Culinary School Diary: Week Two

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By Owen Morris

Last night’s class was all about sauces and making the classic five sauces. The mantra: there is no harder station in the kitchen than the saucier’s. All five of the leading sauces require constant attention and stirring and skimming over long periods of time lest they turn out murky and too thick, or the the vegetables sweat just a minute too long and start to caramelize, turning a white veloute an ugly brown. Making a proper sauce is like walking a narrow trail on the side of a mountain — one small misstep and it’s over.

We made four of the five leading sauces last night. For veloute, the basic ingredient is a white stock, like chicken stock or fish stock, that’s heated and then added to a blond roux until the proper thickness. Roux is one of those fancy French terms for equal parts flour and fat (nearly always butter) mixed together. For a blond roux, the flour and fat is cooked just long enough to congeal and turn slightly golden. Once the roux is the proper color, the stock is slowly incorporated into the roux (this requires constant beating and stirring) and then brought to a boil. While it sounds easy, variables such as temperature — if the roux and stock are too close or far apart in temperature, they won’t mix — that make it a headache.

Besides veloute, the other four leading sauces are bechamel (milk and white roux), espangol (brown stock and brown roux), tomato (tomatoes with no roux) and hollandaise (butter and eggs). From each of these sauces come a dozen or so niche sauces called small sauces. For instance, after making the leading sauce bechamel, adding cheese and butter makes the small sauce mornay.

Which brings me to my specific job last night.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink