BY KATE PARHAM KORDSMEIER
HAVING A FEW sauces in your repertoire is
a must for any home chef. Whether you opt
for one of the five French mother sauces
(béchamel, velouté, espagnole, tomato and
hollandaise) or a delicious herb-based sauce
(e.g., pesto or chimichurri), sauces can transform any dish from good to out of this world.
“I’m a big fan of fully understanding a
sauce, being able to execute it confidently and
then having some fun with it,” says Susan
Volland, author of Mastering Sauces (W.W.
Norton & Company, 2015; not available at
Costco), who likes adapting a basic tomato
sauce to make sauces from different regions,
like African peanut sauce or Mexican mole.
A well-balanced vinaigrette is another
expert favorite. “Vinaigrettes can be used on
so many dishes, not just on salads,” says
Martha Holmberg, author of Modern Sauces
(Chronicle Books, 2012; not available at
Costco). “Use [them] on cooked vegetables,
boiled potatoes, lentils or beans, grains,
grilled fish and meats, even on desserts. I love
to make fruit salads and dress them with a
slightly sweeter vinaigrette.”
Here are a few basic sauce rules.
When it comes to making sauces, “you
want clean, clear flavors and a delicious ten-
sion between the key tastes: salty, spicy, sweet,
meaty, bitter, bright,” says Holmberg. “Be sure
they are highly flavorful, as you’ll only use a
small amount on other, less punchy food.”
John Whalen III, author of Rubs: Over
100 Recipes for the Perfect Sauces, Marinades
and Seasonings (Cider Mill Press, 2016; not
available at Costco), advises, “Consider the
strength of the flavors you’re dealing with—
you don’t want five powerful flavors all jos-
tling for attention; rather you want to have
one flavor that’s center stage, followed by sev-
eral backup flavors that complement.”
The key is to taste as you go, adjusting the
seasoning as needed. Likewise, “every sauce
needs enough acid to provide vibrant flavor
and the energy to bring life to a dish, so I
often adjust my sauce at the end with a bit of
lemon juice, sherry vinegar or grated citrus
zest,” says Holmberg.
Most sauces work best with extra-virgin
olive oil, says Holmberg: “I want good flavor,
but nothing too assertive, which would overpower other ingredients.” Nut oils, such as
toasted walnut or hazelnut, are better in vinaigrettes and pestos. Consider the origins of
the recipe you’ll use the sauce in, suggests
Volland, who uses coconut oil in south Indian
sauces and peanut oil for stir-frying.
With foods and sauces, some people pre-
fer complementary pairings, while others
favor contrast. Holmberg, who is among the
latter, recommends sharper sauces like vinai-
grettes and acidic herb sauces like salsa verde
on rich, fatty meats. “But all rules have excep-
tions, so a bland pasta also loves a mild,
creamy cheese sauce,” she says.
For most meats, Whalen recommends an
olive oil–based marinade with garlic and
herbs, or marinating red meat in red wine,
and poultry and fish in white wine and butter.
Most sauces can be made up to a week in
advance, but experts agree that fresh is best.
Many especially recommend making herb-based sauces fresh; herb sauces can be frozen,
but it may lessen their flavor and color.
However, tomato, chocolate, caramel and fruit
sauces do great in the freezer, says Holmberg.
On the other hand, “a spontaneous pan
sauce or butter-enriched sauce shouldn’t be
held for more than a few minutes,” cautions
Volland. “Conversely, homemade chili oil can
potentially last six months at room temperature.” C
Kate Parham Kordsmeier is an Atlanta-based
freelance food and travel writer, recipe developer and TV host. She’s also the founder of
Root + Revel ( rootandrevel.com).
How to spice up your kitchen repertoire
Sauce is boss
THE COS TCO CONNECTION
Costco members will find many ingredients they need to make fabulous sauces at
Costco. Many ready-made sauces are also
available in the warehouses.
FOR YOUR TABLE