Roux

A roux is a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. It is traditionally used to thicken the classical French Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole sauces and in Cajun and Creole cooking. The roux is made from equal parts wheat flour and either butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings or lard which are cooked together with or without colouring. In Cajun cuisine, the roux is almost always made with oil or lard instead of butter, which would burn and is dark brown in colour, adding greatly to the flavour of the finished sauce. In regional American cuisine, bacon is sometimes rendered to produce the fat to use in a roux for extra flavour, in recipes such a sausage gravy. In the case of meat gravies, fat rendered from meat is often used to make a pan gravy.

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Cooking the roux produces the correct chemical structure to thicken the sauce and starts to remove the floury taste from the finished sauce. A light roux of flour and butter, cooked for two or three minutes without colouring is used in the traditional béchamel sauce. Cooking until the mixture becomes golden in colour and sandy in texture produces a blonde roux the base of velouté sauces. Darker roux can range from light brown to chocolate in colour and add a distinct nutty flavour to a dish. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has, a chocolate roux has about a quarter of the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux.

The golden rules when thickening a roux based sauce is to allow the roux to cool slightly after cooking and use a liquid that is just off the boil to make combining the ingredients much easier. The sauce will then need to very gently simmer for at least thirty minutes to cook out and eliminate any floury taste. The resulting sauce will be smooth, rich and creamy in texture.

 

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Espagnole

Classic Espagnole or Brown sauce is a dark, flour-based sauce with a strong taste and is now replaced in many recipes by a well-reduced beef or roast veal bone stock, traditionally it was a Master Sauce serving as the starting point for many derivative sauces, of which there are hundreds in the French repertoire. As Espagnole is the French word for Spanish it was long thought that the sauce was a creation of a chef to one of the two countries royal courts following a diplomatic marriage between the French and Spanish thrones, similarly, Espagnole was a rich marriage of Spanish tomatoes to a traditional French brown meat sauce. However, according to Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, “The name has nothing to do with Spain, any more than the counterpart term allemande has anything to do with Germany. It is generally believed that the terms were chosen because in French eyes Germans are blond and Spaniards are brown.”

Espangole is made from a dark roux, a Mirepoix of root vegetables and tomatoes, veal or beef stock and aromatics. The sauce is very gently simmered over a low heat and skimmed regularly. Espangole was one of the five mother sauces of the French cuisine of Escoffier and was traditionally used to make Demi-glace which is used in turn to make hundreds of secondary sauces. In the modern kitchen, these sauces are made using a reduced stock and a list can be found under the Demi-glace entry.

A Classic Espangole Recipe

As Espangole was a staple of the large classical kitchen the ingredient list includes parsley stems and mushroom trimmings left over from the preparation of garnishes, these are optional or simply replace with a couple of sprigs of parsley and a few mushrooms.

50 gr Butter or Lard

50 gr Fat Bacon

100 gr Plain Flour

2 large Carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large Onion, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 Pigs Trotter

500 gr Shin of beef, with the bone

1 generous sprig of fresh Thyme

1 sprig Rosemary

2 Bay Leaves

A small handful of Parsley stems

A small handful of mushroom peelings and stems

6 Black Peppercorns

1 1/2 ltrs of Beef or roasted Veal Stock

440 gr  tin chopped Tomatoes

150 ml quality Red Wine


Roast the trotter and beef shin in a very hot oven for twenty minutes until brown. In a very large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and fry the bacon, add the mirepoix of root vegetables and cook slowly. Brown the vegetables so the natural sugars caramelise to add flavour and colour to the sauce. Add the flour and cook for at least another five minutes to develop the colour.

Slowly add a quarter of the stock stirring all the time then add the remaining stock, trotter, beef shin and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to the gentlest of simmers and cook for at least three hours. Skim regularly to remove any impurities and excess fat from the sauce which if let to boil into the sauce will result in a cloudy finish. Remove from heat, allow to cool and pass through a chinois or fine sieve.

