Sauce Dreams

When I was in culinary school many moons ago, I fell in love with the idea of being a saucier. In fancy restaurant kitchens long ago, there were many chefs in the kitchen, so many that they were referred to as the ‘brigade’. One of the chefs in that brigade was the sauce chef or ‘saucier’. This person, as the name implies made all the sauces to be used during service. In order to make good sauce, one starts with a good stock. So this person made all that as well. I have always loved making stock. It started when I was a little girl and my mother would cut up a whole chicken. The back and neck and other unwanted chicken parts would end up in a big pot and Mama would make a simple stock. So as I grew older, I followed the tradition of saving unwanted parts of a chicken and when I had time, I would make chicken stock. This stock eventually became a base for a soup or a pan sauce. In culinary school stock-making was such an important part of our education that our very first class was all about making stock and the sauces that resulted from them. I was in heaven. So I fell in love with the idea of being a saucier. Then I realized that restaurant kitchens today don’t have sauciers. Not any of the kitchens I would find myself working in at least. I made sauces as a line cook, but it wasn’t the vaunted, time-consuming kind. Sadly, some of the stock-making and sauce-making is done by the prep cooks and dishwashers. But I still was able to take part in these kitchen rituals.

Fast forward to the present time, and I don’t have as many opportunities to make sauce in the classical sense. But when I get the occasion to go to a fine restaurant and order a dish with a well-made sauce, I make sure to order it. There is something incredible about a well-made sauce that elevates a simple dish. I’ve been known to spoon sauce and sip it like soup. Then I sigh happily.

These days, at home, I have expanded my sauce repertoire into lighter, less complicated and more stable sauces. MY very favorite these days is a very easy uncooked sauce that I discovered during my line-cook days: Tahihi Sauce. This is a very easy thing to put together. It is simply tahini, lemon juice, water and salt. Three of the ingredients are so ubiquitous that the only thing you need to buy is the tin of tahihi. And the procedure is also simple- just whisk all the ingredients together, adjusting the water and lemon juice to your desired consistency. Don’t have lemon juice? Then use some kind of vinegar- like red wine or sherry vinegar. Want to make it spicy? Then add chili flakes or cracked black pepper. Put the whole thing in a jar, cover it and stick it in the fridge. Holy mackerel that was easy! If you want to be fancy, you can make this in a blender or food processor. Put the tahini, lemon juice and salt first and work it to a smooth consistency. With the machine running, slowly add the water until you get a thick emulsion. The texture is beautiful and airy, like a mousse. And if you can’t use all the sauce, you can keep the leftovers for another time. I love this sauce for this very reason alone- it’s stable and keeps for weeks; not that it lasts that long in our house. I always have a big jar of this on hand. It’s the best kind of sauce, right up there with mayonnaise. But that’s a different post.

So what do you do with this magical concoction? My very favorite thing is to drizzle it over arugula, add some crushed almonds and call it a salad. It works wonders with grilled or poached lean fish or chicken, roasted vegetables like eggplant or zucchini, sliced tomatoes or chopped salads. Even beans like cannellini or chickpeas are delicious with them, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and an extra squirt of lemon for good measure. It’s a lovely dip for pita bread, pita chips, raw cucumber and carrots. I’ve used it as a sandwich spread when making a lamb shawerma. And of course, you can use it for falafel and even veggie burgers. I could go on and on, but I won’t, because I want you to go out right now and make this sauce. It may change your life. Or at least your cooking repertoire!


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