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Old 01-30-2013, 03:10 AM   #1
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Thickening a sauce... and a little help for a dinner idea!

Ok, im a 30 year old woman, i have cooked for years, but i very rarely venture into things with sauces unless they come from a packet.
Main reason being is im worried that if i fluff the sauce up, then ive ruined everything.
I can make a cheese sauce (melted butter and flour, add milk) but even this goes wrong sometimes. And once, i thought id just sprinkle some flour into the sauce as it was very thin.... how wrong did that go. It looked AWFUL and i had to sieve the lumps out and then after that it was a case of 'better not try that again'.

So my questions are:
How do you thicken a milk based sauce.
How do you thicken a stock based sauce.
Are there are tricks for adding flour in the case of my fluffed cheese sauce to stop the dreaded curdly-lumps.

Another question regarding sauces, is it possible to make a 'creamy sauce' using actual cream? Like, if i wanted a creamy chicken sauce, use a chicken stock and add cream to the mix? Can you use milk?

Ok, onto help with dinner!

Tonight, i have some beef, which i was going to slice up, add onions, peppers, and bake in a casserole dish with herbs and a dollop of marmite! Now, would i need to thicken the beef stock before i add it?

Also, which herbs would go with this - because as it stands at the moment, im liable to just chuck any old thing in, basil, parsley - mixed herbs! Does anybody have any suggestions to improve on my pot luck of adding ingredients!




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Old 01-30-2013, 05:05 AM   #2
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If you make a bechamel sauce you must start with a roux (equal parts butter to flour) whisk this for a few minutes to make sure all the flour is covered with butter and the flour has cooked out a little. Then slowly add milk or stock, whisking as you go until the desired thickness is achieved. Then you can add finely grated cheese (whisk in slowly) to make a cheese sauce, pickled green peppercorns to make pepper sauce, sauteed mushroooms for mushroom sauce etc etc. Flavour as desired.
If you have a sauce that you want to thicken you can thicken it with either cornstarch or flour. Mix the cornstarch or flour with a bit of cold milk or water to make a slurry first then whisk into sauce to thicken. Cornstarch will thicken almost instantly but the flour will take a few minutes.

Yes, you can add cream to sauces. Just whisk it in slowly and never boil cream since it could cause your sauce to split.

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Old 01-30-2013, 07:27 AM   #3
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A good way to make a sauce is to mix in a little dish I tblsp of flour with 1 oz of butter( believe me butter is best for this although marg will do)Mash to a fine paste with a spoon.Warm 1/2 pint of milk or stock, whichever you want and whisk in little pieces of the paste as you go. Keep whisking,easy does it until you have the required thickness. Once thick then you can add cheese or chopped parsley whatever and you won't have lumps. Adjust amounts up if you want more sauce ie. 2tblsps flour, 2 ozs butter to 1pt fluid. Another thing, if you do get lumps sometimes emulsify with a magic stick or put into blender, no-one will know!!

Your beef dinner sounds goodwould take a plastic freezer bag and put in 1 good tablespoon of regular flour, 1 teasp mixed herbs and pepper and then all of your sliced beef. Screw up the top and SHAKE. Make sure all your beef pieces are covered. Take out of the bag and lay the beef in the casorole dish with your other ingredients. Boil 1pt water and add the marmite. This is your stock ( notice i didn't add salt earlier to the flour mix) Gently pour over, put on lid and cook as usual in your oven.
Good luck
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:33 AM   #4
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Sorry I should have added that you keep the sauce on a low heat while you are adding the paste to cook out the flour as snip mentioned. Hope this clears that up?
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:41 AM   #5
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Lots of ways to thicken a sauce:

Slurry: Warm water + cornstarch, or arrowroot, or tapioca.. Simply microwave a small amount of plain water and add the starch in and mix until no more lumps, then add that to your liquid and bring to a boil. This works best with stuff like soups and some stock-based sauces, and Asian dishes. Just be careful with the texture here, because adding too much slurry can make a dish gloppy and slimy.

