17 March, 2010

Cookery lesson number three: sauces

Saturday was the third lesson in the series, though sadly only my second as I spent the previous Saturday in bed feeling dizzy from my antibiotics. This week I was full of beans. Olive, our French chef tutor, guided us through the concept of the roux and the emulsion and showed us a bechamel, a mayonnaise and a pan sauce. Then we split into groups to have a go ourselves at some mother sauces. I tried the mayonnaise first. I have strong nostalgic memories of home-made mayonnaise with poached salmon for sunny outdoor lunches at my grandmother's so was keen to see if I could manage this. And I could. It's surprisingly easy. Key things to know are that you musn't choose a really strong oil like extra virgin olive oil as it will taste far too strong, and you start very very slowly whipping in drop by drop of the oil until the sauce "has caught" and then you can go for it. I had another go at home on Sunday for lunch and whipped up a mayonnaise in a few minutes.

Meanwhile back in the lesson, the couple in my group managed to curdle their bechamel - they are complete novice cooks and this is easily done. Then I threw their curdled sauce away when they were going to flavour it anyway. Oh the horror and shame. Luckily they then made a really really delicious replacement under the guidance of Mike the chef and I think they forgave me because S... gave me some for lunch with pasta and chicken. I also made a veloute which is basically a roux base with stock instead of milk to differentiate it from the bechamel, and then had a go at an espagnole which is a veloute with added veg (mirepoix of celery, onion and carrot) and tomato puree. This one cooks for a while. I'm not sure either the veloute or the espagnole are going to make it into my standard repertoire as I find them a bit cloying.

I left the class feeling thoroughly inspired and of course rushed home and wittered on about sauce while Tom and the girls tried to tell me what they'd been up to (Fort Mason - a park on the north side of the city).

Next day in addition to the mayonnaise, I overdosed the family on egg yolk by feeding them Dover Sole with Hollandaise sauce for supper. Went down very well. And again I found the sauce not too hard to make. I'm not sure it was quite thick enough and I may adjust the flavouring to make it more lemony but it was delicious and really enhanced the meal. Which is after all the point.

Of course since then I haven't managed to make another sauce as life has got in the way. I have plans tonight. Or inklings of plans as I haven't worked out what I shall make yet. Watch this space.


just Gai said...

A couple of months ago I tried my hand at making mayonnaise. Despite my best efforts (adding the oil drip by drip) the mixture curdled. I started again, and again, and again, until I realised that I was only throwing good ingredients after bad and finally gave in. It was a hard decision as I hate being defeated.

I've gone back to the bottled stuff ... for the moment at any rate.

mountainear said...

I remember my French penfriend making mayonnaise to eat with frisee lettuce many, many years ago (OK it was 1968). What a revelation it was to a child reared on Heinz Salad Cream. There was no looking back for me - it's hard to imagine a world where something as basic was unheard of.

Having said that I generally dip into Hellemans but the real thing is a cinch in a food processor. No aching arms.

Make 'rouille' to go in your fish soup - another delicious variant.

Soilman said...

Oo oo oo... LOVE hollandaise sauce. And not difficult to make, provided you don't heat it too much and curdle it.

Will be having it every day with asparagus in about a month's time...