Ghee

Ghee is a south Asian pure butterfat used for frying and flavouring similar to clarified butter. The production of ghee results in the elimination of any milk solids which prevents the ghee from oxidising, consequently ghee has a long shelf life and does not require refrigeration. Ghee is commonly used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Pakistani cooking. In Indian cookery, ghee is used in the preparation of dishes such as biryanis, daals, parathas and curries resulting in a rich flavour and texture and is brushed on roasting Naan breads. The word ghee comes from Sanskrit.
Commercially prepared ghee is made by first melting the butter, as it does the milk solids and buttermilk form a white froth on top. This is removed and the butterfat is then simmered, stirring occasionally, as it is cooked on low heat it turns a dark golden colour. Any remaining residue settles at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, aromatic and golden is ready to be filtered. The ghee solidifies as it cools. The texture, colour, and taste of ghee is altered by the length of the cooking process and from the milk which made the butter.
Ghee is an ideal medium for deep fat frying because the smoke point (where it begins to break down) is 250 °C / 482 °F, which is well above typical cooking temperatures for most foods around 200 °C / 392 °F and above that of most vegetable oils. Several other cuisines produce similar products to Ghee. In North Africa, the Berber tribes add spices and age their refined butter. In other parts of Africa purified butterfat is used for frying and in Germany Schnitzels are traditionally fried in Butterschmalz a type of clarified butter.

Fry Sauce

Fry SauceFry sauce is an American cold sauce served with French fries. It is usually a simple combination of one part ketchup and two parts mayonnaise, although barbecue sauce can be substituted for the ketchup. Fry sauce is a simple derivative of Thousand Island dressing or Rémoulade and is a very popular condiment in Utah and Idaho and the Pacific West. The Utah-based Arctic Circle restaurant chain claims to have invented fry sauce around 1948 and it is now served in many local and chain restaurants as well as being available in supermarkets.

Regional varieties –

Salsa golf or golf sauce is a popular dressing for fries, burgers, and steak sandwiches in Argentina. According to tradition, the sauce was invented by Nobel laureate and restaurant patron Luis Federico Leloir at the Golf Club in Mar del Plata, Argentina, during the mid-1920s. It is flavoured with oregano and hot paprika.

Rosé sauce, equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup, sometimes with hot sauce added is served alongside the traditional ketchup and mustard with fries and onion rings in Brazil.

Salsa Rosada (pink sauce) is the Costa Rican condiment served with a cabbage salad.

Cocktailsaus or sauce cocktail is made in Belgium with the addition of some paprika or whisky.

Sauce américaine is served particularly in many Turkish restaurants and some fast-food chains in France.

Rot Weiss is a German product sold in toothpaste-style tubes, and consists of ketchup and mayonnaise, while Fry sauce or Pommes-Soße is a lightly spiced mayonnaise.

Burger sauce in the UK often is spiced with added mustard.

Emulsions

In the kitchen, an emulsion is normally the combination of fat and water (or water-based) ingredients. We first encounter natural emulsions when we drink milk and then use cream. We make emulsions when we create a Hollandaise or mayonnaise sauce or a vinaigrette to dress a salad. The result of emulsifying is twofold, dispersing a strong flavour in a usually blander medium, think of the taste of shallot, tarragon and white wine vinegar in the classic Béarnaise and the resulting mouthfeel, the smooth, glossy experience of eating mayonnaise.

So how do cooks combine fat and water even though they don’t like to mix? By using shearing power, that is shaking, stirring, whisking and blending. The physical action disperses one ingredient throughout the other. Emulsions are unstable by nature, your fresh hollandaise splits and your vinaigrette separates but this can be prevented by using emulsifiers and stabilizers. Egg yolks, mustard, and garlic all act as emulsifiers which chemically bind fat and water molecules together. In commercial food production and molecular gastronomy gums, starches and plant particles all act as emulsifiers.

Mayonnaise

100 ml Virgin Olive Oil

100 ml Sunflower Oil

2 free-range Egg Yolks*

2 tablespoons good White Wine Vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon juice

½ teaspoon fine Salt

½ teaspoon English Mustard powder

A pinch of Caster Sugar

Place a glass bowl on a damp cloth to prevent slipping. Whisk together egg yolk and the dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a small jug then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Whisking briskly add the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid starts to thicken (you have formed an emulsion). Increase the flow of oil to a constant, thin stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture. Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Store in the refrigerator.

