One sure way to create new taste dimensions is the use of sauces and condiments. Sauces provide inventive cooks with the creative outlets needed to accentuate any staple. Sauces give free reign to restaurant operators to create a signature dish and new marketing opportunities. While everyone wants a comfortable atmosphere, excellent service and great tasting foods it is the latter that most often differentiates a restaurant and represents the reason for guest’s return.
Sauces are delicately, and sometimes strongly flavoured concentrated liquids designed to enhance and complement the taste of the main ingredient on the plate.
Many classically trained chefs regard flavourful sauces as the pinnacle of cuisine, both in skill and interest. Texturally and taste wise sauces provide excitement. Often, the most memorable part of a gastronomic meal is the sauce. The saucier in a large kitchen brigade is considered a key player, and often replaces the sous chef on his/her off days.
A sauce works like a seasoning. It enhances and accents the flavour of the food. A well-prepared sauce never overwhelms the main ingredient. Good cooks know that sauces are as valuable as salt and pepper. Even a grilled steak is tastes better with a dab of compound butter or a spoonful of Sauce Béarnaise.
Any skilled cook possesses the basics of good sauce making.
There are cold and hot sauces. Mayonnaise and others fall into cold sauces category, whereas Sauce Bordelaise falls into the hot. Then there are mother sauces from which several others are derived.
Mayonnaise can be flavoured with chopped parsley, chopped watercress, even curry. Artistic cooks know intuitively or by experience which flavours work with basic sauces and those that clash.
In hot sauces the stock represents the foundation. Stocks can be produced using beef-, veal-, chicken-, duck-, lamb- and fish bones and vegetables.
From beef stock chefs derive demi-glace which forms the basis of the following sauces: Poivrade, Madere, Bordelaise, Robert, Chasseur, Charcutiere just to name a few.
Béchamel based on a roux and milk represents the foundation of Sauce Mornay, Cream, Shrimp, Cardinal, Nantua, Ecossaise, and many others.
Sauce Hollandaise based on yolks, peppercorns, vinegar, butter and lemon juice is the foundation (mother) sauce for the following: Maltaise, Mousseline, Béarnaise, Foyot, Choron just to name a few.
Today many chefs prefer creating quick sauces by using pan juices of fried meats and wine by reduction. This technique has advantages. It eliminates lengthy stock preparations, and refrigerated space. Food manufacturers, ever astute to generate more profits, have invented semi-solid or powdered stocks and sauce bases for a long time now. They are designed for people with little or no cooking knowledge. Anyone who can read and follow a recipe can use these products. Some are good; many rely heavily on salt and little else.
Pending on the class of the restaurant chefs must make choices given monetary, space and skill constraints.
An expertly prepared sauce using the correct ingredients of quality will never fail to elevate any meat, fish or fowl recipe to heavenly heights.
Whatever flavour profile chefs choose, sauce is a sure way to flavour protein or pasta. Sauces provide ample opportunities for creativity, excitement and experimentation. That’s what diners look for, and restaurateurs delivering flavourful dishes reap the benefits of culinary excellence.