sauces are built. But a basic bechamel is nothing more than flour gravy, which is hard to get especially excited about. So let’s play. You can add two chopped anchovy fillets in oil to the butter and cook until they dissolve before adding the flour. Infuse the milk with nutmeg, cloves, citrus peel or maybe fresh basil, oregano, tarragon, chives or rosemary. Add lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese; minced garlic or shallot. Experiment with different cheeses; add pureed, sauteed onions, a teaspoon of Worcestershire, or prepared mustard to the sauce. In any form, this white sauce wants to be on pasta or a baked potato – oh yes, it does.

2½ cups whole milk
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour

• In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, warm the milk, being careful not to scald it.
• Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes a paste but does not brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the warmed milk and continue to stir until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.









Red Sauce
Dee Ryan
This classic is great as a pizza sauce, on pasta or with breadsticks. Similar to a tomate mother sauce, the recipe invites you to build on flavors. Add slices of Italian sausage or mushrooms with the pancetta; add a teaspoon of fennel seed with the Italian seasoning, or try a teaspoon of orange zest (trust me). You can never go wrong with a glug of wine or vodka – just remove the skillet from heat after sauteing the celery, onion and garlic, carefully pour in the alcohol and let it cook down a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and stock. Introduce some fresh herbs as a finish – or dashes of sugar, balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper or Parmesan cheese.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup diced pancetta or salt pork
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Ή∕³ cup diced carrot
Ή∕³ cup diced celery
Ή∕³ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

• In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the pancetta in the olive oil 5 minutes.
• Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning, and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
• Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer at least 15 minutes. Simmering will continue to develop flavors, but don’t cook longer than 2 hours.
• Using an immersion blender, puree to desired texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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