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reducing sauces

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I am not a trained cook as you're about to find out from this question.
I make this basic pasta sauce that my mother in law likes. It's basically a tomato based sauce. After I brown the garlic up a little I add the tomatos and some herbs and then I put in some chicken broth and/or some red wine. I then simmer it until it reduces by about half or until it looks thick enough to me. I'm assuming that the broth and wine thicken up and their flavors become more concentrated as the water in them boils away and therefore giving the sauce more flavor and body. Is this true? If it is, would the end sauce have even more flavor and thickness if more broth and/or wine was added in the beginning and then reduced down to the same amount in the end?
post #2 of 8
Reducing flavorful liquids, such as wines and stocks, does at least two wonderful things for flavor. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind proportionally more flavor components. Less water = more flavor.

Also, the flavor ingredients come into increased contact with one another, at higher energy states, and undergo various chemical reactions, most of which produce even more flavor components. For instance, as the sauce is reducing, parts will stick to the edge of pan, dry out and "caramelize." Then, as you stir, they'll be re-integrated into the sauce.

I suggest that, to more and deeper flavor into your tomato sauce, you first reduce wine and then add and reduce stock and then add and reduce the tomatoes.
post #3 of 8
That depends.

If you are using store bought chicken broth, then there isn't much "body" found in that, unlike a nice homeade stock. Obviously, if you add more stock or wine then you will end up with more flavor, although it might not be exactly what you are looking for because you may end up with too much wine or chicken flavor. The thickness in tomato sauce most likely comes from the vegetables, especially the tomatoes, not really the broth or wine.

The wine would eventually become syrupy and viscous, but I don't think that either that or the broth would contribute to thickenss of the sauce.

If you are happy with your sauce now, I wouldn't go out of my way to change it too much. If it lacks flavor, you may try using better canned tomatoes, sweating a larger variety of vegetables in the beginning, like onion, garlic, leek, whatever, using a decent olive oil, and adding fresh herbs near the end of the cooking. That would be a better way to contribute flavor IMO than just adding more wine or broth.
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 


I really appreciate the help. I love this website!
Is sauteing or sweating some fresh herbs along with the onions, garlic, etc. in the beginning of any value? Would it infuse some of the herb flavor into the oil or do anythine else interesting?

Thanks again
post #5 of 8
Fresh herbs lose much of their impact with time and heat. Best to add towards the end of cooking.
post #6 of 8
Something that I am fond of doing is infusing food product at home. I have a variety of oils- herbs de provence, thyme and pink peppercorn, pomegranate (I also have a variety of vodkas as well). I mostly use these oils as vinaigrettes, but when I am making something special I use my fresh-herb oils. As long as I use oil that can withstand high-heat (I love using canola and olive oil blends) and prevent that oil from smoking, a rule of thumb in any application, I think that my dish benefits. It's also fun to make!
post #7 of 8
If you have time to prepare your sauce, whatever technique you use, a day or two before your mother-in-law comes for dinner, try allowing it to cool and then refrigerate it for a day or two. When you're ready to use it, heat it up slowly. You'll find that all those wonderful flavors that blended so beautifully in the reduction process are even more intense. You mentioned that you're cooking experience is limited. If you will look carefully over this thread you will find half a dozen excellent suggestions for advancing your cooking skills (e.g. commercially available chicken broth vs the better variety you can make yourself and sweating down some of the vegetables as a starting point for your sauce). One more point I'd like to make. You can get away with using garlic to infuse the oil in your skillet if you never allow it to get beyond that golden color. Once it gets past that stage it becomes bitter and no amount of "fixing" the sauce will eliminate that bitterness. Be careful not to over brown your garlic.
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
post #8 of 8
Hi jambo,

Not being a chef myself, I've learned to start at and revisit the basics. A huge turning point for me was when I learned out how to make a correct stock and how to correctly reduce a liquid. While some of the carton grocery store stocks are ok...some are better than others. But none of these come close to the flavor of homemade stock...and none have any body.

Once I've found out the advantages of using a homemade stock or reduction, I couldn't go back. Simmering is another aspect I have come to greatly appreciate. Boiling...now that's something reserved for water.

What's the recipe and procedure that you're using?

take care,
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