Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Basic Cream Sauce

I have used this sauce on rack of veal, but this sauce or a variation can go with a wide variety of meats. It is smooth and rich, with some meaty flavour and an acidic bite.

Cream Sauce

3 shallots, very fine dice
1/4 lb cremini mushrooms
olive oil
½ cup brandy
1 cup sherry or white wine or red wine
1 teaspoon veal or beef stock concentrate or 1 cup beef or veal stock
1 cup heavy cream

Heat a large, wide saucepan with a small amount of olive oil and saute the shallots until soft, then add the sliced mushrooms and saute until slightly browned. Now, if you want - WARNING FIRE DANGER - you can try a little flambe action. This works best with a gas burner, though it will also work with an electric range and a lighter. Take the pan off the heat, add half of the brandy, and return it to the heat. On a gas burner, tilt the pan AWAY FROM YOU very slightly and that should be enough to ignite the alcohol. On an electric range simply use a long handled barbeque lighter to set fire to the pan. Step back and let the flames burn out. Keep a wide pan or lid ready to cover the pan if the flames get out of hand. You should probably have a fire extinguisher nearby as well. When ALL the flames are out add the wine or sherry and the stock or concentrate. If you choose not to flambe, add the brandy off the heat but do not ignite the alcohol and continue with the rest of the recipe. Dissolve the stock base and let the sauce simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. Then add the cream, the rest of the brandy, and continue to simmer. At this stage, time is not the important factor, but rather the thickness of the sauce. The final texture should coat the back of a spoon. When you have achieved the desired thickness, add salt, pepper and fresh grated nutmeg. Check for seasoning and take off the heat. Serve with your favourite meat.

Slight variations on this basic technique abound. I strongly suggest finding shallots for this sauce, they have a milder and more complex flavour than onions and create an elevated sauce. If you want the sauce to be smooth you would not add any chunks like the mushrooms. Once the aromatics are cooked, flambe and deglaze. Alcohol options include brandy, Calvados, rum or other flavoured hard spirits. And wine or sherry could be replaced with marsala, madeira, port, stock, juices or any flavourful liquid. Depending on the sauce you want, a little tomato paste could be an option or for a steak, green peppercorns are a great idea, either dry cracked or peppercorns in brine. Chives could be replaced with parsley, tarragon or another fresh herb. Mix, match and enjoy!

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