A beautifully flavourful gravy, sauce or jus can be the difference between a good meal and a great one. Here, all the know-how you need to make your winter meals deliciously saucy.
At its heart the role of a sauce is to carry flavour that will either enhance or make a contrast to the dish it accompanies. Whether it is a sauce, a jus or gravy, it should make the dish more enjoyable, more succulent, tastier, of course, and more interesting. A sauce can be as simple as the pan juices remaining in the dish after roasting meat or poultry (known as jus), or as complex as a multi-stepped process involving browning bones and making stock before starting.
Here are a few tips for classic roux-based sauces, such as béchamel and cheese sauce, and a few ideas for turning pan juices into flavour-packed jus. And let’s not leave gravy out in the cold. It’s a Kiwi favourite and making a good one is worth mastering.
MOTHER SAUCES (where it all begins)
• Classic French sauces based on a roux, a paste of fat and flour (usually butter, but it can be oil or dripping), are known as “mother sauces” because they’re the base of many classic sauces. • For a béchamel or cheese sauce, the roux is cooked briefly to cook the flour through before milk is added. For a blond roux, the roux is cooked to a pale straw colour, giving the finished sauce a lovely nutty flavour. For brown sauces, the roux is cooked to a pale nut brown. Use regular unsalted butter for white sauces, but clarified butter for a blond roux and oil or dripping for a brown roux to prevent the roux catching and burning during longer cooking.
Making a white sauce based on a roux … • The standard ratio is equal parts butter and flour. However, if you use less flour to butter, it will make a softer roux, that will blend more easily with the liquid and form fewer lumps. Try it. • Work with contrasting temperatures – if the roux is hot, the liquid added should be cold to avoid it turning grainy. If the liquid is hot (hot stock or infused milk for béchamel sauce), cool the roux before blending with the liquid. Use a small wire whisk for stirring because it is more effective than a wooden spoon at getting into the bottom corners of the pan and better at whisking out lumps.
Thinly sliced shallots as an added extra for gravy
Stirring with a slotted fish slice for lumpfree sauces
A dab of mustard to enhance cheese sauce