Reduction: Not the best option for many things but works perfect when the time is right. Reducing cream, for instance, will thicken it without needing to add anything else. Just simmer until it's the right thickness.

Okra: Classic for gumbo, maybe a few others but limited to things that call for okra.
File: Same with okra, classic for gumbo. Never seen it used elsewhere. Usually added at the table.

Beurre manie: Softened butter mixed with flour in roughly equal parts, must be mixed until fully homogenized then you can add it to a simmering or boiling liquid. Great for gravies. Make sure you let the liquid cook the floury taste out for a few minutes.

Roux: Classic. Melted fat (usually butter) in a pan over medium, add equal parts flour and cook. The darker the roux, the less it will thicken. How long to cook the ruox depends on the application. Bechamel = light ("blonde") while gumbo = brick red ("dark")

Cheese: Cheese always thickens stuff but once you add it, it's usually bad news to keep cooking it so add cheese at the end. Usually for mornay and cream sauces.

Butter: Whisking in cold butter 1 tbsp. at a time off the heat can thicken a sauce by forming an emulsion. Never try and reheat butter-thickened sauces or it'll break. Beurre blanc is a classic butter-thickened sauce.

Bread: Adding some toasted bread to a sauce can thicken it but you'll probably have to blend it. Romesco sauce is a classic example.

Blending: Using a stick blender or a regular blender, if the sauce has veggies or stuff like lentils or beans in it, it'll thicken up when blended.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:17 AM   #6
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Besides what has already been mentioned, sausage gravy is made by adding flour to the browned sausage and fat, basically making a roux, and then the liquid is added. In German cooking, ginger snaps are added to thicken and flavor the gravy for sauerbraten.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:19 AM   #7
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Brilliant, thank you all soooooooo much for this, really really good information!
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:07 AM   #8
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To make a proper 'Escoffier' roux, which IMO is the only way to make one you must use EXACTLY 6 parts flour and 5 parts clarified butter by weight. Cook this mixture on low heat until you achieve a 'sandy' texture. You MUST then let this mixture completely cool before adding any liquid to it. Then you can add whatever hot liquid you wish depending on what sauce you're making. Many recipes call for equal parts butter and flour. This is not correct. The milk solids in plain salted butter react differently with the flour than if clarified butter is used. I've even seen recipes that say using margarine is fine. GAAAAH! You will never get the 'sandy' texture that way. Your roux will be 'oily' using equal parts. It's little things like this tip that separates the really excellent cooks from the others. When you are going to add any hot liquid pour it all in at once. Then whisk whisk whisk. Don't 'drizzle' it in. You'll get a beautiful velvety silky result this way.
Last week I was having a conversation with a classically trained French chef of forty years. When I asked what parts of flour and clarified butter he uses to make a roux he said "6 of flour and 5 of clarified butter by weight of course". That's the way I make a roux.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:35 AM   #9
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To make this simple,

Lets start with thickening a stock, 1 to 2 cups. Add 3 Tbsp flour, 3 Tbls butter to a microwaveable glass dish or measuring cup. Nuke for about 45 seconds, mix well. Bring stock to a boil, remove from heat and wisk in the roux until thickened. Simple!

For the cheese sauce, Temper in 2 egg yokes to thicken. Simple!

As far as the white sauce, you can make a roux ahead of time. If you do make it ahead I would make 1 or 2 cups since it takes longer to cook. Just use what is needed to thicken the sauce and you can freeze the leftover roux. Or you can make a simple roux as above for thickening "stock".

It's always handy to have roux made ahead so if you make a sauce, you'll have enough for large or small quanities if a sauce comes out too thin. Just be careful not to over thicken if you do, you can always wisk in water or stock to thin it.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:54 AM   #10
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Next time you are in the asian food section at the grocery store look for something called "rice flour" or "mochiko flour." It's much like cornstarch but works really well as a last minute thickener. Just add a few tablespoons of the flour mixed with water (basically a slurr) into whatever you are cooking. It thickens like a flour. I've never had lumps using rice flour and it doesn't give your dish that raw flour taste.

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