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Mother sauces, not so scary!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

OK, someone said to me, today, Don't take all these Chefs so seriously. well, they are right. I have been cooking since I was a little kidlet. I learned at my grandmothers' knees and have been trying to learn new stuff all my life. But, French cooking has always intimidated me. Le Cordon Bleu, all the mystique surrounding the various "Classic" dishes! well, I finally decided that the worst that could happen is I'll throw a few pans full of junk in the trash. no one is going to sicken or die. So, I decided to try my hand at crepes. WOW! they were SO simple! How is that mysterious, fancy dish SO easy?? And why is the world so infatuated, impressed, obsessed with pancakes? Really? Pancakes? I have made those since I was 5. Well, one myth gone.

 

Then, I thought, well, I'll take the next step and I jumped in on soufflés. You guys are probably sick of me going on with them, lately. in the process of making them, I read someone refer to the 'white sauce' as Béchamel. Is THAT béchamel?  So, I looked up the definition of the 5 "Mother Sauces", ready to wade in and give them a go.

 

REALLY? SERIOUSLY?? THAT'S Béchamel? That mysterious, difficult, intimidating sauce I have been avoiding most of my adult life is actually just white breakfast sausage gravy? I have been making that since I was 4!

 

Does that Mean I have been a French Chef all my life and I just don't know it?<G> (No, my head is NOT swollen like a soufflé) but, it does make me realize that all these lovely labels and terms are as much about my fears as they are just cooking.

 

So, there may still be some serious challenges out there but, I have to say, I refuse to be afraid of a dish because I haven't tried it before. I will at least give them all a try, now!

post #2 of 17

Good job.  The only difficulty to a bechamel is not burning it.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

I have never had a problem with burning it. my problem, when I first learned to make it (as breakfast gravy) was lumps. the great news is, Béchamel is actually MORE forgiving than my gravy<G> if there are lumps, once you add the milk, adding the butter to melt or, as for soufflés, adding the egg yolks, easily makes the lumps relax and disappear. so, in the long run, Béchamel is actually easier than my morning gravy was!  OK, no more nightmares of mad French Chefs! No more being bamboozled by a haughty French Accent and thinking that meant they had all the answers in the kitchen<G>

 

Of course, and this is what always blew my mind, what is considered Haute Cuisine and Fine French Cooking, if you research the history you find a lot of it was farm wife food of one form or another. somehow, I know not how, the fact that it was a FRENCH farm wife rather than a Texas one, made it Haute Cuisine instead of redneck! I'll bet, somewhere, there is an equivalent in French cooking to Squirrel Stew that some Culinary College prof thinks is the greatest thing in the world. Meanwhile, looking down his nose at my grandmother<G>

post #4 of 17

All cooking is easy, if you like it and learn it the first time the correct way. As you learn and make more items you will build up a confidence in your ability and then everything will seem easy  Which is great for you. None of us were born with pots and pans in our hands, we learned by doing, watching, tasting experimenting.  I congratulate you on your efforts and keep it up.

CHEFED
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post #5 of 17

@karonadams

 

 

If you were cooking béchamel at 4, then you must have a helluva of cooking experience. And your parents were irresponsible, ha! Joke.
You're right. Nothing in cooking is impossible given the will (first), the knowledge, good ingredients and fine palate. But to get exceptionally good food, ah… that's a different story.
French cuisine is not just béchamel. It's a life learning process with a complexity sometimes beyond imagination. Let's suppose you have a whim for Tournedos Rossini. You need a perfect sealed beef tenderloin, foie-grass terrine and sauce Perigueaux. Google those. Well beyond béchamel. Michel Roux Jr. has a nice series of videos showing sophisticated French dishes. I love that family and they are permanent source of inspiration for me. Here's a favorite:
 

 

Poulet de bressse an vessie

 

 

 

You can search for other master classes.
But you're off to a good start! Good luck.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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post #6 of 17

The following is from DoryD.  The thread is http://www.cheftalk.com/t/37770/my-grandfather-vs-escoffier

 

From This Week Magazine, July 16, 1950:

Man Vs. Cookbook
by (My grandpa, lol)

Subscript: When a man tries to be friends with Escoffier on short notice, he needs a wife with foresight...

"I wish I knew what to have for dinner tomorrow night when the Smiths come," said my wife.

At this moment I was hungrily reading the newspaper account of the annual dinner of the Friends of Escoffier.

"Why don't you have Poulet Saute Chasseur?" I inquired.

"What's that in English?" she asked suspiciously. "New England boiled dinner?"

"It's something the Friends of Escoffier had last night," I said.

"Who is Escoffier and what kind of friends did he have?"

"Don't scoff at Escoffier. He is the world's greatest authority on cooking, and the Friends of Escoffier is a club. Every man in it is an expert cook."

