When I was in cooking school, I learned to value the power of the sauce.
I was taught that there were five mother sauces. These five specific sauces were the basis of pretty much any and all sauce-covered dishes in French cooking.
They are, in no particular order, béchamel, veloute, espagnole, hollandaise and tomato. These are all tasty sauces and easy to make once you get the hang of whisking, pouring and regulating the temperature. I still use them as starters in many of my recipes.
After a couple of decades relying on these same basic sauce recipes, I realized I needed to lighten them up and actually recreate them in an upside-down way.
I’ve paired some of the sauces with fish or chicken and even pasta, but feel free to mix and match to your pleasure.
Just remember, a sauce should never overwhelm or fade into the background. It should enhance, showcase and be so good that you want to use your fingers to help get every single drop off the plate.
Pasta with Garlic Sauce
The sauce is awesome over grilled chicken and with white fish.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/3 cup parsley
Grated parmesan cheese to taste (I like lots)
1 pound cooked pasta, drained but not rinsed, kept warm
In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the olive oil. When hot, add the garlic and slowly cook just until the garlic is soft but not browned. Add the parsley and basil and cook for 2 minutes (stir constantly). Do not overcook; the parsley and basil should still be bright green. Place the pasta in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over the top. Mix to combine and top with parmesan.
Not a month goes by that at least one reader doesn’t contact me about finding or recreating the discontinued McCormick brand’s Hunter Sauce. To date, the company has not responded to any requests for information, and sadly, I believe it’s gone for good. I did, however, receive a recipe from a reader a few years ago that is pretty close.
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 to 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 cups white wine
1 quart beef broth
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter; add 1/2 pound mushrooms and sauté 3 to 5 minutes. Add the green onions and sauté for another 3 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and onions, but don’t clean the pan.
Add the flour to the liquid in the pan and cook, whisking for 1 to 2 minutes until the flour starts to brown. Add the tomato puree, white wine and beef broth; whisk to combine and cook at a simmer until the sauce is reduced by half.
Put the mushroom mixture back into the sauce and add the remaining butter, parsley, tarragon and salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Makes 3 cups of sauce.
Chicken with Orange Sauce
This sauce is awesome with salmon, too.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (any kind), cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Oil (for frying)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
3 green onions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Cooked rice (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)
Toasted almond slices (optional)
In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Place the panko crumbs in another bowl.
Dip the chicken pieces first in the egg, coat with the cornstarch mixture, then dip in the eggs again and finally coat them with the panko. Set them on a cookie sheet.
When done, pour the oil into a deep pan and heat it (you can use a deep fryer). Fry in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) and place them on paper towels to drain.
For sauce: In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Whisk to combine and cook for a few minutes but don’t boil. Add the brown sugar, orange zest, ginger, garlic, red pepper and green onions. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the water and mix to form a paste. Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce, cooking and whisking while it thickens.
Place the cooked chicken pieces in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over, toss to combine and serve over rice or noodles. Can be garnished with sliced green onions and almond slices. Serves 6.