Creating Small Sauces

Small sauces are traditionally created from classic sauces like demi-glace, jus lié, velouté or béchamel. They begin with infusions of aromatic vegetables, herbs, spices, and wine or other spirits. A foundational sauce like a demi-glace is added and the small sauce is cooked further to develop flavor and proper consistency. It is often finished with butter or enriched with cream or cheese. Three common methods are illustrated here. For creating small sauces to order see sautéing of proteins under the meat poultry and seafood section.

Small Sauce Prep Steps – 3 Methods Illustrated

The methods for preparing a small sauce from a mother sauce include the sauté and deglaze method, the reduction method, and the gastrique method.

Small Sauce Recipes

Bordelaise, Marchand de Vin, Madeira, Port Wine Sauces

Method 1 - Sauté and Deglaze Sauce Technique

This technique can be used to prepare a large quantity of sauce or for preparing smaller quantities of pan sauces after sautéing or searing cutlets or chops.

Examples: Robert, Chasseur Sauce

Step 1 - Sauté and Deglaze

  • Sauté the flavor base of aromatic vegetables (examples include, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, or ginger). Variations include leeks, scallions, or red onions, tomatoes, or peppers

  • Dried seasonings are added at this stage to allow the flavor compounds to open. Spices including peppercorns, dry mustard, curry powder, or paprika; dried herbs including thyme, bay, or tarragon

  • The aromatics are deglazed with wine or spirits and are simmered to concentrate the flavors.

  • Wine and spirit variations include dry white, red, or rosé wine, fortified wines including madeira, port, marsala, and hard spirits of cognac, brandy, vodka, gin. Other liquids include beer or hard ciders 

Step 2 - Add Sauce or Flavoring Liquid

Adding Sauce to Aromatics

Adding Sauce to Aromatics

  • A prepared sauce of demi-glace, jus lié, béchamel, or velouté, is added at this stage

  • A highly-concentrated stock can be used as a substitute

  • Simmer to adjust the flavors, seasonings, and consistency

Step 3 – Monter au Beurre - Finishing the Sauce

  • Finishing a sauce with a whole butter, cream, cheese, or yogurt, enriches the flavor, balances the acidity, and provides a sheen to the appearance

  • Swirl in whole butter, a process known as monter au beurre, or add an egg yolk and cream liaison (Remember not to let the mixture boil or the yolks will curdle)

Method 2 – Reduction Sauce Method

Small Sauce Recipes

Robert, Chasseur, Marsala Sauces

This technique is similar to the sauté and deglaze method, but the sautéing step is eliminated, and the wine or spirits are combined directly with aromatics, herb, and spices.

Examples: Bordelaise, Marchand de Vin Sauce

Step 1 - Combine in a saucepan

  • Combine the aromatics, and seasoning, including herbs and spices, with wine or spirits, in a saucepan

  • The liquid is reduced through cooking and evaporation to ¾ of its original volume, or it may be cooked further to the au sec (almost dry) stage

Monter au Beurre

Monter au Beurre

Step 2 - Add Sauce or Flavoring Liquid

  • Add a prepared sauce of demi-glace, jus lié, béchamel, velouté, or a highly-concentrated stock

  • Simmer to adjust the flavors, seasonings, and consistency

Step 3 – Monter au Beurre - Finishing the Sauce

  • Finish the sauce with cheese, crème fraiche, a liason (egg yolks and cream), or monter au beurre with diced butter

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Method 3 – Gastrique Method

This technique is a sweet and sour sauce that begins by caramelizing suga and deglazing it with vinegar or sour fruits including lemons or oranges.

Examples: Bigarade, Agrodolce Sauce

Step 1 – Prepare the Gastrique

Caramelizing Sugar for a Gastrique

Caramelizing Sugar for a Gastrique

  • Start by caramelizing sugar in a saucepan

  • The caramel is then deglazed with vinegar, wine, and/or fruits juices to create a sweet-sour taste

  • Use a 2:1 ratio by volume of sugar to vinegar

Step 2 – Add Sauce/Flavoring Liquid

  • A prepared sauce of demi-glace is added at this stage

  • A highly-concentrated stock can be used as a substitute

  • It is simmered to adjust the flavors, seasonings, and consistency 

Additional Flavors

Gastrique Sauce Recipe

Agro Dolce, Bigarde Sauces

  • Fortified wines (sherry, port and Madeira) are added towards the end of the cooking process because their flavors dissipate under prolonged heat

  • Fresh herbs and other garnishes are added at this stage

  • Herb Variations: Tarragon, thyme, rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives

  • Garnish Variations: Olives, capers, dried fruits, bacon, citrus zest, truffles, toasted nuts

Step 3 – Finishing the Sauce

  • Finishing a sauce with a whole butter, cream, cheese, or yogurt, enriches the flavor, balances the acidity, and provides a sheen to the appearance

  • Swirl in whole butter, a process known as monter au beurre

  • A mixture of cream and egg yolks, known as a liaison, is sometimes used to enrich white sauces and soups. Use a ratio of 4 parts cream to 1 part egg yolks. To prevent the egg yolks from curdling, never boil it after adding the liaison to the mixture

Evaluate and Adjust Flavor and Seasoning

Taste.png

Consider all the basic taste sensations including sweet, sour salt, bitter, and umami when looking for flavor balance in a sauce. A sauce sampled on its own should have an intense and slightly over-seasoned flavor. Remember that unlike a soup that is eaten alone, sauces must compete with other accompaniments on a finished plate.

  • A sauce served over a steak must match the bold flavor of the grilled meat, and any starches or vegetables.

  • A weak sauce, or a sauce that tastes just right when sampled alone, may easily be lost or forgotten.

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