His Pride Aroused

"That's ridiculous," she snapped. "Men can't cook. You, for instance. You can't make a liverwurst sandwich."

"Oh, is that so?" I rejoined warmly, my masculine pride aroused. "Just for that I will prepare dinner tomorrow night. And guess what we'll have."

"A mess," she said.

"Poulet Saute Chasseur," I replied coldly.

Later, when she wasn't looking, I got out my college French book. Poulet, as nearly as I could make out, was either a chicken or a mistress. I decided it would be wiser to bring home the former.

Next day I stopped in a bookstore and bought a copy of the Escoffier Cook Book. Poulet Saute Chasseur, as a hasty glance reassured me, was a simple dish involving barely three sentences of instructions.

I arrived home, strode to the kitchen, donned an apron and opened Escoffier.

What, No Sauce?

"Let's see," I said, reading, "Swirl the saucepan with a few tablespoons of white wine...H'mm, I'll have to run out to the liquor store."

I was back in ten minutes with a bottle of Chateau Pasternak Sauterne. Pouring two fingers into the pan, I turned to the recipe again. "Ah, a quarter pint of Chasseur sauce. Where do you keep the Chasseur sauce?"

"Guess again, Escoffier. All I've got is ketchup," my wife answered sardonically.

Glancing at the book I discovered that Chasseur sauce was explained in Recipe No. 33. I leafed quickly back. "Six medium-sized mushrooms," I mused, "a teaspoonful of minced shallots, a half pint of white wine and a glass of liqueur brandy --" I broke off. "I'll have to run back to the liquor store. And what's a shallot, anyway?"

"A kind of onion," she explained with a trace of contempt.

"Then I'll have to stop in the grocer's too," I said, dashing out.

In fifteen minutes I was back, with brandy and shallots. "All set now," I said cheerfully.

"Not quite," she informed me. "This Chasseur sauce recipe calls for a half pint of half-glaze, a quarter-pint of tomato sauce, a tablespoon of meat glaze and a teaspoon of chopped parsley. All I've got is the parsley."

I stared at the recipe. She was right. To make a Chasseur sauce, I had to make three other things first. Escoffier supplied recipes for all three. I looked up the half-glaze.

Boon for Liquor Business

"Half-glaze," I read, "is obtained by reducing a quart of Espagnole sauce and a quart of brown stock... It is finished with a tenth of a quart of excellent sherry."

"This is the greatest thing that's happened to the liquor business since Repeal," said my wife. "But how do you make Espagnole sauce?"

Espagnole sauce, I discovered, was made with a pound of brown roux -- Recipe No. 19 -- six quarts of brown stock, two pounds of tomatoes and a pound of Mirepoix -- Recipe 228. And brown stock took four pounds of beef, four pounds of veal, plus ham, port, carrots, onions..."Seems like quite a few ingredients to fry a chicken, " I muttered. "But if the Friends of Escoffier can do it, so can I."

A half hour later I staggered back from the store with two huge bags of delicacies which I dumped on the kitchen table. "Guess I'd better hurry," I said, fastening my apron again.

"Yes," agreed my wife, "because I see that brown stock is supposed to cook gently for twelve hours."

I snatched the book from her. "Twelve hours! That means dinner won't be ready til nine o'clock tomorrow morning," I clutched my forehead. "And I think I hear the Smiths driving up!" I turned an appealing look on her.

"Come, come," she coaxed. "What's a little delay to a Friend of Escoffier? You still have to make the Mirepoix, the tomato sauce and the meat glaze. For the Mirepoix you'll need, let's see -- two tablespoons of Madeira. Back to the liquor store."

Unconditional Surrender

"No, No!" I begged. "not that. Not again!"

"And for the tomato sauce, you need two quarts of white stock -- Recipe No. 10."

"Stop!" I cried. "No more recipes! I give up! I surrender. I quit."

"Then get out of the way," she said, "and let me get the lamb chops out of the broiler. I put them in the last time you went to the liquor store. And go answer the door."

I picked up the Escoffier Cook Book and dropped it gently in the waste basket. "Escoffier," I said, "you have just lost a friend."

post #7 of 17

It looks like Mr. Escoffier owns all the liquor stores in every town by nowcrazy.gif

Every smoker quits smoking sooner or later!

Only the smart ones are doing it while they are still alive.

Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt,

Ist des Talers nicht wehrt !

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Every smoker quits smoking sooner or later!

Only the smart ones are doing it while they are still alive.

Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt,

Ist des Talers nicht wehrt !

