Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hitting the sauce; espagnole to be exact

We got in the game today, feeling the heat in Culinary Foundations class, literally. It was my turn at the stove, assigned to make a brown roux for an espagnole sauce, one of the five primary sauces used to create literally hundreds of secondary and what are called small sauces.

Under the watchful eye and coaching of Chef Tony Marano, three of us worked on separate sauces -- the espagnole (below) made from my brown roux, another espagnole made in a different way and a tomato sauce. I've made roux before, and I've made sauce before (akin to what we Americans would call a gravy), but not under professional instruction and in front of a group -- my classmates.

The heat, the three or four seemingly disparate operations going on in a convivial jostle for stove space and my control of the outcome -- Chef Tony allowed me to season the espagnole sauce to my taste -- affirmed again for me why I'm doing this.

My roux browned up slower than it should have but eventually came to a nice color, aroma and texture under 20 minutes of constant stirring. I combined it with a brown veal stock that had already begun seasoning with a mirepoix (2 parts chopped onions, 1 part chopped carrots, 1 part chopped celery). Twenty to 30 minutes of whisking, a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt and white pepper and it was espagnole sauce. My classmates generously pronounced it very flavorful.

New universes are being discovered with every turn of the whisk; viscerally familiar worlds are being uncovered with every sampling from the sauce pan.

(Thanks to fellow culinary student Keejoo Hong for the photo of me at work.)

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