Sauces for Quick Gourmet Cooking

The saying goes that "The French have a hundred sauces to
disguise a few foods - and the Americans have a hundred
foods disguised only by white sauce!"

It is true that many great gourmet dishes involve a special
sauce, which used to take hours to prepare. For the quick
gourmet chef, there's a way around this:

1. Hollandaise and Béarnaise: Both are available in glass
jars. You should be able to find them in your local gourmet
shop or supermarket.

2. Madeira, Armoricaine, Newburg, Supreme, et al: These,
too, are available in jars or frozen, and will transform the
humble hamburger or leftover into a gourmet's dream.

3. Bottled Meat Sauces: Diable, Robert or Cumberland sauce,
Worcestershire, and a wide range of mustards from Devilled
to Bahamian to Dijon. Wash your hands thoroughly, use a
judicious few tablespoons of whatever you fancy, and rub it
thoroughly into chops and steaks. This replaces the
marinades which used to take hours.

4. Dessert Sauces: Be cautious about these! There are lots
of edible varieties - but very few that come up to a
gourmet's standard! . . . as you will see in our gourmet
dessert section, there are innumerable quick tricks with
liqueurs and fresh fruit for presenting gourmet desserts in
a minute.
( )

5. Basting Sauces: Here you begin to be a gourmet chef, for
a basting sauce is largely invention based on experience as
you grow proficient with recipes. Basting sauces are used
with fish, meat and poultry. Generally, they are melted
butter blended with herbs - or spices - or fruit and fruit
peels - with or without a dash of cooking wine. The precise
ingredients depend upon the final flavor desired: tangy,
sultry, or sweetish.

The basting sauce should be made at the start of the cooking
operation, placed over the lowest possible heat, allowed to
sit and grow acquainted with itself. A quarter pound of
butter makes an adequate basting sauce; half a pound is
sometimes better-if you can bring yourself to it!

The basic procedure is to combine butter chunks and desired
seasonings or flavorings in a small saucepot (a stainless
steel one-cup measure with a handle is satisfactory), and to
obtain the full savory blend by simmering gently during the
first steps of searing meat or poultry, firming the fish
flesh, etc. A basting sauce is used to moisten and flavor a
dish during its cooking; it is brushed directly onto
roasting meat or poultry with a pastry brush at 10 or 15
minute intervals, or poured over fish and broiled dishes
every 5 minutes for quick cookery.

For long cooking roasts, when the basting sauce has all been
used, a roaster baster will pick up pan juices for
moistening the dish.

6. Wine & Wine Sauces: "The better the wine, the better the
dish" is the gourmet standard ... although it's not
necessary to buy fine vintage drinking wines for use in the
kitchen. If you have good local wine, do use it for cooking.

Never buy cooking wine or liquor purely on a price basis;
the cheap brands do not have sufficient alcoholic content to
create a flambee dish - and will not have enough flavor to
remain in the sauce. White wines can be used for any
recipes, but red wines can only be used for dark meats . . .
when they will not discolor the dish.

At table, the only standard today is flavor, and red or
white wines are served interchangeably. Traditionally, red
is for meat and white is for chicken or fish - but these
days, you can do as you please!

When wine is added directly to a dish during cooking, lower
the heat immediately or the meat will toughen.

7. Fats and Oils: For true gourmet cooking, there is no
substitute for butter unless particularly specified. Sweet
butter is preferable, because the amount of salt varies in
commercial brands; if salt butter is used, decrease the
amount of salt in a recipe and check seasoning just before
you serve.

Butter is absolutely essential for sauces and basting, but
cannot be used for frying; at high temperatures, it
decomposes chemically and burns.

For Deep-Fat Frying, use liquid or hydrogenated oils such as
Crisco. These can be re-used once or twice, if you allow
sediment to settle and decant (pour off) the clear top fat
after each frying. Once frying fat has been used for fish,
it cannot be used for anything else! If you enjoy fried
foods, it's wise to have two fat kettles - one for fish, and
one for everything else.

For all Italian, Spanish or Latin-American dishes, a
tablespoon of olive oil should replace butter in starting
the dish.

Lard is excellent for greasing baking potatoes or pan-frying
fish. It cannot be re-used, but is inexpensive enough to
discard and start fresh next time. Bacon grease is equally
good for baking potatoes or to saute fish, and can be
smeared thickly over chicken breasts or squab before
roasting. Because of its positive flavor, only tangy herbs
will combine with it for added taste.

No gourmet cook ever uses margarine for anything.

8. Meat Glazes: For a handsome browned surface to meat or
poultry, mix a tablespoon of commercial gravy coloring with
two table spoons of water. Paint all exposed parts of the
poultry or meat before placing in the oven.

9. Shallots are a small onion bulb resembling garlic in
formation of cloves, but very mild in flavor. Typically
French, they are not always available but make all the
difference in a sauce if they can be had. Minced scallions
(spring onions) are an acceptable substitute - and in
moments of stress, a tablespoon of grated white onion will
equal 2 minced shallots.

10. Grated orange and lemon peel are readily available in
jars; a teaspoon equals the grated rind of a whole medium-
sized fruit.

11. Garlic can be bought powdered (a quarter teaspon equals
a fresh clove), but a garlic press will produce a much
better flavor from a peeled garlic clove.

Onion and garlic juice are also available; use them purely
for flavoring, as many dishes are better with sauteed pieces
of onion. Onion flakes are good for home-cooking, but not
sufficient for gourmet results.

Good luck with your quick gourmet sauces!

About the Author

If you'd like to prepare wonderful, delicious and stylish
dishes that will delight your family and amaze your friends
- without spending hours struggling in the kitchen with
complicated and potentially disastrous recipes - then our
website is for you! All our recipes can be completed in
just 30 minutes and are fun and easy to prepare.

Alannah Moore