During the past several months, many have experienced horrific battles with the economy, financial institutions, people facing job losses — and the list goes on. The bright light on the horizon is planning for Thanksgiving with family and friends. We cannot change what has already passed; we now can concentrate on celebrating our own special harvest.
Magazines, newspapers and the Internet will be focusing on special dishes to compliment your Thanksgiving meals. This article is not going to add to your gastronomic overload. Instead, we are going to get down to basics and talk about sauces — magical creations that can put sparkle back into meat, poultry, food, and vegetables.
Before the recipes start flowing, it is an important note to realize just how different wines enhance the flavor and complexity of every sauce. As a rule of thumb, a red Burgundy or heavy Bordeaux are wise choices for steak and roast sauces; a Bordeaux, St. Emillion or California Cabernet Sauvignon marry well with veal; and a white Burgundy such as Meursault, Pouilly Fuisse, or a good California Chardonnay harmonize with poultry or seafood.
Sweet wines and port compliment certain cheeses and desserts. Wine varietals used in the preparation of sauces, is also recommended to be poured and enjoyed during the main course meal and dessert. This protocol complements the entire dining experience.
Cognac, Calvados, Armagnac are certain alcohols that can also be added to sauces, which add a different nuance to the taste. Fortified wines like Sherry, Maderia, or ports are added to jazz up sauces. Champagne, with its own complexity, along with white wine has their own unique attributes in sauces, especially with seafood. Our goal here is to experiment with the different sauces and decide what works for you and your palate.
Let us start with some of the basics. These sauces will be complex, and others will be simple to make, the results are awesome:
6 pounds or more beef and veal knuckle and joint bones with some meat
1 each of stalk celery, onion, carrot cut in large chunks
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
1 bottle dry white wine to 3 quarts of water, or 1/4 amount of dry white wine to 3/4 amount of water
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp. salt (less if salt is not on your diet)
1/2-tsp. black peppercorns (you can use coarse ground)
Kitchen Bouquet by the teaspoon — this is optional
1-2 Tbs. cornstarch (I use this verses flour for a smooth and silky finish)
Wipe off meat and bones with a damp paper towel before browning.
In a large, shallow roasting pan brown bones for 1 hour in 400-425-degree oven, adding the chopped celery, onion, and carrot the last quarter hour. Salt and pepper the meat/bones before placing the cut-up vegetables on top and around the bones.
When all the vegetables have partially browned, take the roasting pan from the oven, and with a slotted spoon remove bones to drain in a colander.
Place bones and vegetables in a large stockpot. Pour off the fat from the roasting pan, add a bit of wine, and scrape the bottom to extract the drippings and then add to stockpot. Add tomato paste, salt, peppercorns, white wine, and water. As soon as the stock comes to a boil, start removing (skimming) the foam as it forms at the top by using your ladle or spoon. Add the parsley stems after the first skimming and any fat that comes from the liquid.
Simmer for 8-9 hours. Do not cover! Continue the skimming and fat removal as the sauce cooks.
After the stock or sauce has finished simmering, remove as much fat as possible before straining the mixture into a canister-type pot. Discard bones. De-fat again, and reduce (cook longer) if more than 1/2 of the stock is left after removal of bones et al. You should have about 2-1/2 quarts of liquid.
If the sauce color is too opaque or light, while simmering add Kitchen Bouquet 1 tsp at a time until you have achieved a dark color. Then let the liquid cool before storing.
The best thickening agents are cornstarch or arrowroot, which make clear and shinning sauces, verses using flour, which will cloud your sauce.
Brown Sauce is also known as “Demi-Glace,” after it is reduced and thickened. The best way to add cornstarch is to dissolve 1 or 2 tablespoons in 3 tablespoons of cool water. Bring your demi-glace sauce to a boil and while stirring with a large spoon pour the cornstarch mixture slowly from above and continue the process until the sauce is thick enough. Let cool before freezing.
Since this is a large quantity (approximately 2-1/2 quarts), and you want to have this available for future recipes, freeze this mixture in 4 oz. mason jars or use clean plastic ice cube trays for easy storage. I put the ice cube trays in plastic bags to protect from freezer burn. Ice cube trays work best for me, because I can remove the exact amount that is required for each recipe.
This laborious process saves money. If you purchased the demi-glace sauce from your local specialty shop, the cost would be close to $30 for a 10.5-ounce jar. This liquid is the cornerstone for fabulous sauces to compliment different types of meats.
Sauce Chasseur is a favorite of mine and easy to make for veal, filet of beef, or roast chicken or small cuts of sautéed or grilled meats:
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1-cup minced mushrooms
1/2-cup dry white wine — Pinot Blanc or Chardonnay
1-cup Demi-Glace or Brown Sauce
1/4-cup Tomato paste
Pinch of fresh or dry Tarragon
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley (dry parsley works well too)
Heat butter and oil in heavy saucepan and sauté minced mushrooms until lightly browned. Add minced shallots and sauté for two-three minutes.
Add white wine and reduce liquid by one-half on medium-high heat. Add Demi-Glace and tomato paste, stirring until well blended. Prior to serving, add salt and pepper to taste.
For sliced meats, place two tablespoon over the top of the meat. If the meat is sautéed or grilled, place the two tablespoons on the plate and then add the meat on top. Presentation is part of the tasting process.
Basic White Sauce (
) is easy to make and has numerous uses:
(Basic White Sauce)
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour (level spoons)
2 cups milk, half-half, or cream (your choice)
1/2-cup dry white wine
1/4-tsp. salt or to taste
1/8-tsp. freshly ground white pepper
In a heavy saucepan or double boiler melt butter and stir in flour with a whisk. Let this mixture (called a roux) cook slowly without coloring or browning for 4-5 minutes to remove the taste of uncooked flour.
Heat the milk, half-half or cream just below the boiling point and then slowly pour into the roux, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. The amount of milk or cream used depends on the thickness of the sauce. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Cook the mixture for 15 minutes in the saucepan on low heat or in the double boiler. More liquid can be added if the sauce becomes too thick for your requirements.
If you are not using this sauce immediately, float a little butter on top and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
This recipe makes approximately 2 cups, and is generally used as a base for compound sauces such as
(recipe to follow). Combine with cooked vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms. One tablespoon gives thickness to cream sauces and works well with grated cheeses to cover cauliflower, carrots, peas, leeks, Brussels sprouts, corn, pearl onions.
2 cups Sauce Béchamel (basic white sauce)
1/4-cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4-cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4-cup heavy cream, whipped
A pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat Sauce Béchamel in double boiler or saucepan until almost boiling
- Add shredded cheeses until blended.
- Blend egg yolks with whipped cream and add to sauce mixture. If egg yolks are omitted, this sauce will not brown nicely under a broiler. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
This recipe makes approximately 2-3/4 cups and is used to glaze dishes such as Artichokes and Eggs Florentine, graces vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, heart of palm, and braised endive. Reserve some of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the sauce, or add more cheese over the sauce before browning.
You have been given two types of the basic recipes that multiply into a volume of sauces. Try some of these in your daily and holiday cooking. In December, we will publish a few more sauce recipes for you to experiment with and enjoy.
As you, celebrate with your family and friends a bountiful harvest, wishing you from my kitchen to yours, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Carole Truesdale is a Ramona resident.