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Sauce Basics

Sauce Basics

Classic Sauces Boost Your Culinary Repertoire

A sauce is a combination of ingredients which are used to enhance the taste of, add moisture to, or offer visual appeal to a particular dish. The history of sauce making is vast and runs through many centuries of time and cultures throughout the world. One of the most notable periods of sauce development came at a time before refrigeration was invented. Sauces were developed to either mask the intense salt flavor which came from preserving meats or were used to hide the putrid flavor of food which had started to spoil. As refrigeration became more available and preservation techniques left food more palatable, the nature of sauces began to change as well. Those which were once heavy and intensely flavored were replaced with lighter versions more subtle in flavor and used more as a garnish than a flavor intended to predominate.

Redefining Classic Sauce Techniques

Classical sauce making is a precise and often time-consuming task which was designed to give consistent results. While variations within the traditional sauces existed, there was typically not a lot of room for experimentation and creativity on the part of the chef. Today, as exposure to culture and cuisine around the world becomes more accessible, we have started to see a strong shift as chefs become less regimented and more creative in the ways in which they approach sauce making. Regardless of the end result, however, there is almost always a traditional, historical technique being used at its foundation and it is therefore imperative that you have a keen knowledge of the basics before you attempt to improvise. Many believe that a chef's ability to make a proper sauce is the standard by which all of the rest of his or her cooking should be judged.

Learn the History behind Sauces

There are numerous references which can teach you the history and techniques of sauce making, and I strongly recommend that you access some of them so that you have a basic understanding of sauce making. Sauces have an infinite range in terms of flavor, texture, and how and when they are used. Some cultures use sauces as the foundation of a dish intended to bind ingredients together such as with an Indian curry or Coq au Vin. Other cultures use sauces as an accompaniment intended to enhance the flavors and textures of certain ingredients such as a salsa or chutney. And still others use sauces as an integral component of a dish such as a marinara sauce on pasta or vinaigrette on a salad. In the following recipes you will receive a small sampling of some of the more popular varieties of sauces in the culinary world today.

About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.

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            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
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