One of the most difficult things for a cook at home to make is a flavorful sauce. A great sauce will cover some of the worst cooking mistakes, enhance most of the best cooking successes and make you appear to be a home cooking genius.
Cooking a sauce means adding flavor, texture, and appearance to your home cooking dishes. A sauce or gravy is made of three simple ingredients: liquid, thickener, and flavorings. When you need easy cooking ideas for cooking sauces at home, you need only think of these three things.
Liquid for Your Sauce
If youíre making a chicken dish, youíll probably want to add something like chicken broth. If youíre making a tropical dish, you might add a fruit juice or add soy sauce to an Asian dish. Add the liquid that makes sense for the protein that youíve cooked and once youíre comfortable making sauces, be open to experimenting with new and different flavor combinations. Next, you will need to be able to thicken your liquid so that it sticks to your food for some great home cooking.
Thickener for Your Sauce
A sauce needs to be thick enough to cling to food and not wind up as a puddle on the bottom of the plate. The easiest way to thicken a liquid is with a cornstarch slurry. This is the same method that most of our grandmotherís used to make gravy from the pan drippings of the holiday turkey. When you dissolve cornstarch in a cold liquid, then add it to a hot liquid (your sauce), it will gelatinize, and thicken the sauce.
While slurry is the easiest way to cooking sauce success, roux is the most widely used and most flavorful because of the fat needed to separate starch molecules. If youíve ever noticed lumps in your gravy, itís because groups of starch molecules have stuck together and only thickened on the outside of the group. Butter, oil, or solid fats in a roux help to "line up" the starch molecules for the introduction of hot liquid and their opportunity to individually absorb the liquid and swell, this thickening the sauce.
Flavoring for Your Sauce
The liquid that you used to create your sauce may give you enough of a flavor profile that you donít need to add any additional flavors. However, if there isnít enough flavor, add some! You could add garlic, onions, ginger or any number of different ingredients while you are cooking your sauce to help to liven up your home cooking.
No matter what the liquid, thickening agent or flavor profile you choose, you can find that cooking sauce is a skill youíll enjoy and will lead to more easy cooking ideas without recipes. Before you know it, everyone will be begging you to have them over to your house for some great home cooking.