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Cooking Class Review: Sauces, Reductions, and Emulsions! At Milestone Culinary Arts Center

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Chef Bedouret demonstrates appropriate viscosity for a hollandaise.

From the curious mind of William Russ:

My sauce repertoire is limited, and this limits my cooking – I rarely think to include a sauce as part of the meal.  This was the rationale that brought me to Chef André Bedouret’s course on Sauces, Reductions and Emulsions at the Viking Cooking School on McKinney Ave.  Like most home cooks, I had already followed recipes to produce many of the sauces that we learned Sunday, and more. I’ve made hollandaise and beurre blanc, béchamel, vinaigrette, and even my own mayonnaise. What I was hoping for, and what the Chef Bedouret provided: a more conceptual understanding of what sauces are, where they come from – their components and techniques – and, ultimately a lower barrier to incorporating sauces into my routine cooking.

Jump for the joy of cooking! Good stuff.The class began with a short, informal lecture that provided definitions and background about the well-known mother sauces, their derivatives and common applications as well as a brief discussion of stocks for those of us who missed his class on Stocks (which I will do my best to attend the next time it’s offered).  The lecture, like the subsequent demonstration, was peppered with the chef’s entertaining digressions and opinionated commentary (regarding concerns about sauces’ caloric content, Bedouret advises moderation: “Don’t drink the damn thing!”).

Although the demo theater’s stadium seating provides ample view of the work area, our small class size allowed the five of us to cluster in front of the small work space where we could directly sample sauces as they were prepared. One of the highlights of the class was Bedouret’s insistence that we taste sauces at varying stages to highlight a point in the process – how a cherry gastrique became silky smooth and more vibrantly fruity after mounting with butter, or the way adjusting the acid balance in a velouté with lemon brightens the sauce and lightens the texture. Texture is key in sauce making, and the chef pointed out the progress of sauces as they thickened, and instructed the class on how to implement thickening agents such as the cornstarch slurry and beurre manié, and techniques like reduction and emulsification.

Although the course was not “hands on,” all that food had to go somewhere – right?  As we watched and learned, samples of the following were served:

Pan roasted chicken with mint pan sauce

Pan roasted duck breast with cherry gastrique

Pan roasted duck breast with blood orange gastrique

Pasta with garlic and black pepper

Shallow poached halibut with white wine, tomato and saffron

Shallow poached salmon with vermouth, leeks and mushrooms

Hollandaise

Steak au poivre with sauce béarnaise

Steak au poivre with mushroom green peppercorn sauce

Seafood terrine with lobster sauce and pernod

Vinaigrette with mixed greens

Mayonnaise

A final (and surprising) addition of mint to a white wine-based pan sauce.

Most of the sauces were demonstrated in the context of a dish, or sometimes multiple applications.  For instance, two pan sauces were prepared: pan roasted chicken with a mint-infused pan sauce, and steak au poivre with a sauce of mushrooms and green peppercorns.  Two different gastriques (blood orange and cherry) were served with pan roasted duck breast – crisp skin, perfectly rendered fat and succulent juicy meat foiled by the sauces’ fruit and acidity.  Hollandaise was prepared on its own, but the tarragon spiked derivative sauce béarnaise was paired with steak au poivre.  And two different fish, halibut and salmon, were shallow poached in wine-based cooking liquids that were subsequently thickened into sauce.  A magnificently smooth and light seafood terrine (prepared during a recent charcuterie class run by Bedouret) was paired with a rich lobster sauce enriched with cream and Pernod. art of the discussion revolved around the value of taking the time – or rather, care – to prepare sauces from scratch. Why purchase salad dressing when it takes less than a minute to whip together a vinaigrette that is cheaper, healthier and tastier than anything in a bottle? And, why not spend a couple of minutes (seriously, it took about 3 minutes) to make an incredible fresh mayonnaise that is light, tangy and more flavorful than store-bought? Is it necessary to have an ever-ready supply of mayo? Is the ease of opening a jar really worth the sacrifice in flavor and control?Chef Bedouret says no, and I agree.

Wine-based pan sauce on chicken.
Pan roasted duck breast and chard, complemented by a cherry gastrique.
Halibut with white wine, tomato, and saffron.
Salmon with vermouth leeks and mushrooms.
Seafood terrine with pernod-infused lobster sauce.
Steak au poivre with shiitake and green peppercorns.

Hollandaise was prepared on its own, but the tarragon spiked derivative sauce béarnaise was paired with steak au poivre. And two different fish, halibut and salmon, were shallow poached in wine-based cooking liquids that were subsequently thickened into sauce. A magnificently smooth and light seafood terrine (prepared during a recent charcuterie class run by Bedouret) was paired with a rich lobster sauce enriched with cream and Pernod.Most of the sauces were demonstrated in the context of a dish, or sometimes multiple applications. For instance, two pan sauces were prepared: pan roasted chicken with a mint-infused pan sauce, and steak au poivre with a sauce of mushrooms and green peppercorns. Two different gastriques (blood orange and cherry) were served with pan roasted duck breast – crisp skin, perfectly rendered fat and succulent juicy meat foiled by the sauces’ fruit and acidity.And, regarding my personal goals – do I feel more comfortable making and using sauces?  One of the sauces we didn’t have time to cover was sabayon.  The chef mentioned that a common application (but new to me) was to spread slices of fruit on a plate, cover in sabayon and broil briefly to brown the surface.  After the class, I went home and decided to give it a try.  A little research revealed that a sweet sabayon comprises egg yolk and sugar, and is thickened by a process similar to the one that Chef Bedouret had demonstrated for hollandaise (stirring the egg yolk mixture over a simmering water bath).  I decided to flavor the sabayon with lemon juice and the vanilla-laden Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 rum, poured it on top of blueberries and broiled.  I was pleased with the result – the sabayon was thick and rich, with lemon acidity to balance the richness and sweetness to balance the acidity.  This is definitely a simple and delicious last-minute dessert I could easily toss together any time.  Only the future will tell whether sauces become a more routine part of my cooking, but the familiarity I acquired in this class is certainly a step along the way.

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