Basic cooking skills allow you to create multiple dishes. The more familiar you are with classic cooking techniques the better able you will be to whip up your own creations. Here are five sauce techniques to add to your repertoire.
Béchamel is a basic white sauce made with milk, flour and butter. It is a simple recipe that requires equal parts of flour and butter and then you slowly add milk or cream until you reach the consistency you desire. You can usually start with two tablespoons of butter and flour and allow the flour to cook just slightly without changing colour. This is the perfect base for mac and cheese, rose sauces, an addition to lasagne and even Alfredo sauce.
Velouté: Velouté is also considered a white sauce. However you use clear stocks such as chicken or fish instead of milk or cream. You use the same process and quantities of flour and butter and the same technique to get the consistency you desire. You can also use velouté as your base for wine sauces.
Brown Sauce: Brown sauce is made with a reduction of stock made from bones and vegetables that have been roasted in the oven. Once reduced by half a roux is made with equal parts of flour and butter. However when making a roux you do allow the flour to turn a deeper, rich brown. A thinner brown sauce creates a demi-glace. The entire process to create a brown sauce is quite involved and many chefs and cooks prepare a large amount of brown sauce or stock and freeze it so they have it when they need it. In order to make a rich brown sauce you can roast your beef, veal or pork bones with carrots, celery, garlic, onions, fresh herbs and tomatoes until deeply caramelized. The pan is then deglazed and every morsel is required to get the deep rich flavour desired for delectable brown sauce for amazing gravies and sauces worthy of a fine restaurant.
There are a number of ways you can make tomato sauce. Each chef and cook has their own way of cooking it. In most cases it takes fresh or canned tomatoes, butter or olive oil, onions and perhaps garlic. It is cooked for hours and then pureed. You can even prepare it with just the tomatoes for a pure tomato sauce. Most modern home cooks just use canned tomato sauce for cooking as they do not have the time to prepare their own. Many Italian families have a tradition of working together to can their own tomato sauce that is then used throughout the year. Their personal tomato sauce recipe sets the base for many of their family recipes that are often passed down for generations.
Hollandaise is an egg based sauce that actually takes a little more skill. It is a fine cooking process that is well worth learning as it is lovely for creating classic sauces such as Béarnaise and well as the glorious yellow sauce for eggs Benedict. The trick is using a double boiler or a large steel bowl placed over a pot of boiling water to maintain an indirect heat. The ingredients are very simple: egg yolks, clarified butter and lemon juice. Gently warm the yolks in your double boiler whisking as you go. You must be careful not to allow the eggs to scramble. You then add cold butter or clarified butter gradually until you get a creamy coloured, thick sauce. A touch of lemon juice is whisked in at the end. Practice making it until you get the technique down pat. And don’t be discouraged if it works one day and not the next. Eventually it will become second nature. Recruit a second set of hands to save your arms from cramping.
Mastering these basic sauces will allow you to become a knowledgeable cook capable of creating your own delectable customized recipes.