Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mother Sauces, March 10, 2016

Our final Williams-Sonoma cooking class for the season was last Thursday. I'm so glad Women's Fellowship at our church sponsors this! The last class was on the classic mother sauces. We didn't do all of them (they are, if you are not familiar, béchamel---the base for classic mac & cheese, espagnole---the mother of demi-glace, veloute---from which comes a delicious white wine sauce, hollandaise---which has long intimidated me, and tomato), but I was really happy to watch our instructor create a hollandaise. I love the idea of doing Eggs Benedict at home, but have never felt confident to make a hollandaise from scratch. Her demo helped me understand the kind of wrist motion I'm looking for when whisking. I was a little skeptical about her claim that a classic hollandaise doesn't have lemon juice, although I've since learned lemon is a usual flavoring, but not essential to the sauce. I especially questioned it when she told us that when you add lemon to a hollandaise, that creates a bain-marie. If I'm not mistaken, "bain-marie" is the term for a hot water bath such as the one I use when making flour less chocolate cake. However, seeing it made helped reduce my intimidation level.

She also made a béchamel, which she put on penne. It seemed odd to me to use béchamel, which has a pretty neutral flavor, on plain pasta without jazzing it up with some cheese or seasonings. It turned out to be pretty bland. However, it was useful in that I got to see a different kind of roux than I am accustomed to making, made with vegetable oil, rather than butter. She said she never uses butter, as oil has a much higher smoke point, so it's easier to get a really dark roux, such as you want for gumbo, without burning it. It seems to me that a butter-based roux would be infinitely more flavorful, but I am not classically trained---or trained at all---so, I defer to her judgement.

Along with the pasta, we had a lovely pork tenderloin with a scrumptious pan sauce she created by deglazing the pork searing pan with white wine. It was intended to have chicken stock, as well, but she didn't pack it. That was a great lesson in kitchen improv and I suspect the pan sauce she made was tastier with all wine than it would have been with the stock. The pork, sliced and drizzled with sauce, was so gorgeous on the platter. Plating and presentation is not at all my forte and it was really fun to watch her move. She had such grace in the kitchen and everything looked so great.

The final sauce we learned was a beurre blanc. I can't remember if it was the béchamel or the beurre blanc which broke, but she calmly told us that it doesn't completely ruin the dish if it breaks. I'd always thought that if the sauce breaks, you're supposed to scrap it & start over. She explained that it's largely about texture, though. Since I won't ever be selling my sauces, I am happy to know that it's not the end of the world to have them break on us. Anyway, the beurre blanc went on beautifully cooked asparagus. I had that and hollandaise on mine, a bit on each end!

A fun series! I will definitely be returning for whatever offerings they have for us next winter!

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