I listen when the salsa seekers speak. They tell me about their problems making sauces while standing in line at my bank or supermarket. Sometimes they tell me in emails. Part of the problem could be the diversity of sauces found on restaurant menus today. Perhaps more options have resulted in more confusion.
Sixty years ago, gravy generally meant a classic French concoction, from basic flour-thickened bechamel to satiny emulsions like hollandaise, to Escoffier’s labor-intensive broth-based brown sauces. In the 1970s and 1980s, the nouveau cuisine advertised flourless sauces like beurre blanc, as well as sauces made from pureed vegetables.
These sauces have by no means disappeared, but they have had to share the spotlight with a new cast of sauces. American tastes have broadened and sauces can be cold or room temperature concoctions, sauces and dipping sauces, mixes whipped up in a bowl instead of a saucepan. Here are four easy sauces that fall into the latter category.
Alioli is the savory Provençal garlic mayonnaise that is traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle. I use a food processor to speed up the preparation. In France, it is served in the middle of a large plate, surrounded by vegetables cooked at room temperature, such as new potatoes, artichokes, aubergines, and green beans. Fish, usually salt cod, and hard-boiled eggs are often included.
But in recent years, aioli has become a de rigueur addition to everything from burgers to grilled oysters to fries. I like to add pureed roasted red bell peppers because of the flavor boost they bring. Serve it on top of crab cakes or spread on toasted bread as a garnish for fish soups. If you like a little more attitude, you can add 1 to 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder and/or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. See cook’s notes for more variations. The choice is yours.
Yield: about 1 cup
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
Optional: 2 to 3 pieces roasted red bell pepper, drained, dried, sold in jars in most supermarkets
1 cup of mayonnaise
A pinch of cayenne pepper, see cook’s notes
Cook’s Notes: For a spicy, slightly smoky version, add a tablespoon of pureed chipotle peppers (chipotles are smoked, red jalapeños). Small cans of chipotles are sold in most supermarkets in the Latin American specialty section or in Latin American markets. The chiles are packed in a tomato-based adobo sauce. I puree the adobo sauce and chiles in a small food processor. Leftover chipotle puree can be frozen for future use.
Or to top the seafood, I add chopped fresh herbs (such as chopped basil or parsley) and a pinch of minced lemon zest (colored part of rind).
1. With motor running, add garlic to food processor fitted with metal blade; Process until chopped. Add roasted red bell pepper and process until pureed. Add 1 cup of mayonnaise and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Process until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Refrigerate, airtight, up to 2 days.
Use it: Serve it over cooked crab cakes or spread on toasted bread as a garnish for fish soups. Divine as a dip for French fries, fried courgettes or chicken wings, as well as kabobs. Put it on grilled or baked fish with fresh herbs and a sprinkle of lemon zest.
This enticing sauce is a staple in Argentina, where it’s served with the country’s legendary grilled steaks. If desired, use half of the sauce as a marinade for beef such as flank steak, hanger steak, or flank steak before grilling; Chill marinated meat in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight. Serve grilled meat with remaining sauce, discarding marinade.
Yield: about 2 cups
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 red fresno or red jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds before chopping for a less spicy sauce)
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, shallot, and chili in medium bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Add the cilantro, parsley and oregano. Stirring with a fork, add finely steamed oil.
Use it: Serve with grilled lamb, pork chops, or beef (steaks are especially good), as well as grilled chicken or salmon. It’s also delicious spooned over sautéed shrimp, grilled kabobs, or roasted vegetables. Stir it into cooked grains for a delicious salad.
Font: “The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit” (Andrews McMeel, $45)
A Spanish Romesco Sauce is a culinary gem. This thick red sauce can turn chicken, no matter the cut, into an irresistible dish. Salmon too. This version is a thick, chunky mix of roasted red peppers, toasted hazelnuts, cubed bread, sherry vinegar, garlic, smoked paprika, and extra virgin olive oil. If you want a smaller amount, cut the recipe in half.
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1/2 slice hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, without skins; see cook’s notes
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained and dried
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar; see cook’s notes
1 teaspoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
Cook’s Notes: I use Trader Joe’s Whole Roasted Unsalted Hazelnuts. Much, but not all, of the skin is removed, don’t worry. If you’re using whole hazelnuts that aren’t toasted, place the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes (watch to make sure they don’t burn), shaking the pan to rotate. walnuts halfway through the roast. Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and flip up the sides of the towel and let sit about 1 minute. Using the towel, gently rub the hazelnuts back and forth to remove the skin (all of the skin may not come off). If you can’t find sherry vinegar, you can substitute red wine vinegar.
1. Place 1 tablespoon oil, bread and hazelnuts in 12-inch skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until bread is toasted on both sides, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds.
2. Transfer bread mixture to food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, about 5 pulses. Add the red bell peppers, vinegar, honey, paprika, salt, cayenne, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse until finely chopped, 5 to 8 pulses. Sauce can be refrigerated, tightly sealed, for up to 2 days.
Use it: Pour over pork chops, lamb chops, or grilled or roasted chicken breasts or thighs. It’s delicious on top of grilled slices of French baguette. It’s delicious served spooned over roasted vegetables.
Font: Cook’s Country Magazine
Quick Green Goddess Dip-Dressing Sauce
Classic Green Goddess contains anchovies. This milder version omits the small salt fish, uses the traditional bounty of fresh herbs and fresh lemon juice, adding sour cream along with the mayonnaise.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Whisk all ingredients in serving bowl until smooth and creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to two days.
Use it: Use it as a dip with vegetables, crackers, or crostini. Pour on cut portion of baked potatoes or serve over roasted asparagus. It’s lovely spooned over grilled fish or roasted boneless skinless chicken thighs. Cut hard-boiled eggs in half; place cut side up on a plate and spoon a tablespoon of this sauce into each egg. If you want to use it as a romaine lettuce dressing, thin with enough milk to make it thick but pourable.
Kitchen question? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]