Reply
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

Perhaps, secretly, Escoffier was an investor in the major liquor businesses<G>  I can see how easily one could assume they can just stroll in and make anything<G> I love when my hubby does that! he thinks he can cook. then again, He likes lasagna made with French's spice packets, so.....  Otoh, I love to cook. needless to say, we have many disagreements<G> more precisely, he simply eats and I take my accomplishments to someone else for actual critique. cause HE cannot provide it<G> the furthest he can go is the difference between sweet, salty and hot. and sometimes not far into those<G> if I mix two of those together, he is lost!

 

Meanwhile, yes, I was making Sausage gravy at 4 but it wasn't my parents, it was my grandmother. the aforementioned Texas Farmwife<G>  Every morning, my parents and grandfather would head out to the hayfields and my grandmother and I, with appropriate cat and kitten escort, would head to the pasture to milk the cows. coming back, she would fry the sausage and at about that age, taught me to make the gravy (not old enough to do the frying, yet) next was churning the milk for butter!

 

Sounds idyllic from the distance of time but I don't think I would go back to it. all of this was before 9 AM. the rest of the day was more drudgery but I learned a lot. chiefly, I learned to appreciate time and labor saving devices when they came along<G> but, I AM glad to have had those experiences.

 

I know I may have sounded arrogant when I posted this, before and ti was not meant to be so. and I am well aware that Escoffier would do little more than scoff at me. but, my point was, all these things that I once thought, no matter how good a cook I DO consider myself to be (and I AM pretty good, all things considered) I am NOT an Iron Chef. BUT, that doesn't mean I can't become one. or at least, learn to be close. and, what Béchamel has taught me is, fancy name or intimidating accent aside, anything can be learned. but, if you aren't willing to give it a try because of condescending chef or a frightening accent, you never WILL learn how. if you aren't willing to learn to make béchamel, you won't learn to make soufflé. TBH, if I had realized the 'white sauce' was béchamel, I might not have tried it!

 

seriously, I just saw a TV show about soufflé and decided, on a whim, to try it. the show referred to the sauce simply as white sauce. well, white sauce doesn't sound intimidating. but, if it had been referred to as 'bechamel' I may have thought, "I cannot make béchamel, so I cannot make soufflé"  I am very glad the show called it white sauce.

post #9 of 17

Nah, it's more like caring about each small step and getting it right.  If you care you can cook.

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by karonadams View Post

I have never had a problem with burning it. my problem, when I first learned to make it (as breakfast gravy) was lumps. the great news is, Béchamel is actually MORE forgiving than my gravy<G> if there are lumps, once you add the milk, adding the butter to melt or, as for soufflés, adding the egg yolks, easily makes the lumps relax and disappear. so, in the long run, Béchamel is actually easier than my morning gravy was!  OK, no more nightmares of mad French Chefs! No more being bamboozled by a haughty French Accent and thinking that meant they had all the answers in the kitchen<G>

 

Of course, and this is what always blew my mind, what is considered Haute Cuisine and Fine French Cooking, if you research the history you find a lot of it was farm wife food of one form or another. somehow, I know not how, the fact that it was a FRENCH farm wife rather than a Texas one, made it Haute Cuisine instead of redneck! I'll bet, somewhere, there is an equivalent in French cooking to Squirrel Stew that some Culinary College prof thinks is the greatest thing in the world. Meanwhile, looking down his nose at my grandmother<G>

Bechamel is very easy, but it can scorch very easily if you are not watching it, stirring it, and cooking it in a heavy bottom sauce pan.  The flavor will be bitter and off.  It is just so thick and that is why you need to be stirring it frequently.

 

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“Bringing People Together Through Food”

 

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post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by karonadams View Post

OK, someone said to me, today, Don't take all these Chefs so seriously. well, they are right. I have been cooking since I was a little kidlet. I learned at my grandmothers' knees and have been trying to learn new stuff all my life. But, French cooking has always intimidated me. Le Cordon Bleu, all the mystique surrounding the various "Classic" dishes! well, I finally decided that the worst that could happen is I'll throw a few pans full of junk in the trash. no one is going to sicken or die. So, I decided to try my hand at crepes. WOW! they were SO simple! How is that mysterious, fancy dish SO easy?? And why is the world so infatuated, impressed, obsessed with pancakes? Really? Pancakes? I have made those since I was 5. Well, one myth gone.

 

Then, I thought, well, I'll take the next step and I jumped in on soufflés. You guys are probably sick of me going on with them, lately. in the process of making them, I read someone refer to the 'white sauce' as Béchamel. Is THAT béchamel?  So, I looked up the definition of the 5 "Mother Sauces", ready to wade in and give them a go.

 

REALLY? SERIOUSLY?? THAT'S Béchamel? That mysterious, difficult, intimidating sauce I have been avoiding most of my adult life is actually just white breakfast sausage gravy? I have been making that since I was 4!

