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Old 07-26-2007, 04:58 PM   #1
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How do you know when to finish reducing sauces?

If I'm cooking specifically with wine, how do you know when you are done reducing the sauce? Sometimes I think it's ready but it's a little too thin when I actually poor it over my meal.

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Old 07-26-2007, 05:07 PM   #2
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It depends on what's in the sauce in addition to the wine. Often, wine in a sauce is reduced to concentrate its flavors and cook off most of the alcohol. You have to reduce wine to almoswt nothing to get it thick and syrupy. Other ingredients in a sauce can serve to thicken it. Butter, cream, flour or cornstarch are the usual suspects.
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Old 07-26-2007, 05:28 PM   #3
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Yep, Andy is right as usual. Wine has little left once you take away the alcohol and water so it really doesn't thicken by reduction. Butter and cream have a lot of solids, and so thicken when the fluid is evaporated away. And flour and cornstarch thiken because of the starch. For most wine sauces that don't include milk solids, I typically use cornstarch.

Just my take on things.
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Old 07-26-2007, 05:41 PM   #4
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Andy is correct. I would like to add just a bit more. How far to reduce a sauce often depends on how it will be used. A full-flavored sauce doesn't always need to be thick. It can be drizzled onto a plate, surrounding the food and adding to the color and presentation. In this case, the sauce should be just thick enough not to run all over the place. The food is then dipped into the sauce and eaten.

Even if the sauce is going to be poured over the food, the thickness of the sauce can vary. If for instance, you are going to put it over a grilled steak, it can be very liquid, like worcestershire sauce. It will still add great flavor. but if you were to put it with a leafy salad, you would want it to have more body so that it can stick to the greens and other ingredients.

You can thicken your sauce with any number of ingredients, such as the afore mentioned cornstarch, flour, butter, and cream. You can also thicken it with pureed fruit, such as plum, peach, appricot, applesauce, raspberries, etc. You can add crushed bannana, or nut butters, or honey. Even sugar will help thicken the sauce.

Of course it also depends on the sauce, and the end flavor you are trying to achieve. My advice is to learn the mother sauces. Make them a few times. Then, when you are familiar with them, you can add other ingredients such as wine or spirits, egg yolks, various starches, fruit puree's, gellatine, gums, etc.

For your next experiment, try this one. Take one can of clam juice, add a pound of cooked salad shrimp, or lump crab meat, and 3 packets of Knox unflavored gelatine. Mix with a tbs. of sugar and 3 cups of boiling water. Stir until the gelatine is completely dissoved. Pour all into a mold and chill until set. Serve on crackers or whole-grain bread pieces along with a bit of cream cheese. Your sauce has become a seafood aspic. Of course, you could add less gelatine and make something more liquid and serve hot as a soup.

The point is, use your imagination. If the sauce is thin, how does that enhance the meal? What can you do with it. Will it make a great aujus? Should you thicken it with a roux, or with cream to use it as a gravy, or make into a soup? Play with the ideas in your mind and you will develop an intuitive sense of how to use various sauces, with differing consistancies to add variety and interest to your meals.

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Old 07-26-2007, 05:59 PM   #5
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How thick the final sauce is can be recipe specific, and will depend on the other ingredients or type of sauce like the others have said. You'll need to post the recipes if you want specific help. Beyond that, your question is too general to be correctly answered because some recipes are not meant to be thick, some recipes call for thickness by natural reduction, some recipes call for thickness by emulsion, and others call for thickness by introduction of a liason.
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Old 07-26-2007, 06:32 PM   #6
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I don't have a specific recipe in mind but as an example, something maybe with a white wine sauce, with 3tbsp butter and 4tbsp cream and 1/2 cup white wine?
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Old 07-26-2007, 06:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidefx
I don't have a specific recipe in mind but as an example, something maybe with a white wine sauce, with 3tbsp butter and 4tbsp cream and 1/2 cup white wine?
First off, you'll need to increase your fat if you want the sauce to be thick. The wine also needs to be reduced until almost dry (about 1-2 Tbsp. remaining) to concentrate it. That is your acid which will emulsify with the fat. Once your wine is reduced, add in 1/2 cup of cream and reduce that by half. Then, off the heat, whisk in 1/2 cup of butter. Similar to making a vinaigrette, the ratio of fat to acid must be greater for emulsificaiton and thickening to occur.

With the proportions you listed, the sauce will never become thick unless you make a beurre manie (google it) with the butter.
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Old 07-26-2007, 07:05 PM   #8
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I think of reducing as a means of concentrating flavor some things thicken naturally like balsamic vinegar but to me reducing is concentrating flavor which then you can add fat like heavy cream which also gets thicker by reducing or something like cornstarch or a roux depending on what you are making.Like a Buerre(sp?) Blanc or Rouge basically reducing wine and adding butter to thicken Im guilty of adding a bit of cream as well as it helps sauce hold better
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Old 07-26-2007, 08:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ironchef
First off, you'll need to increase your fat if you want the sauce to be thick. The wine also needs to be reduced until almost dry (about 1-2 Tbsp. remaining) to concentrate it. That is your acid which will emulsify with the fat. Once your wine is reduced, add in 1/2 cup of cream and reduce that by half. Then, off the heat, whisk in 1/2 cup of butter. Similar to making a vinaigrette, the ratio of fat to acid must be greater for emulsificaiton and thickening to occur.

With the proportions you listed, the sauce will never become thick unless you make a beurre manie (google it) with the butter.
Thanks, reducing the that much wine first seems like it will help thing a lot.
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Old 07-27-2007, 12:24 AM   #10
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Another great way to a nice thick, rich sauce is by using stock or glace (essentially just reduced stock). If you cook a stock down far enough, it will have a jelly-like consistency when refirgerated. In this state, you can add some glace to your pan (which will usually already have something in it for flavor) and it will liquefy, and for extra fat, like ironchef reccommended, I like to use butter.

A duck breast dish we make at work gets finished with a sauce made from whiskey (used to deglaze the pan we cook the duck in), cracked pepper melange (which is used to season the duck), duck glace, and butter. We flame the whiskey when we deglaze, and when the alchol is nearly cooked away we add the duck glace and then mount with butter to serve.

Playing with stocks opens up a wide wide world of sauces.
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