Sauce is a liquid sweet or savoury seasoning or relish, served with food in order to complement, coat, contrast with or garnish it. It may be made separately from the food it is seasoning, or used in the actual preparation in order to bind the various ingredients.

Sauces may be roughly divided into three categories: thick sauces, thin sauces and blended sauces.

Thick sauces may be sub-divided into white sauces, such as BECHAMEL SAUCE and brown sauces, such as DEMI-GLACE SAUCE. Both white and brown sauces have a ROUX base. White sauces are cooked only long enough to eliminate the raw taste of the flour and only ‘white’ liquids, such as milk, chicken or fish stock and wine, are added. In brown sauces, the roux is cooked until it browns slightly and, because of this, vegetable fat should be used in place of butter; ‘brown’ liquids, such as brown stock and red wine are added.

Thin sauces are made from liquids to which no thickening agent has been added, such as MINT SAUCE and thin gravy.

Blended sauces are so called because of the method used to thicken the liquid. These sauces tend to contain little or no fat, so the thickening agent used which may be flour, cornflour , arrowroot, potato flour, custard powder etc. – is first blended with a little cold liquid to make a smooth paste. The rest of the liquid is added to the paste and thoroughly combined. The sauce is then cooked until it thickens.

There are also other sauces which do not fit into any of the above categories, SUCh as HARD SAUCE, MAYONNAISE, HOL- LANDAISE and melted chocolate sauce.

There are several general points worth remembering when making a sauce. Never economize on time or ingredients if it might impair the flavour. (For example, if a sauce requires stock it is worth making home-made stock rather than using water and a stock cube). When cooking a thick or blended sauce it is best to use a heavy-based saucepan, since it will distribute the heat more evenly, thus preventing burning.

Most sauces may be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered with dampened greaseproof or waxed paper.

Always reheat a sauce which has been kept in the refrigerator in a bain-marie or double boiler, as this helps to prevent it from going lumpy or burning.

Once you have mastered the basic principles of sauce-making you will discover that most sauces are extremely simple to prepare and that the end result is well worth any trouble that you have taken.

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