You just finished the Thanksgiving turkey and your gravy is like water, what do you do? You just made a beautiful dessert and your sauce is going to make everything soupy instead of being silky and luscious, what can save you? I have 5 ways that can help you achieve better sauces and soups! The ingredients needed are all household kitchen ingredients or could be gathered easily so there’s no excuses!
1. Making a Roux
A roux, pronounced “roo,” is a mixture of fat and flour that creates a smooth liquid or paste, and can be used easily in soups or sauces to thicken. This technique is one of the easiest and most useful. I usually use all purpose flour, but where it gets interesting is that you can use any type of fat as long as it’s liquid. Fats I’ve used include bacon, butter, olive oil, smoked pork, and duck.
To create a roux heat up 1/2 to 1 cup of fat, add 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk well to insure there are no lumps! The thickening power of your roux depends on the amount of flour added. In some cases when a very thick sauce is needed, the roux may almost look dry and mealy.
It is also important to note that the longer you cook your roux, the more flavor it will develop. There are three main stages of cooking a roux. The first stage called the Blond Roux is achieved after cooking for about 5 minutes when a nutty aroma is achieved. The second is a Brown Roux cooked longer and gets darker in color and flavor. The last is a Black Roux which is used primarily for Cajun or Creole dishes because of it’s intensely deep flavor.
To use cornstarch as a thickener is called making a slurry. Cornstarch is added to a small amount of water and mixed to a consistent liquid. Add the slurry to hot liquid and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, this helps cook out the starch flavor. I was once told by a well known chef that the consistency of the slurry is closely related to the thickness of the sauce. Mixing the slurry with your fingertips helps to understand how much thickening power you will have. Using a slurry is most common in Asian cuisine.
Butter has less thickening power than the previous mixtures, but has its own term from the french, “Monter au burre.” The butter is added to finish a sauce. After adding butter remove from the heat. Stir after butter is melted and let sit. This should cause the butter in the sauce to cool, therefor slightly solidifying and tightening up the fat in the sauce.
Adding heavy cream has a very similar effect to butter. After adding the cream, keep on high heat to reduce for 5 minutes. Reducing cream adds to the thickening power. Cream also thickens when cooling down like butter.
Gelatin is perhaps the most difficult to use. Gelatin is used primarily for desert sauces however, gelatin is also the agent that thickens sauces with bones in rich meat sauces. To use gelatin add powder or sheets to warm water to “bloom” for 1 to 2 minutes. Add gelatin to sauce and boil for 5 minutes, stirring well. Remove from the heat and watch the gelatin take it’s course!
I hope you find these helpful, I use all of them often. If you have any questions or comments they are greatly appreciated!