Thursday, January 21, 2010

We need magic -- read that sauce -- in our lives

Culinary school has taught me -- nay, convinced me! -- that no dinner is complete without a sauce. That includes home-cooked dinners.

If that sounds like too much trouble for time-starved home cooks, consider: Many sauces are easy to make; several practically make themselves. All that's needed is a smidgen of this and a pinch of that and one has a sauce. As Chef Tony Marano taught us in our first culinary class: "It's magic."

The partnership of a protein and a sauce is as natural as the partnership of Laurel and Hardy, Penn and Teller, Pedro Aldomovar and Penelope Cruz.

What would they would be without one another? The missing element would be obvious, for certain.

Forget fancy and complicated; think natural and easy. For example, the other night I cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a sauté pan wit a small amount of oil.

When the chicken was cooked, I removed it, degreased the pan and added four ounces of chicken stock. Over low heat, the stock warmed, and I used a spoon to loosen the brown bits from the chicken. When done, I added a slurry -- 1 ounce of corn starch and 1 ounce of water -- to thicken, then seasoned with salt and pepper.

One to two minutes of stirring and it thickened. There was the natural pan sauce for chicken. I spooned it onto the chicken breast for a magical partnership.

(Photo: Penelope Cruz. Now that's saucy!)

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