Reduction

1. Using reduction to concentrate basic flavors.

If we simmer a sauce for a long time, some of the water evaporates.The sauce becomes more concentrated, and the resulting product is more flavorful.This is the same technique used when making glazes from stocks. Some reduction takes place in nearly all sauces, depending on how long they are simmered.

2. Using reduction to adjust textures.

Concentrating a sauce by reduction also thickens it because only the water evaporates, not the roux or other solids.A skilled sauce chef uses both reduction and dilution to give a sauce the precise texture sought. If a sauce is too thin, it may be simmered until it reaches desired thickness. Or the chef may add a large quantity of stock or other liquid to a thickened sauce to thin it out greatly, then simmer it again until it is reduced to just the right consistency. By doing this, the chef also gives more flavor to the sauce.

3. Using reduction to add new flavors.

If we can add a liquid to a sauce, then reduce it to concentrate it, why can't we reduce a liquid first and then add it to a sauce?

In fact, this is one of the most important techniques in sauce-making.We have already mentioned that glazes—reduced stocks—are used to flavor sauces. Reductions of other liquids, especially red and white wines, are used a great deal in this way.

Skip ahead to the recipe for Bordelaise Sauce (p. 175). Note how the red wine is cooked down with shallots,pepper, and herbs to one-fourth its original volume. Not only is the flavor of the wine concentrated but the flavor from the other spices is extracted.This reduction is a powerful flavoring agent that gives bordelaise sauce its distinctive taste. Reduction allows you to add a great deal of flavor to a sauce without adding much liquid.

Terminology

To reduce by one-half means to cook away one-half of the volume so that half is left. To reduce by three-fourths means to cook away three-fourths of the volume so that only one-fourth is left.

To reduce au sec (oh seck) means to reduce until dry or nearly dry.

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