5 Sauces That Will Spruce Up Your Cooking Slideshow
February 22, 2013
As one of the traditional mother sauces, Holmberg says that béchamel was often grumbled about when she studied cooking in Paris. Even though so many of her classmates found it annoying to make, most of them couldn’t make a decent one, she claimed, because it’s hard not to turn béchamel sauce into glue. To get over the boredom of it, consider this sauce your point of pride, because you’ve grasped the art of a roux (butter and flour cooked together), and have cooked it to its perfect point of nuttiness without making the sauce too thick. If you can’t master a béchamel, the only grumbling that’ll take place will be from your guests about your gummy Alfredo sauce.
This is not a traditional mother sauce, and we even doubted its place on her list until Holmberg proved us wrong. She calls this her "happy sauce," because it’s bright, quick, and simple. The key to being as happy about your vinaigrette as Holmberg is about hers is to remember the three essential ingredients — acid, oil, and salt — and the number one rule: balance. Once you know how to balance the flavors of vinaigrettes, you can play around with what variations of the three ingredients you want to use. Be wary, though, because without one of those ingredients, "you’ll be out on your [hiney]," warns Holmberg. This recipe is a classic vinaigrette recipe, with one addition to the ingredients, Dijon, which adds a spicy kick. To test your flavor balancing skills, try swapping in another type of acid (lemon juice, orange juice, or champagne vinegar perhaps?) and another type of oil. Or, of course, try Holmberg's variations.
Beurre Blanc can be considered a traditional mother sauce depending on who you ask. Holmberg describes beurre blanc sauce as "the poster-child for misunderstood French sauces." Holmberg feels that many people flip their nose at beurre blanc because it sounds like a ton of butter, when really it’s a perfect balance between acid and the fat. To master the beurre blanc sauce is to master the art of reducing, she says, and this lemon-caper beurre blanc sauce is the perfect starting point to test your skill.
Holmberg believes that the tomato is the perfect food; its multi-dimensional flavor personality is its umami, and it has the ability to make something taste intense and savory, she says. When making a tomato sauce, which is mostly done using canned tomatoes, Holmberg stresses to remember to cook the sauce until the point where that umami comes out. And because tomatoes are generally sweet, balancing the flavors with salt, a touch of heat, and acid is important as well (like with any of the other sauces). Holmberg’s classic marinara is a starting point to whatever tomato-based dish you’re trying to make: pastas, casseroles, stuffed peppers, or Tuscan poached eggs, which is what she makes with her spicy and bold tomato sauce.
A classic (and one of the mother’s), hollandaise sauce is the emulsification of eggs and butter. It’s a tricky one, because you have to manage egg yolks with heat and emulsify them perfectly with fat. If anything is done incorrectly, your hollandaise will break, resulting in a runny, yellowy mess.
With hollandaise sauce you want billows, says Holmberg, and they should be as voluptuous as possible. Creating hollandaise sauce is alchemy: managing heat and yolks, properly emulsifying, and seasoning it well with salt, pepper, and acid. In Holmberg's "steak sauce" hollandaise, all she is doing is making a basic hollandaise sauce up until the point where she adds the soy sauce mixture at the end, proving that once you know how to make the foundational sauce (like with any of the mother sauces), you can add anything you’d like to it to make it something other than eggs Benedict.