Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sauces 101, Pt 1

On Wednesday, I took another class at the Chopping Block. This was the first of two parts on sauces, the second to be on the following Wednesday. This time, I learned a LOT more and not only about sauces. In part, I think it was the structure of the skills classes (like my Knife Skills class) versus the menu classes (like my Indian class). But the quality of the instructor and the smaller class size made a big difference, too.

We learned four sauces hands-on, with a demonstration. The hands-on were:

We got a demonstration for a pan sauce from a pork tenderloin sear with red wine for the deglazing.

All of these were quite good. The big surprise for me was the veloute'. It looked a lot like the crappy chicken gravy you see so often, like on mashed potatoes. But this was really tasty. The white wine reduction really gave it some bite. I was also surprised at the tomato sauce. I'd seen that made on TV and the ubiquitous scenes in movies, but never in real life. It's surprisingly not too difficult. I doubt I'm going to swear off jarred pasta sauce like I did with chutney, but I will definitely give it a shot.

Things I learned that had nothing to do with the recipes:

  1. Meat needs to warm to room temperature before you grill or fry it. I had no idea. It certainly hasn't been mentioned in my grilling books. When cold meat is cooked on a high heat, the difference between the outer and inner temeratures is much greater. i.e. you're get charred on the outside and raw in the middle.
  2. A really good reason to use unsalted butter. I always used salted butter, just because. It's certainly better on toast. But if you use a salted butter in a sauce that gets reduced, it will get incredibly salty due to the concentration.
  3. Add ingredients in the order they're listed, even if it seems they're all at once. Well, this explains my issues in the ubiquitous (word of the day) saute' of onion and garlic. Particularly with these two, you're supposed to saute' the onion first, then add the garlic.
  4. Don't stir constantly in a saute'. I thought that you were supposed to, but apparently, this releases heat from the pan. Stir just enough to get an even heat on all the things being sauteed, but no more.

So, this is what I was talking about regarding gaps in my knowledge. These all seem really basic, but I didn't know any of them.

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