Like stocks, sauces have lost some of the importance they once had in commercial kitchens—except, of course, in the best restaurants serving what may be considered luxury cuisine. Some of this decline is due to changes in eating habits and to increased labor costs.
However, much of the change is due to misunderstanding. How many times have you heard someone say,"I don't go for all those sauces all over everything. I like good, simple food." No doubt this person puts ketchup—a sweetened tomato sauce—on hamburgers, gravy on mashed potatoes, and tartar sauce on fried fish.
The misunderstandings arise from poorly made sauces. No one likes thick, pasty cream sauces on vegetables or oversalted but otherwise flavorless brown sauces gumming up their meat. But just because some cooks make bad sauces is no reason to reject all sauce cookery.
In fact,many chefs believe good sauces are the pinnacle of all cooking,both in the skill they require and in the interest and excitement they can give to food.Very often, the most memorable part of a really fine meal is the sauce that enhances the meat or fish.
A sauce works like a seasoning. It enhances and accents the flavor of the food; it should not dominate or hide the food.
A good cook knows that sauces are as valuable as salt and pepper. A simple grilled steak is made even better when it has an added touch, something as simple as a slice of seasoned butter melting on it or as refined as a spoonful of béarnaise sauce.
No matter where you work, sauce-making techniques are basic skills you will need in all your cooking. Croquettes, soufflés, and mousses have sauces as their base, nearly all braised foods are served with sauces made of their cooking liquids, and basic pan gravies, favorites everywhere, are made with the same techniques as the classic sauces.
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