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Volume II
September 30, 2003


Desiri Wightman, RD

As mentioned in previous segments, by mastering the techniques behind five basic entrée sauces, you'll find you can create distinctive sauces for any occasion through variation of ingredients. The sauces include béchamel, veloute, brown, tomato, and hollandaise. Since tomato sauces were discussed at length in August's newsletter, only the recipes and techniques for the other four will be provided below.

Béchamel Sauce
This common white sauce uses roux to thicken milk or cream. The roux is cooked for about 3 minutes to keep it "white." For lump free sauce, remove the roux from the heat before stirring in the milk. Warm the milk in the microwave before adding to the roux. This will spare the muscles in your hand, as you won't have to stir the sauce so long before it comes to a boil. Use a whisk to incorporate the milk into the roux and stir until it is lump free. Return to the heat source and bring to a boil.

Home cookbooks say to just boil the sauce for 1 minute to cook out the flour flavor. Professional cookbooks encourage you to reduce the heat after bringing the sauce to a boil, then continue to simmer the sauce for 15-30 minutes, stirring, to remove the flour taste. What you actually do will depend upon your time limit and personal tastes.

If your sauce is lumpy after your best efforts, you possibly didn't beat it enough before cooking, brought it to a boil too quickly, or didn't stir it enough during cooking so that it stuck to the pan bottom. To repair, pour it through a strainer or process the sauce in a blender. Return the strained or blended sauce to a clean pan and heat to the boiling point.

The recipe below makes white sauce of medium thickness. For a thinner sauce, use 1 tablespoon butter to 1 tablespoon flour. For a thicker sauce, use 3-4 tablespoons butter to 3-4 tablespoons flour. Click here for variations on this sauce. Béchamel can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Béchamel (Basic White)
Makes 1 cup

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk, warm

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. This is called a white roux. Remove from heat. Stir in warm milk and whisk until mixture is smooth and lump-free. Return to heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for at least one minute.

Veloute Sauce
Veloute sauce is a thinner, lighter white sauce than béchamel because it uses chicken or fish stock instead of milk or cream. It is often referred to as a "blonde sauce." Ideally, the consistency of veloute should be thin enough to pour or a sauce that thinly coats the back of a spoon. Serve over chicken, fish, veal, or with rice.

Since it is so similar to béchamel, be sure to read the tips above to ensure a successful sauce. If you find that after cooking, your veloute is too thin, you possibly didn't use enough flour, added too much liquid, or didn't reduce (simmer) the sauce long enough. Either reduce the sauce further or thicken with kneaded butter. If your sauce is flavorless, what quality of stock did you use? Perhaps your sauce has not reduced enough for the flavors to concentrate. You can either perk up your sauce with a dash or two of lemon juice (or other seasonings) or reduce it further to bring out more flavor.

Store veloute in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 cup

2 cups chicken or fish stock
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Bring stock to a boil; set aside. Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Create a roux by whisking in the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring continually, for 2-3 minutes, until the roux is bubbly and begins to darken slightly. Remove from heat. Whisk in the stock until smooth. Return to medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking continuously. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 5-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set over a double boiler filled with warm water until ready to serve. If not serving right away, dab butter on top of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.

Variation: Supreme Sauce (to serve over chicken)
Stir 1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms and 2 tablespoons heavy cream into heated veloute sauce. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Strain the sauce into a clean pan set over medium heat. Whisk or swirl in 1 tablespoon chilled butter, a teaspoon at a time. Remove from the heat. Add lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brown Sauce
For hearty meat entrees, noodles, and wild like bear or venison, brown sauce outshines other sauces. In addition, it is used to create more complex sauces. The technique to master here is the browning of the flour or the creation of a dark roux. By using clarified butter, you eliminate the possibility of the butter turning bitter or burning before the flour is browned. If you prefer to use regular butter, however, just watch it closely. To make a dark roux, melt the butter in the saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Continue cooking over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring constantly or until the mixture becomes chestnut brown.

This sauce freezes well for up to 3 months.

Basic Brown Sauce
Makes 3 cups

3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup flour
6 cups brown stock
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bouquet garni
1/3 cup tomato puree

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add vegetables. Sauté until golden, but not brown. Dump in the flour and stir over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flour and vegetables are well browned, but not burnt. Stir in stock. Add garlic, bouquet garni, and tomato puree. Simmer for 60 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to half, stirring occasionally. Strain. Cool, chill and skim off any fat before using.

Served warm over eggs, fish, or vegetables, hollandaise is considered a hot emulsified egg-yolk sauce. Mayonnaise would be a cold emulsified egg-yolk sauce, for a point of reference. While in mayonnaise egg yolks are whisked with other room temperature ingredients, in hollandaise, the yolks are whisked with liquid over heat. The trick is to cook the sauce ever so slightly without curdling the eggs. Water simmers in a double boiler where it should never be allowed to touch the bottom of the bowl in which the sauce is made. The temperature of the water should never rise above 150 F., either. You don't want the sauce to be too hot because it will coagulate the eggs and make it impossible for the butter to emulsify with the liquid.

If in spite of all your efforts to monitor the heat, your eggs and liquid cook too quickly, the sauce may separate. This can also happen if you add the butter too briskly. You don't have to throw out the sauce. Just start again, reserving the separated sauce for the clarified butter. Over low heat, in a double boiler, beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water until light. Remove from the heat and stream in the separated sauce mixture gradually while whisking. Be aware though that if your eggs have coagulated, your sauce is history. Toss it and begin again with much lower heat!

Perhaps your sauce is too thin after you've completed all the steps. You may have not reduced the initial liquid enough or perhaps you didn't add enough butter. To remedy, add more butter.

Hollandaise should be served warm. To keep it that way, place the sauce in a bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water (just barely over lukewarm), ensuring the bowl bottom doesn't touch the water. If hollandaise is spooned onto really hot food, the sauce may separate; for this reason, it is almost always served separately from the food it is to complement. Store any extra sauce in the refrigerator. You can use it as a sandwich spread. It should never be reheated.

Hollandaise becomes the basis for rich sauces like béarnaise sauce, which complements meats and salmon. The technique to master in making hollandaise also serves in making sabayon sauces. Sabayon is often served with desserts and is a light airy sauce.

Makes 3 cups

4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
4 egg yolks
1 cup unsalted butter, clarified, cooled to room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste

In a small pan, bring the water, vinegar, and peppercorns to a simmer over low heat. Continue simmering until the mixture reduces about a third, about 2-3 minutes. Strain the reduction into a glass or stainless steel bowl; cool.

Place the bowl over a pan of just-simmering water; add the egg yolks and stir until the mixture is lemon colored, thickened, and smooth. Keep the heat low. Do not allow the mixture's temperature to rise above room temperature or the eggs may coagulate. Slowly pour in the cooled, clarified butter, stirring constantly until the sauce becomes thick and fluffy. Stir in the lemon juice and salt. When the whisk is lifted from the sauce, a ribbon of sauce should trail down from the whisk.

         * DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

Saucin' Up Your Skills
Part I: Stocking Up
Part II: Sauce Elements
No More Boring White Sauce!
Men's Cards
Clarifying Butter
LIVE VOTE: What's Your Favorite Newsletter Section?
HomeCook'n Cover Page

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