#80 | Sauces
Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, Fourth Edition
By James Peterson
Suzy Chase: Welcome to Cookery by the Book podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
James: My name is James Peterson. I'm the author of Sauces, Contemporary and Classical Sauce Making. It has just come out in its fourth edition.
Suzy Chase: Wow this is the fourth edition of Sauces. What have you added to this new addition?
James: Well Suzy I've added some of this molecular cuisine material. There are a lot of ingredients that have long been used in industrial applications that our now being used in kitchens and a lot of them sound scary like there's propylene glycol alginate. It sounds like you're putting poison in your phone. Everybody sees these things and freaks out. Well in fact, propylene glycol alginate is made from seaweed. It's a perfectly organic natural product as are many of these other things, I mean from fermented misos and different odd things, but not mined out of the earth. They're not minerals so to speak. So they can be very effective in the kitchen to help stabilize sauces, to create emulsions that one wouldn't be able to produce otherwise. So there are innumerable tricks that can be used and this takes it a step farther in the sense that I have now incorporated a new generation of sauce making techniques and ingredients so that the chef or the associate has access to all three levels.
Suzy Chase: So I've heard that you are obsessed with Mother Sauces. Tell us about that.
James: Mother Sauces are the classic sauces that were defined by Escoffier in the early part of the 20th century. And what I've done is said, "All right, in nouvelle cuisine you don't make bechamel sauces very often." So what you would typically do is substitute cream or lightly reduced cream or cream lightly thickened with egg yolks. Nouvelle cuisine, despite having a reputation for being light, had a heavy emphasis on butter and cream which is one of the reasons it's so delicious but it's also one of the reasons people are nervous about it. So moving to contemporary version of say a hollandaise, an example of a hollandaise would be a situation which is based on it but it's not stable. You're trying to keep it warm, unless you get it too hot. It's a little tricky. So if you add a stabilizer like xanthum gum to it, a minute amount, it won't break or at least it will have a much harder time breaking.
So those are the sauces that are the base ingredients that I use to extrapolate this whole book.
Suzy Chase: Something new in this addition of Sauces are hydrocolloids. Please explain these.
James: They create a colloid which is essentially a mixture that includes water, hence hydro and the colloid. They bring things together just like I was describing earlier how they can function as thickeners or emulsifiers, primarily. Those are the main two functions. And then there's some glittery stuff like the seers. I don't know if you're familiar with that but they make these little spheres that they use to decorate plates. They're pretty and they're fun but I've always thought they were kind of gimmicky until I had this idea of deconstructing a sauce. An example would be a sauce financier, which is a brown port sauce with truffles. Well usually the truffle flavor's cooked off and you don't get much 'cause it's been simmering or whatever. So what I do is I put the truffle juice and the truffles in the spheres and then I add the spheres to the sauce at the very end. So as you're sipping this port sauce, these little spheres burst in your mouth and provide the truffle accent. Is that too weird?
Suzy Chase: It is a little weird. Explain the spheres in a little more detail.
James: Well the spheres, they look a little like caviar depending on size. They'll look like sevruga caviar all the way up to salmon eggs size, they're even olive size. And what you take, you make a solution and you add a certain I don't even remember right now. You add a certain compound to the solution and that's the bath in which you drop the spheres. Then you make another liquid which is the sphere liquid. You add another compound to that so that when you drip the second compound into the first, it immediately firms up into a little sphere. And they use these in molecular cuisine in a way that I've always thought was rather gimmicky until I thought of this use of them which would be for deconstructing sauce flavors and putting each component in the spheres.
Suzy Chase: When did sauce making begin?
James: There is recordings, records we have of sauce making that I have in a book by Epicius which is written in the first century AD. It's written in Latin but I have a translation of it. It's very interesting and what seems to be consistent in Roman cooking was the use of drams, they also liquidum, which is basically fish sauce. As far as I can deduce it's just like Thai fish sauce and they put it on everything. They just love the stuff and I guess it was an umami accent to their food much like salt would be.
Suzy Chase: In the Middle Ages you wrote that most meals were served on a thick slice of bread. Plates weren't a concept yet. What were sauces like in the Middle Ages?
James: Well it's interesting. If you read most books about the Middle Ages or the late Middle Ages, say the 14th century, most say that they use an excess of spices, they use too many spices and spices were of course a great status symbol then and we only have books written for the rich. We don't have the Every Man's Cookbook until the 18th century, so we don't know exactly what they used because the books that are in existence from then do not have the quantities. In my book, in the book you can see it where I gold plate a chicken. I had to do that just to be irreverent. But you see it in this one book I have by Tivong it's called Le Viandier it was written in 1390. It was the first edition and you see in there, these recipes with spices in them and there's one in which you gold plate the thing. They plate the bird and they cover it with gold leaf.
So I was trying to sort of make a modern interpretation. This is when I had my restaurant. So we had the chicken parts, I gold plated them with gold foil. Well gold foil of course is so thin that you probably get less gold eating a sheet of that than you would breathing a piece of silver, the amount of silver that you get off of silverware. So you get very little. Gold is inert. Even if you had a big chunk of it, it wouldn't hurt you. It's totally inert so there's no issue there. And then what I did is I made little almonds. In fact, I colored them green with green food coloring and I made them out of marzipan. The sauce for the chicken was saffron and ginger and mint which were all used then. But I combined them gently and delicately and that was a delicious dish. And there's a picture of it in there, making it and how you put the gold foil on. Everyday kind of practical dish, you know.
Suzy Chase: Totally. Your Monday night dish.
Suzy Chase: Moving on to the 16th century, sugar appeared in greater quantities. How did that influence Renaissance sauces?
