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SUCCESSFUL SAUCE PREPARATION

Sauces can dress up even an ordinary dish and make it something special. Most sauce recipes have only a few ingredients and can be made in a very short time. It is usually a lot cheaper than buying the canned or powdered package counterpart in the grocery store, although it is nice to have a few of those on hand for the time you need to rush or don't have the proper ingredients in your kitchen.

Most sauce recipes are simply a matter of combining a few ingredients, although some of the classic sauces involve special techniques that must be followed closely. I've chosen to give you the easier method to make some of these sauces by using the food processor rather than trying to make them directly on the stove as a fine chef would do. You might end up with scrambled eggs. Using the double boiler is the alternative, but takes much longer, although it is said to taste better. I don't think there is that much difference and time is important to most of us.

There are a few points to help you make your sauce recipe a success.

First, try to use heavy-based stainless steel pans for sauce making, but if you must use an aluminum pan, use a wooden spoon as your stirring tool. A metal spoon or whisk in an aluminum pan will discolor the sauce. Heavy-based stainless steel will also distribute the heat more evenly and sauces are less likely to stick or burn on the bottom.

Second, pay attention to the temperature mentioned in the recipe. If it says medium, use medium heat. When it tells you to stir constantly, please do it because otherwise you will have lumps.

Third, some sauces can be made ahead and I have tried to tell you when that is possible. Other recipes require you to make the sauce right before you use or serve it.

Fourth, some sauces benefit by using clarified butter. I have included a recipe on how to do that. It makes a lot and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks (be sure to date it) or frozen until needed in a glass jar. Clarified butter resists smoke longer and makes your delicate sauces such as hollandaise sauce much nicer. Besides, you can use it to fry or sauté poultry, fish or potatoes.

Fifth, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand first. Then measure them out and get out your utensils. Next, read the recipe through again. Finally begin the sauce.

White sauce should be a part of every cook's repertoire, but the concern over making a lumpy sauce can put fear into any beginner. It shouldn't because if you follow instructions, it comes out just fine. I don't even measure any more. I just keep adding things until it comes out like I want it to be. The butter and flour mixture, which is known as the roux, must be cooked for a full minute to remove the raw taste from the flour. The milk, broth or liquid is then added a little at a time and stirred to a smooth paste between each addition. You can add the milk a little faster as you come to the end, but all lumps must be stirred out before adding more milk or they will be impossible to get rid of later.

I have made white sauce in the microwave and it seems not to have a tendency to lump, but cooking it for a minute, stopping and adding a little more milk, stirring, then cooking for one minute more, etc., for 5 to 7 minutes is a real hassle. It also doesn't seem to taste quite the same.

I've shown the food processor version of Hollandaise sauce and Mayonnaise because I think it is a no-brainer. It works and it is fast. Just remember to SLOWLY add the clarified butter or oil through the food tube while the food processor is running.

If you choose to make hollandaise on the stove there are a few rules to follow. First, keep the heat low or cook it over a double boiler making certain the water underneath is not boiling or touching the top pan or you will get scrambled eggs. Both hollandaise and mayonnaise are what are known as emulsified sauces. That means you must create an emulsion where all the ingredients are combined correctly to the desired thickness and do not separate on standing. Use clarified butter for the hollandaise. The egg yolks are whisked with the water using a good wire whisk in a stainless steel heavy-based pan over very low heat. This creates a stable base for the sauce. The melted clarified butter is added very slowly to the egg yolks, while whisking continuously, to emulsify the mixture. If the sauce needs to stand for a while before use, cover it with the plastic wrap actually touching the entire surface of the sauce.

The rules are the same with the mayonnaise only you are adding oil to the beaten egg-lemon juice-mustard mixture almost drop by drop at first, slowly increasing to a thin stream while whisking constantly. You are not using the stove for this recipe so place a bowl on a damp cloth to prevent it slipping while whisking, as you will probably find it easier to tip the bowl slightly.

When making other sauces, prepare all of your chopped and sliced ingredients before you begin the final cooking or mixing process.

Good Luck and Good Cooking

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