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Recipe Rescue: April 2014

A dish often requires one strong component that can tie it all together, a piece de résistance that transforms the ordinary to extraordinary.

March 26, 2014
By Patrick Mathieu

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A dish often requires one strong component that can tie it all together, a piece de résistance that transforms the ordinary to extraordinary. From taste to presentation, in almost every type of cuisine, this component is the perfectly executed sauce. There is a reason that in a professional kitchen, there is a saucier – an individual professionally trained to top an expertly cooked dish – standing right next to the head chef. For the home cook and fire-house chef, a sauce can not only elevate whatever it is you have created but a good sauce can also infuse flavour when it’s lacking, hide any mistakes in the cooking process and turn bland into delectable.

I have studied in depth the sauces of the world and have tried to perfect these sauces during my cooking career. I have always been a fan of that finishing touch and I know that sauces are an integral part of standing out as a cook. But my true love for sauces started one day at the fire house as I tried to determine what to put on my crew’s fish tacos; this is where the Sriracha aioli was born. My take on the traditional French sauce, which combines garlic and mayonnaise, was perfectly designed to top seafood and changed my platoon’s culinary lives. Not only did the Sriracha aioli take the fish tacos to a new level, but it was also soon made in large enough qualities to dip whatever we could find in it, and we tried to create meals based on what dish we could top with the Sriracha aioli. This is the power of a delicious sauce.

Sauces usually contain very few ingredients, are simple to make, have an excellent refrigerator life, and are a flavour bomb. Sauces also inspire creativity, begging the question: what else can I put this on? Make a couple of go-to sauces part of your recipe repertoire and soon you will be inventing new and exciting flavour combinations that will make you a hero in the kitchen. Below is a list of my favourite sauces, how to make them and how to best enjoy them.


The aioli

Aioli is a traditional French Provençal sauce that generally combines mayonnaise and garlic. After this basic combination, you can mix an infinite number of ingredient combinations into the sauce to make an array of aiolies. Try adding lemon and capers, or chipotle peppers and lime, or avocado and cilantro. The options are only limited by your imagination. Here is my recipe for the Sriracha aioli. Try it on fish tacos, or on any seafood, as a dip for French fries or as a spread on your favourite sandwich. In a bowl, mix together one cup of mayonnaise, two tablespoons of Sriracha sauce, one teaspoon of smoked paprika, two cloves of minced garlic, a small squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Mix well to combine and enjoy!

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Nuoc mam gung  
This salmon dish has been topped with nuoc mam gung, a Vietnamese sauce. In this photo, the meal has been finished with a black bean risotto.
Photos by Patrick Mathieu


 

Nuoc mam gung
I know you’re reading this and thinking, What? This is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce that tugs at your taste buds in all directions: hot, salty, sweet and sour. Use this sauce on your next stir fry, as a potent salad dressing or served as a dipping sauce for grilled seafood, pork or poultry. In a bowl, mix together one tablespoon of both minced garlic and fresh ginger, one minced jalapeño or Thai chilli, three tablespoons of raw sugar, six tablespoons of fresh lime juice, and four tablespoons of fish sauce. Mix well to combine and enjoy.


Beurre monté  
Beurre monté, a French butter-based sauce, is great for poaching lobster, as in this photo, and for topping other seafood dishes and even grilled steak.


 

Beurre monté
A French chef’s secret, beurre monté refers to melted butter that remains emulsified, even at temperatures at which butter usually separates and breaks down. In a beurre monté, the butter is heated in such a way that it can stay emulsified and be used in many delicious ways, such as a sauce, a base for other sauces, to poach lobster, shrimp or whitefish, or as a place on which to rest your perfectly grilled steak. To make beurre monté, bring two tablespoons of water to a simmer in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and gradually whisk in anywhere from one tablespoon to one pound of unsalted butter, one tablespoon at a time, allowing each helping to melt and combine before adding the next. The more butter you use, the more sauce you will make. Use beurre monté immediately to marinate a steak, poach seafood, sauté vegetables or make a delicious sauce by adding two tablespoons of minced shallot and two tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs. Refrigerate any leftover beurre monté, and use as you would regular butter. Enjoy.

Chimichurri
Originally from Argentina, this combination of fresh herbs, citrus, seasonings and olive oil is meant to be enjoyed on any grilled meat, especially steak. I love it on eggs, as a base on a flatbread or homemade pizza, or as a dip for sandwiches. In a food processor, add four tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one teaspoon of coarse sea salt, one teaspoon of chili pepper flakes, four garlic cloves, one shallot, one cup of fresh cilantro, two cups of fresh flat-leaf parsley, and one-third of a cup of fresh oregano. Pulse to combine and, while the processor is running, drizzle in three-quarters of a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy.


Rum caramel cream  
Rum caramel cream is a decadent dessert sauce. Drizzle it on grilled fruit or ice cream, put it on cheesecake or pound cake, or warm it up for a dessert fondue.


 

Rum caramel cream
Well, we have to have a dessert sauce. This award-winning sauce is pure indulgence. Try it drizzled on ice cream or grilled fruit, put it on bread pudding, cheesecake or pound cake, or warm it up as a dip for a dessert fondue. In a saucepan, combine two cups of sugar, one-third of a cup of water, two tablespoons of light corn syrup and half a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber-caramel colour, occasionally swirling the pan. Remove from the heat and pour in one-and-one-quarter cups of heavy cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously) and stir to blend. Mix in half a stick of butter, one quarter of a cup of rum, and one tablespoon of both cinnamon and pure vanilla. Use immediately or cool the sauce and store in jars.


Patrick Mathieu is a 15-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue, where he is acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Contact him at stationhousecateringco@yahoo.ca

 


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