I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Monday, 9 April 2012

saucy: a culinary project, take 2

This week the sauces were for beef. Three more down in one meal. The recipes for these came from the Sauces book, which is fast becoming a little treasure on my shelf. I love that the index has the standard listing, as well as a second index with sauces arranged under what to serve them with. Having duck? Here are the ones to have with it. Love it.

1. Sauce Albert (Velouté)
This is actually of British origin, and named after Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert. Royalty, even! It's quite simple to make and tasty with beef. Technically it's an English bread sauce, or sauce bâtarde, as the thickening comes not from a roux but from simmering bread crumbs in the mixture.

This sauce started with chicken stock and horseradish, which reduced before cream was added. After more reduction, it was put in a blender and processed for a minute before straining through a sieve. It returned to the pan and bread cubes (baguette) were added. After simmering for ten minutes, an egg yolk and mustard powder were whisked in until it had, and I quote from the recipe, "the consistency of oatmeal". May not sound appetizing, but it was delicious.

It was a nice change from a straight dollop of horseradish on beef. While I like the taste of that, it's very strong. Sauce Albert has a more mellow, complex taste. It was wonderful on the beef tenderloin, and would make a great topping for a gourmet burger. 

2. Béarnaise (mayonnaise derivative)
Okay, emulsion sauces. This was a new category. I've made one of these before when I made hollandaise, so the technique was not entirely new. Béarnaise dates to the 1830s, made and named in honour of King Henri VI. Good with beef, or, according to the Sauce Bible, always served with châteaubriand. Which I have no idea how to make.

Starting with wine vinegar, shallot, and tarragon (which smells an awful lot like black licorice. Interesting!) which simmered and reduced before being cooled, egg yolks and water were added before whisking continuously while the mixture heated slowly in the pan. It's fun to see the sauce emulsify and thicken while you cook, just like the recipe says (okay, 'fun' might be strong. But I liked it). This took about 10 minutes.

To finish the sauce, clarified butter was added. I'd prepared this earlier, basically melting butter before carefully pouring off the olive-oil-coloured clear liquid and leaving all the other stuff (what is that, exactly?) behind. The butter was gradually whisked into the sauce to make a mayonnaise-textured, pale yellow sauce. A little lemon juice to finish it off, and there it was. 

Delicious, and maybe even worth learning how to make châteaubriand to have it again with that.

3. Bordelaise (demi-glace derivative)
Bordelaise literally means "Bordeaux style", reflecting the use of the Bordeaux wines in it. While there are plenty of red wine based sauces, the defining ingredient in a Bordelaise is beef marrow. That squishy stuff inside the soup bones is full of deep, rich flavour.

It started with shallot, peppercorns, and a Bordeaux red wine. This was reduced, beef stock (made the other day!) was added along with a bouquet garni, and simmered some more before being strained. Those sieves have never seen so much action.

I'd bought big soup bones and had managed to chip the marrow out out of them with a paring knife before learning a nifty trick that purports to let you easily pop it out of the bones. Oops, lesson learned for next time. The marrow had soaked for hours, then was blanched and then added to the sauce in progress. Some butter was added in, and the sauce was done.

While the idea of eating the marrow had me intrigued and maybe a little squeamish, the sauce had an amazing flavour. These sauces take time to make, but the end result shows the time. Savoury and delicious.

We had all three at a family dinner. While the girls and I liked each sauce, D was mostly 'meh' on them (for him, really, the best accompaniment to meat is: more meat). He prefers the straight taste of good beef cooked well, and I definitely can't fault him on that. 

And now I'm curious to try more recipes with marrow. Eating marrow was always something I associated with the primeval, as evidence in prehistoric digs that the people had had tools to split bones and extract it. Might be worth checking out. It seems that doing these sauces has me adding as many things to my Oh-This-Would-Be-Cool-To-Try list as I am finishing on it.

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