How do you create a sauce?

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Thick lemon sauce for chicken

This is a fascinating question! I assume that when OP says u2018create,u2019 they are asking how an ORIGINAL sauce is created, rather than just making an established recipe.

,First, you need to determine the FUNCTION of your sauce.

What is it for? Is it there to provide a little lubrication on a sandwich or a salad (aioli, mayonnaise, vinaigretteu2026)? Is it a primarily visual device, designed to produce impact on the negative space on the plate (many contemporary fine-dining saucesu2026)? Is it there to reinforce the natural flavors already present in a dish (gravy on a roast)? Is it there to provide richness to a dish that is very lean (buerre blanc on poached trout is a classic example)? Is it there to fulfill a classical function (like a hollandaise-type sauce on a poached egg dish that uses the u2018Benedictu2019 composition)? Or is it the star of the show (salsa for chips, chili sauce for a chili dog, or sausage gravy for biscuits and gravy)?,For the sake of argument, letu2019s say we are composing a dish for a banquet tomorrow night.

(By a strange coincidence, I have a banquet tomorrow night.

) Banquets are an infrequent occurrence where I work, so the menus are written vaguely.

They are sometimes booked months ahead of time, so the finer details of the dishes can vary.

Tomorrow nightu2019s chicken dish reads u2018Pecan-Crusted Chicken, Hoppinu2019 John, White Wine Jus.

u2019 For those not in the know, hoppinu2019 john is beans and rice, South Carolina-style, using butterbeans, our local lima bean cultivar.

The sauceu2019s function, in this case, is to provide a little moisture on the plate, while enhancing and reinforcing the flavors.

Flavor-wise, the pecan crust on the chicken is doing the heavy lifting, so we want something elegant and subtle.

The words u2018white wine jusu2019 are deliberately vague.

Jus just means u2018juice,u2019 and white wine is a relatively neutral flavor, so I wonu2019t need to go to a whole lot of extra trouble for the sauce.

,Once youu2019ve determined your sauceu2019s raison du2019etre, itu2019s time to decide what it will taste like.

You can pick a primary flavor (or flavor chord), along with accent flavors.

The primary flavor of buerre blanc is white wine, with accent flavors of shallot, thyme, and butter.

The primary flavor of remoulade sauce is a chord of pickles, mustard, citrus, and mayonnaise, with accents of tarragon, red onion, and caper.

The primary flavor of bolognaise sauce is the chord of pork and tomato, with accent flavors of garlic, onion, oregano, etc.

,In my example, the main flavors are going to be poultry and white wine, and I plan on using nice, neutral accent flavors like thyme, shallot, and lemon.

(Why? Because itu2019s a party of 40, getting a choice of 3 entrees.

I need a way to use up any leftover sauce that doesnu2019t get used, and keeping it nice and neutral will afford me a versatile base, one that I could easily turn into a mustard sauce, a truffle sauce, whatever I might need over the next week.

),Step 3 is to decide what the liquid and thickener of your sauce is going to be.

In hollandaise, the liquid is butter and the thickener is egg yolk.

In gravy, the liquid is stock and the thickener is flour.

In tomato sauce, the liquid and the thickener are both tomato.

This is a pivotal technical step, since this is where you determine what your sauceu2019s chemical composition is.

Is it a starch-thickened liquid? A fatty emulsion? A finnicky suspension of fatty particles dispersed in water? A gelatinous reduction? Or maybe just a broth, a simple infusion.

,In my case, I know Iu2019ve got some duck stock.

That will give me that nice poultry flavor base I am looking for.

As far as thickener, gluten allergy is pretty de rigueur where I work, so I prefer to keep sauces gluten-free when I can.

That means flour is right out.

Lately, Iu2019ve been having some success simply using pureed, cooked onion as a thickener.

It leaves the texture silky, doesnu2019t break or continue to thicken on heat, and has a mild, savory flavor that goes with a lot of things.

So I think I will go that route.

,Now, letu2019s consider how to incorporate those accent flavors.

Thyme and shallot, we will add in the beginning, to allow them to become background flavors.

The lemon should be a bright, fresh accent, so a little lemon juice at the end.

All right, here is what I plan on doing.

,Slice 4 onions.

,Sweat them in a half-pound of butter until they are not colored, but are well-cooked.

,Add half a bottle of white wine and cook until the wine has reduced and the onions are coated in a wine-butter glaze.

,Add 2 quarts of duck stock and a quart of heavy cream, along with 12 sprigs of thyme and 2 sliced shallots.

Cook them until itu2019s all cooked down to about a quart and a half.

,Remove the thyme, and puree all together in a blender.

,Check the consistency.

If itu2019s too thick, thin it with a bit of water.

If not thick enough, maybe bind it with a bit of potato starch and water.

But Iu2019m hoping there is enough gelatin in the duck stock, fat in the cream, and fiber in the onions to give a nice, spoon-coating consistency.

,Now, season it to taste with salt, white pepper, and lemon.

Make sure all flavors are shining through.

If not, you can take steps to add a little more this or that, but remember that this late in the game, we will not be able to add whole thyme, for instance.

It wonu2019t have the proper time to infuse.

Instead, we will have to add chopped thyme, which will affect the final look of the sauce.

Every move we make has consequences.

,So there you have it.

We have thought tomorrowu2019s sauce through, in real time.

Sorry it wasnu2019t a more exciting sauce, but they canu2019t all be A Reduction of Veal Jus, Ice Wine, and Julienned Black Truffle.

Or whatever.