 

Does that Mean I have been a French Chef all my life and I just don't know it?<G> (No, my head is NOT swollen like a soufflé) but, it does make me realize that all these lovely labels and terms are as much about my fears as they are just cooking.

 

So, there may still be some serious challenges out there but, I have to say, I refuse to be afraid of a dish because I haven't tried it before. I will at least give them all a try, now!

I like your post.  This is what is so amazing when we teach cooking classes.  People get to this point where they are not scared about food anymore.  Food is not that hard.  The better chef you become the more simple your food becomes.  You use great products cooked in the proper way and your food turns out amazing.  Good for you for breaking out of the culinary shell of intimidation and going for it!  Keep on trying new things, most mistakes you can fix when it comes to food.

 

“Bringing People Together Through Food”

 

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“Bringing People Together Through Food”

 

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post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

It seems like it is almost instinctive. I know, chemically, you are waiting for the starches to 'explode' and branch out to grab the moisture in the pot. but, watching the sauce, stirring the sauce, what I am thinking is, I am waiting for the 'feel' to change. it is hard to describe. but, the instant that it goes from milk mixture to béchamel sauce is tangible. and something you just kind of "know"  you feel a difference in the way the spoon or spatula or whish moves through the sauce. just that tine change in resistance against your stirring implement that tells you it has happened. IT is a moment when you have to suddenly watch more closely because two more stirs and you need to remove from the heat or it will quickly become paste. the first few times I made it, I pulled it as soon as I felt that 'give' and it was too thin. I managed to gut it out the next couple of times and held another couple of seconds and found I can hold a little longer for a MUCH more thick sauce!  I love it!

 

Now I have discovered I am making pastry cream and didn't realize it! Jello just lost a pudding customer! because this is FAR easier than the Jello cook and serve pudding and WAY better than the instant. so, I will have pudding, any time I want it (gonna be buyin some new clothes<G>) and it will be GOOD!

 

I think I am going to Do some Pate et Choux pastry for breakfast this weekend.  I haven't tried it, before. No, I take that back. 30 years ago I decided to try some cream puffs for a party. Made a couple of hundred of the silly things<G> Making the puffs was EASY! filling them was a never ending nightmare<G>  Think I'll stick to éclairs so you can pipe the filling into it. it took forever to cut those things apart, fill them, then put their hats back on them<G>  But, looks like a neat way to make up some pastry for the family for weekend treats.

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

True. and most mistakes you can eat. the ones you can't eat, the dog usually can and no one needs know<G> This is the real reason I have a dog<G> Seriously, my first husband argued against buying a dog. I told him a dog was good to have because we could feed him the leftovers from the dinner. I cannot believe he agreed with that line of reasoning and left me buy a dog! I have had dogs in my house since then!!

post #14 of 17

Digressing a little and talking about dogs, an Italian friend used to give his beautiful male setter all kind of leftovers. Whatever he eat, the dog eat too. But when he served him some pasta the dog would not eat it unless the grated parmigiano was there.

 

What's that <G> for?

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ordo View Post

Digressing a little and talking about dogs, an Italian friend used to give his beautiful male setter all kind of leftovers. Whatever he eat, the dog eat too. But when he served him some pasta the dog would not eat it unless the grated parmigiano was there.

 

What's that <G> for?

Excellent! Gourmande pooch!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post

The following is from DoryD.  The thread is http://www.cheftalk.com/t/37770/my-grandfather-vs-escoffier

 

From This Week Magazine, July 16, 1950:

Man Vs. Cookbook
by (My grandpa, lol)

....

I picked up the Escoffier Cook Book and dropped it gently in the waste basket. "Escoffier," I said, "you have just lost a friend."

I liked that story very much. Thanks

post #16 of 17

On the topic of mother sauces - I really found Raymond Sokolov's "The Sauciere's Apprentice" helpful. It does a good job of putting a system behind the derived sauces and I regularly work with it at home. It does have the tendency highlighted in the above story, though. Sauce charcutiere? Make sauce robert. Sauce Robert? Make a demi.... :D

post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

Sorry, I am way behind<G> it is Spring. I have trees to cut and I am preparing to put in a couple of beehives so I am WAY behind on everything! I did manage to make a dozen Cinnamon Rolls, yesterday but, other than that, I haven't had much time in the kitchen, this week.  Hoping to do some Choux this coming week. make some cream puffs and eclairs.

 

Meanwhile, <G> means <grin> Sorry. that is an old bit of shorthand from a time online before people started using emoticons<G> it is a habit I can't seem to break!!  My fingers just seem to put in my grins. we always used it back in the early days of CompuServe to give clues of attitude and emotion to a medium that, by nature, was completely emotionless.

 

Hope this helps! <G>

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