Monday, June 8, 2009


Sauces are something that are too often given too little thought by the home cook. I'm not talking about spaghetti sauce or gravy, but about sauces that garnish the dish and add yet another dimension of flavor. I know a number of cooks who thinks sauces are hard or time-consuming. Not always! I often whip up a quick sauce while the main dish is cooking.

My staple ingredients for many sauces are orange juice, soy sauce, wine, and balsamic vinegar. Some days I'm in the mood for a simple wine or balsamic reduction to go with a vegetable; other days I want something to make a dish sparkle.

Reductions are simple: put your liquid ingredients into a saucier or sauce pan (though a small skillet works well for small amounts of fluid). Simmer on med-low until the sauce has reduced to the consistency you want, usually by at least half. If you are reducing vinegar, make sure you have your exhaust fan going well -- heated vinegar is a bit sharp and will sting your eyes and nose. Once the food is done, drizzle the sauce over it.

These first two recipes work nicely on vegetables. I've used the second two on meat with nice results. I add salt, if necessary, afterwards, because reductions concentrate the flavors.
Orange-Soy Sauce
1/2 cup of orange juice, fresh squeezed is best
1/2 cup of soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/4 teaspoon of microplaned orange zest

Orange-Balsamic Sauce
1/4 cup of orange juice, fresh squeezed is best
1/2 cup of dark balsamic vinegar (I like the thicker vinegar for this)
1 - 1-1/2 teaspoons of honey (depending on how sweet you like it)

Garlic-Wine Reduction
1 cup of wine, red or white depending on what I'm cooking (use something with enough body to stand up to the heat -- merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, or sauvignon blanc)
1 tablespoon of garlic, chopped finely (this will be need to be strained out of the sauce)
I also reduce the marinades I use for meats into a sauce to go over them.

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