Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Make a Cream Sauce

A perfect sauce can either make or break an entire dish. 

The secret to French sauces?


Oh, and cream too.

Not exactly low calorie… yet leaves your taste-buds screaming for more.


The most common mistake when making a cream sauce? Breaking the sauce.

What does that even mean?

The Heisman of sauces is a rich, gleaming, unbroken emulsion, bursting with flavor. When a sauce is broken, it becomes a thin, grainy-curded mess. Essentially, the fat separates from the emulsion – resulting in a “broken sauce.” Sad day in the life of a chef. Since most sauces are emulsions (one substance suspended in another), is it essential to follow a few basic rules when creating any type of cream sauce.

One. Remember to combine “like temperatures.”

If, for example, you sauté a tender filet mignon on high heat, you will achieve beautiful “brownings” on the bottom of the sauté pan. These brownings are bursting with flavors (they are not “burned” to the bottom of the pan!”) In order to “set free” the brownings, remove the steak from the sauté pan and gently the wipe away the excess fat/oils from the bottom of the pan (may use a paper towel, but be careful, as the pan will be extremely hot!) Place the sauté pan back on the stove and heat to a medium high temperature (this should not take long to do, as the pan should still be hot!) Deglaze with a white wine (wine should be one you are willing to drink, but not one of your best wines).

To deglaze, simply pour the wine onto the pan. Typically, a mushroom-cloud of smoke will billow from the pan (watch your face!) – but this will allow the brownings to be “set free” from the bottom of the pan and be incorporated into a sauce. After pouring in the wine, immediately begin to scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add stock and reduce (chicken/beef/vegetable, etc.) When wanting to incorporate cream, it would seem logical to simply go to the refrigerator, open the cream and add to boiling sauce… right?

RIP sauce. Cause of death? Cold cream.

In honor of Paul Harvey… “and now it’s time for the rest of the story…”

If fat is not properly added to a sauce, the sauce will break. Remember to always combine “like temperatures.” First, bring the cream to a boil in its own sauce pan. This will ensure that it is the same temperature as the sauce that it is being added to (helping to ensure a successful transfer of creaminess). Adding the fat too quickly will also cause a problem… ergo, slowly drizzle the cream into the boiling sauce, all the while whisking “énergiquement. ”

I always loved when my Parisian Le Cordon Bleu chefs used this phrase… “énergiquement. ” Essentially translates to “whisk energetically.” Whilst a student at Le Cordon Bleu, I used to stand in place, smiling incredibly too big, and whisk with vigor… with every intent to get my chefs to smile as I whisked away happily.

Worked like a charm. Every time.

Another factor in causing a sauce to break? Time. If a sauce sits out for too long, breakage will occur. No doubt.

Rather than dunking your perfectly cooked protein (be it meat or seafood) in sauce, use the sauce as decoration on the plate. Not only will this allow you to taste the protein by itself (believe me, a perfectly cooked piece of meat or fish doesn’t even need a sauce to accompany!), but it will also allow moderation to be practiced, as well as decoration for the plate. We live in a world that is slowly realizing that food is not just food… it is art as well.

We as chefs are artists. Though our works of art are temporary, they fuel the mind, body, spirit and soul. They unite people of every culture, race, religion, sex, gender, age, shape and size… everyone has to eat.

Why not make it beautiful?

“Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.” - Georges Blanc

Love y’all! ♥

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