If your mayonnaise separates or curdles you can recover the mix by whisking in a tablespoon of boiling water to the mayonnaise which should combine the mixture together. If this does not recombine the mixture start the process again with a further egg yolk in a clean bowl and whisk in the curdled mixture a tablespoon at a time.

*There is a slight risk of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses from using raw unpasteurised egg, use only unbroken fresh eggs and do not consume if pregnant or feed to infants.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 free-range Egg yolks

200 gr Unsalted Butter

2 teaspoons fresh Lemon juice

2 teaspoons warm Water

A pinch Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt

Place the butter in a small pan and set on the back of your stove or hob. The pan does not need to be heated directly just placed somewhere warm enough to melt the butter. Allow the milk solids to sink to the bottom of the pan and decant off the clarified butter. Set aside and keep warm. Place a medium glass or stainless steel bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water. In the bowl whisk the egg yolks until they are pale yellow and the resulting mixture has a thick creamy texture. Switch off the heat.

Using a small ladle pour in a thin stream of the warm butterfat while continuously whisking. Continue until all the liquid is incorporated. If the resulting sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little warm water. Add the lemon juice, season to taste and serve. The Hollandaise will keep warm set above the warm water covered lightly with tin foil for fifteen to twenty minutes.

If your Hollandaise splits or curdles you have probably tried to add the butter too quickly, a couple of teaspoons of freshly boiled water whisked vigorously into the split sauce may help retrieve it. If this does not work, you can whisk up a further egg yolk in a fresh clean bowl then slowly add the split hollandaise whisking all the time.

Melba Toast

Melba toast is completely dry, crisp, thinly sliced, toasted bread and most often served with soup or pâté. History has it that the name was given to the toast by the world’s most famous hotel manager César Ritz. Melba toast was created by his equally famous chef Auguste Escoffier for the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, around 1897. During a stay in London, the singer was taken ill and when she requested something light to eat Escoffier delivered Melba toast.

Melba Toast

Melba toast is available commercially but is not difficult to make and a great way to use up excess sliced bread and you will find the results much better. It can be made up to a couple of days before you need it and stored it in an airtight container, then crisp it up for a short time in the oven.

Melba Toast

Sliced white or brown bread as required

Preheat the grill to high and toast the bread lightly on both sides. Cut off the crusts, then holding the toast flat, slide the knife between the toasted edges to split the bread.

Slicing Toast

Place the toast cut side down onto a food preparation board and gently rub it over the board surface. This removes any loose crumbs and snags of dough which will burn when you toast the underside and produces a professional finish.

Melba Toast Tray

Place on a baking tray untoasted sides uppermost, then toast under a moderate grill until golden and the edges curl.

When required crisp for a short time in the oven at 170 °C / 325 °F / Gas 3 before serving.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix, a trio of aromatic vegetables, became popular in 19thcentury French cooking and is named, in the fashion of so many French culinary terms, after a Duke who was a regarded as a pretty incompetent Field Marshall and Ambassador, and who owed much to Louis XV affections towards his wife. Mirepoix is a small, fine dice normally of onions, carrots, and celery roughly in the proportions 2:1:1. It is the base flavour of many classic sauces and stocks and slow-cooked casseroles and stews. Mirepoix can vary from recipe to recipe and region to region and include garlic, leeks, mushroom stalks and tomatoes.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix au gras has the addition of finely diced ham or streaky bacon. Similar base vegetable mixes are to be found in German cooking called suppengrün or soup greens. There is also the holy trinity of Creole cooking; onions, green bell peppers and celery and soffritto an Italian soup and sauce base of vegetables, garlic and parsley stewed in olive oil.

Matignon is traditionally a finer dice of aromatic vegetables including onions, carrots, celery, and leeks which are sautéed in butter and flavoured with a pinch of thyme and perhaps some crushed garlic. It is usually finished with salt, sugar if required and a splash of Madeira wine. The result can be used as a stuffing or a base to present poultry and meat on.