I’m on a mission to discover the secret to incredible lick-the-plate-clean sauce. When I’m faced with the dregs of last week’s grocery-run and all I have is a bag of Rice Pasta for dinner, I want to know how to transform that bag into a culinary delight. (Okay, so I might need to toss in a plop of cream, a swig of vodka, and a couple crushed tomatoes, but I’m sure I can dig that stuff up somewhere in the recesses of our cabinets.) I’m convinced that a handful of exquisite sauces will spunk up our end-of-the-week meals.
By all means, join me on my mission! For starters, if you have an award-winning sauce in your back pocket, please send it my way. In the meantime, here are some facts about sauce that you, too, might find interesting:
1. Adding thin strips of citrus zest to a sauce or gravy will enhance the flavor. We suggest using lemon or lime as a compliment to grilled meats, chicken, or fish.
2. If a sauce or gravy has become lumpy you can transfer it to a food processor and process until smooth, or press through a sieve.
3. To reduce the strong flavors of raw garlic and onions, saute for several minutes before adding to other ingredients or adding other ingredients to them.
4. Deglaze a pan by adding wine, stock or cream to the sediment left in the roasting pan after cooking meats, poultry, and fish. Bring to a boil and stir well. Reduce to a desired thickness and serve.
5. Fat can be removed from the surface of stocks by adding a few ice cubes. When the fat collects around the ice cubes remove and discard. Or place cubes in a baggie so the sauce doesn’t dilute from the melting cubes.
6. Leftover vegetables, mushrooms, and trimmings can be added to stocks for additional flavorings.
7. To store cooked stocks for future use, reduce by boiling until it has thickened. Allow it to cool and then pour into ice trays, or baggies placed in small containers and freeze. Lift the baggies out of the molds, seal and store frozen until needed.
8. Gravy can be thickened quickly by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of instant potatoes.
9. By adding 2 or 3 shots of brandy or 1/3 to 1/2 cup of port wine to plain gravy and bringing it to a quick boil will add a little extra pizzazz to a roast.
10. To remove excess fat floating on top of meat or poultry gravy before serving, lightly drag a paper towel across the surface. If necessary repeat and then serve.
11. Glaze a roast (pork, beef, lamb, or poultry) by brushing on a fruit flavored jam fifteen to twenty minutes before it is done. This adds an attractive sheen to the meat and gives a sweet tasting flavor. It will also add a delightful flavor to the pan juices when making a sauce.
12. Add 3/4 cup of wine, beer or stock to a beer can or similar container. Place it in the center of a roasting pan and place a well-seasoned chicken opening over the can and roast. The flavors in the can will moisten and flavor the chicken. The drippings will enter the can and mix with the liquid. When the chicken is done, remove the can and make a pan sauce with the remaining liquid.
13. Instead of water use wine, tea, or beer in stews and sauces. It will help tenderize tough cuts of meat and add a rich flavor to the gravy.
14. Sauces that are too salty can be improved by adding a few chunks of peeled potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are soft and remove.
15. Adding cream or unsalted tomatoes will also help reduce saltiness.
16. Avoid using cooking wines as much as possible. They are salted as an additional preservative. Use a good quality wine. Make sure that the wine compliments the dish and does not dominate the other flavors.
17. Champagne is not recommended for cooking. It is a waste of the bubbly. You can use Champagne vinegar to achieve the acidic qualities desired or a dry white wine.
18. Avoid using aluminum or cast iron pots when cooking with wines. Especially extended cooking like stewing or braising as it leaches into the metal.
19. If a brown sauce becomes too acidic it can be balanced with a small amount of port or Madeira wine. If the sauce becomes too sweet finish with just a touch of wine vinegar before adding butter or cream.
20. To reduce the acidic nature in some tomato based sauces use a pinch or two of sugar. If needed a touch of wine vinegar can also be added as a counter balance