A good, flavourful stock is the most important ingredient in a velouté sauce. This stock need not be specially made; usually it is the cooking liquid of the ingredient the sauce is to be served with, such as poached fish, chicken or veal. Skimming during cooking gives this sauce its distinctive velvety appearance, hence its name which is derived from the French word for ‘velvet’.
The mushroom and cream variation (below) is often used to make a chicken stew and the shellfish variation (below) uses leftover shells to enhance the flavour of shellfish poaching liquid. It is an ideal sauce to serve with poached crab, lobster or prawns.
To make 300ml (½pint), bring 400ml (14fl oz) fish, chicken or veal stock or shellfish cooking liquid to the boil, skimming the surface. Meanwhile, prepare a roux with 20g (¾oz) each butter and plain flour and cook for 2 minutes until grainy and golden coloured. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Shellfish sauce, also called sauce Nantua, is one of many variations of basic velouté sauce and is flavoured by shellfish using the reserved shells and poaching liquid.
Gradually whisk about three quarters of the boiling stock or cooking liquid into the slightly cooled roux. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens.
Lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently for at least 15 minutes to concentrate the flavour, stirring from time to time. Skim occasionally with a large slotted spoon until the surface of the sauce is clear.
Use the sauce as it is, or pass it through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Whisk in 1–2tablespoonsdouble cream or cold butter and season to taste. Thin down with the remaining hot stock, if necessary.
To make mushroom and cream sauce (or sauce supreme) use chicken stock to make the velouté sauce (above), adding 125g (4oz) chopped mushrooms after the boiling stock is incorporated into the roux. Complete steps 1 and 2, then strain the sauce through a sieve, as in step 3, and whisk in 50ml (2fl oz) double cream. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
To make shellfish-flavoured sauce (or sauce Nantua) to serve with poached shellfish save the shells and liquid from when you poach the shellfish. Make the roux and add 400ml (14fl oz) boiling poaching liquid, as in step 1 (above). Add the reserved shells and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan. Return to the heat and for an extra rich sauce whisk in 1–2 tablespoons cold butter.