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Getting saucy in the kitchen

First, make a roux - almost a cliche when it comes to Cajun cooking, but it also holds true for making nearly any kind of sauce, gravy or dessert pudding. Pronounced roo, the base of fat-and-flour is easy, and is the route to lumpless gravies.

Making a roux is as easy as heating oil or fat with flour in a skillet and stirring until smooth and any bubbling stops. Used at this point, the roux will make a white, or lightly colored, gravy or sauce. Or, continue heating until the flour darkens to any shade desired, from light to dark, before adding the liquid. The liquid can be water, milk, broth, beer, etc.

The fat or oil can be, well whatever is handy. Butter and margarine work well, though butter is easy to scorch. Olive, safflower, sunflower, canola, any will work. Bacon fat, drippings from pork sausage are quite tasty as a base for white sauce.

With the current hub-bub about transfats, the solid shortenings are up to one’s preference.

Don’t want to mess with a roux? Use cornstarch thinned in enough water or milk to ensure no lumps and just pour into the base to be thickened.

Being able to crank out a fast sauce or gravy puts a many meals no farther away than a batch of rice, cooked potatoes or any kind of pasta, and it is a great way to use leftover meats.

Possibly the king of sauces is the general, all-purpose white sauce. Make some white sauce and everything from sausage gravy to macaroni and cheese, to cream-anything is only about 20 minutes away.

White sauce is open to nearly limitless special, personal touches of spice, broth, cheese or other ingredients.

Chilled, sweetened white sauce with an extract of choice (without the savory spices) will firm up into a pudding - though for a dessert pudding the thick would be quite dense. Sweeten to taste, use any extract or cocoa to create whatever flavor is desired.

Thin is used over vegetables or for cream soups;

Medium for gravy, fish or egg dishes or scalloped dishes, such as potatoes;

Thick for soufflés, croquettes and deviled seafoods.

The secret for most of these is in the roux

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White Sauce:

The basic ingredients for white sauce are:

1 teaspoon soup or stock base, most often this is chicken

1/4 teaspoon dry Mustard

1/4 teaspoon White Pepper

1 cup milk or cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Any cooking fat (butter, solid shortening, lard, bacon drippings, olive oil, etc.) may be used.

Flour

Consistency, whether thin, medium or thick, is adjusted with the cooking fat and flour.

Thin sauce: 1 tablespoon each cooking oil and flour;

Medium sauce: 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons each;

Thick sauce: 3 - 4 tablespoons each.

Heat the oil or fat in a saucepan until melted. If using butter, heat over low heat until it stops bubbling but be careful, butter scorches easily. Sprinkle the flour into the oil; stir well to remove all lumps. Remove from heat if necessary to prevent scorching; stir until bubbling stops. Blend in whatever liquid is being used (milk, cream, broth, etc.) and mix well; stir until the sauce thickens. Makes 1 cup.

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Brown Sauce

Basic brown sauce - the basic gravy. Use over rice, potatoes, meats, leftovers, hamburgers, etc.

Makes just over 1 cup.

1 cup water

1 teaspoon beef soup base

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

dash of allspice

3 tablespoons any kind of fat - cooking oil, shortening, pan drippings, bacon grease, etc.

2 tablespoons flour

Mix water, soup base, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and allspice in a microwave safe dish or container. Heat to just below boiling, set aside.

Heat fat in a skillet over medium heat until is smokes lightly; reduce heat to low, stir in the flour, stir constantly to heat evenly until browned to the desired darkness. Darker flour means darker sauce.

NOTE: use caution with the next step; adding water to the hot fat/flour mixture will cause a burst of steam.

Remove from heat; add the hot water mixture, mixing to ensure well blended.

Return to heat, stirring until thickened.

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Tomato sauces are nearly as versatile as white sauce for hot dishes, a quick homemade pizza using flour tortillas, and a host of other possibilities.

Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce

2 cups diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

1/4 cup minced onion, or 1 tablespoon dried minced onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (or 1 teaspoon dried bell pepper)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon thyme

2 cloves of crushed garlic, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon seasoned salt, plain salt will do, too

2 whole cloves

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a simmer, cover, heat on low for 20-30 minutes - stir now and then to make sure it does not scorch. Makes about 3 cups.

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One Kind of Barbecue Sauce

In no way should this be considered a definitive recipe for barbecue sauce. There are as many barbecue sauce recipes as there are for chili, maybe even more. Thick, thin, tomato based, no tomatoes, vinegar, wine, whiskey, beer.

This recipe is quick, easy, and will get a satisfactory result. Add or remove ingredients as the spirit leads.

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt, plain or seasoned

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon barbecue spice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine everything; add liquid to thin if necessary - water, beer, whiskey, etc. As a precaution, refrigerate if not used immediately; the longer it stands, the better the spices and flavors blend.

Basting with the sauce is not done until the meat is done, or nearly done.

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Another Barbecue Sauce

Makes 2 cups

1 cup water

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons catsup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup crushed pineapple

1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped

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1 tablespoon corn starch

1/4 cup cold water

Combine all ingredients (except corn starch and 1/4 cup water) in a blender or food processor, mix until smooth. Pour mixture into a double boiler and bring to cooking temperature, cover, heat for 30 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water (make sure there are no lumps) and then stir into the sauce. Continue heating, stirring frequently, until it thickens.

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Spicy Barbecue Sauce

3 6-oz. cans tomato paste

2 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 – 4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon red pepper or cayenne (optional)

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3 teaspoons liquid smoke (hold for later)

Combine all ingredients, except liquid smoke, in blender; blend until smooth.

Use a double boiler: put sauce in top pan, bring to cooking temperature, cover and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat; blend in the liquid smoke.

Use immediately, or refrigerate in sealed jars.

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Teriyaki Sauce

Easy:

1 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground Ginger

Combine all ingredients in a convenient container and then stir, shake, mix or otherwise agitate until the sugar is dissolved. May be used immediately, but letting it stand for 8-12 hours in a refrigerator improves it.

From fresh:

1 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup chopped onion (does not matter what variety)

2 oz. ginger root, grated or cut very thin.

Put all in a blender or food processor, run on high until all ingredients are ground fairly fine. Seal in a jar and let stand 8-12 hours in the refrigerator and then strain out the solids. Very fine particles will settle out over time. Store refrigerated in a sealed jar.

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Is the cost of a small jar of tartar sauce a little difficult to swallow? Make your own for about a third of the cost.

Tartar Sauce – basic

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/4 cup pickle relish

1 tablespoon lemon juice

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Spice it up a little:

2 tablespoons onion - minced, or 2 teaspoons dried minced onion

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Blend everything together. If using dried minced onion, it needs to stand 2-3 hours to soften the onion. Store in a sealed container, the longer it stands the better. Keep it refrigerated.

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This may be a little complicated, but I will add it because it is a very good, very versatile sauce to have:

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup butter - divided into 1/3 cup portions

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Use a double boiler (a silicone spatula works well with this): combine 1/3 cup butter, egg yolks and lemon juice in top of the double boiler. Cook over very hot water (190 - 200F) - the trick is to not let the water boil in the lower pan, nor let the hot water touch the cooking pan - stirring constantly until the butter melts. Add the second 1/3-cup of butter, stir until it melts.

Remove from heat, add remaining butter and other ingredients and stir to blend.

If the sauce is not thick enough, return to the double boiler and heat, while stirring, to the desired consistency.

If it begins to separate, add one or two teaspoons of boiling water and blend with a fork or small wire whisk.

Serve warm.

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Have a specialty you want to share? Guest writers are welcome. Write a brief description of the dishes, or any history behind them, include three to four recipes, and submit to:

email - news@cabotstarherald.com, add Lick the Spoon to the subject line.

Postal Service - Cabot Star-Herald, P.O. Box 1058, Cabot, AR 72023

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