Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sauciér in the making? Or magician?

Ever see on Top Chef or Iron Chef when something goes awry? The key ingredient burns, a sauce breaks or something simply doesn't work the way it was planned. Yet the chef manages to put together a decent-looking plate and often gets good marks for it. A different kind of magic in the culinary world -- the equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Twice today in culinary school, I successfully rescued sauces that went awry, to put it mildly. This is another sign to me that my skills are on a steady improving track.

(But, you might rightfully say, if I'm getting better, why did I have to redo two sauces? That's a question for another day's blog. For now, please let me revel in my meager success.)

In the first case, my pork roast pan scorched badly on the bottom -- I'm talking burned black to carbon -- including burning the mirepoix and the roast drippings for use in making the pan sauce called for in the exercise. Why the roast itself didn't suffer that fate, I don't know. I started a new sauté, tossed in some diced pieces of pork to render the remaining fat and some brown -- or glaze -- into the pan, then deglazed with veal stock, added flour for thickening and butter to finish. Apple slices as called for in the original pan sauce recipe went in for a minute to soften. I strained out the pork bits. Presto! -- a nicely flavored brown sauce for which the chef gave me full credit.

In the second case, making a sauce vin blanc for poached bass and salmon mousseline, I did the opposite of what I should have, introducing egg yolk to the hot poaching liquid rather than the other way around. Result: cooked egg yolk in the sauce, not a good thing. I strained out the cooked egg and went the way I should with a second yolk, introducing a little of the liquid to it. It caught, I added cream and stirred the sauce to such a successful finish that the chef took two or three spoons of it and commented on its full flavor.

Before that, at home on Wednesday evening, I used a sauté to heat some leftover beef short rib meat with sliced onion, letting the pan brown a bit and then deglazing with a little chicken stock (I keep some home-made in the fridge now) and adding in flour and butter to make a quick pan sauce that was, if I may say so, delicious.

Combine those three sauce rescues, and -- presto -- we have the culinary equivalent of pulling a hat out of a rabbit!

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