James: Well you started to get these dishes that where sweet and sour was an important element. This is with fruit. I don't have my book in front of me but LaVarenne's book has recipes for pigeon with raspberries, that kind of thing. Things that are still in the repertoire. Duck L'Orange is probably the most common example and that was when they started using the gastrique which is a mixture of caramelized sugar and vinegar, to give the sweet and sour components to the sauces. It was the whole addition to sauces and then in the 17th century that's when things started to coalesce, the spices were abandoned. They started using local ingredients like truffles and herbs, more delicate things and that's when French cuisine started to distinguish itself from European cooking as a whole.
Suzy Chase: And then in the 18th century we saw the first cookbook for the middle class. What types of new sauces were introduced in that cookbook?
James: Well in those days and for the home cook of the 18th century, they used a lot of integral sauces. An integral sauce is I kind of made up this distinction between integral and non-sauces and integral sauce is when you get the sauce as a result of the cooking process itself. You braise something, you have the braising liquid to make it. You might bind it up, you might leave it alone, whatever. But you have a sauce. You roast a chicken. You make a jus. That kind of thing. You have poaching fluid, you have the broth all that stuff. Whereas a non-integral sauce is when you try to emulate an integral sauce using stock, using reductions, etc. And everyone knows who cooks that reduced concentrated chicken stock is not gonna taste like a jus.
Suzy Chase: So in the 19th century Escoffier's La Guide Culinaire was released.
James: That was the very end of the 19th century. The earlier part of the 19th century was Caremen and he was the first one to organize sauces in a systematic way such as you had base sauces and derivative sauces. So he was a much more complicated predecessor to Escoffier. And then Escoffier took what Caremen had offered and whittled it down, simplified it even though Escoffier looks terribly complicated to us now.
Suzy Chase: Who do you think was the authority on classical French cooking?
James: Oh Caremen would have been.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
James: Caremen would be the star of the 19th century by far.
Suzy Chase: Now in the 21st century it's all about hydrocolloids and sous vide cooking technique. Talk a little bit about that.
James: Yes. Well sous vide interesting, the problem as a sauce maker I have with sous vide is that you don't get much in the way to make a sauce with. Now the inherent problem and this is germane to this, is you roast a piece of red meat rare or even a turkey if you roast it correctly, there are no juices 'cause the juices are still inside the roast. So what I do is make what's called a sonsage which you put under the bottom of the roast on the sheet pan and you take pieces of bone, meat, mirepoix of vegetables, carrot, onions, that stuff. And you roast that and you put your roast over that and that provides your juices. Well in sous vide, you can't really do that. You have to make it completely separately which is fine. If you're making a steak or you're making a piece of turkey breast and you want a little gravy or something, you take a few turkey wings and glaze caramelize them, and you glaze it and that's your jus. But you don't cook it like a stock 'cause that cooks out all that flavor.
Suzy Chase: You've addressed condiments in this book. What falls under the condiment category?
James: Well a lot of these words I had to define myself. They're not originally defined. There's really very little rigor in how chutneys are separated from jellies and all these things. But I find for example that a condiment is something that you apply yourself like you might take a mustard for example or a ketchup is a condiment because you have the option to apply it. So all these things that you see now, condiments are very popular now and what they do is they contrast with the food rather than underline it for example in the way mustard lightens a rich say a pork chop with sauerkraut, you might want mustard on it to lighten it, to balance it. And that is what a condiment is. Now in French, this digresses from the French classic approach because the French classic approach is that you underline the flavors and that's what distinguishes French cuisine from all others.
Suzy Chase: So sauces underline and condiments contrast?
Suzy Chase: Verjus if I am saying it correctly is an ingredient I've never seen before. Describe that.
James: It's traditionally verjus, I say in French, it's verjus I think. I think you said it right. It's just under ripe grape juice. It's grape juice that hasn't been fermented and it's sour. It's a sour element. It's used to make things sour like vinegar might. It gives you a different effect. I don't use it too often but I have use it. It was the cutting edge thing in France when I was working there. They were always coming up with new things like raspberry vinegar was a big thing. And verjus was one also.
Suzy Chase: Are there hard and fast rules about when you put sauce on the side and when it's drizzled over the dish?
James: Well roasting jus is always served on the side. Hollandaise sauces you always serve on the side. Veloutes, bechamels, those can be served over the dish. It really depends on the style of the dish, if it's a roast you always serve the jus on the side. Well mayonnaise you serve on the side too, except not always. Something like remoulade there's mayonnaise in that already in there. So I would say hollandaise sauces and roasts are the main ones.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and tell us a little bit about your new perfume company?
James: Jimcooks.com, there's a picture of all my books and stuff. And I have a line of eight now, four perfumes, Oud, Amber, Sandalwood and Musk and then I have four what I call Eaux Fraiches which are light sprays, almost like [French 00:16:02] but they're lighter but they're completely dry. They don't have any sweeteners in them at all. They're very green and they're very odd because they're made with things people haven't consciously smelled before like vetiver, galbanum, violet leaf and neroli. Those are the four faux fraiches. So we're marketing those around town, we just started the one store here in Brooklyn. We're just starting, we have a website brooklynperfume.com and you'll see all the perfumes and stuff.
Suzy Chase: As Daniel Boulud said, "This book is a useful reference for any kitchen." Thank you James for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
James: Suzy thank you so much for having me.
Suzy Chase: Follow me on Instagram at Cookery by the Book. Twitter is I am Suzy Chase. And download your kitchen mix tapes, music to cook by, on Spotify at Cookery by the Book and as always subscribe at Apple Podcasts.