Not everything needs a sauce.
To hear a French chef speak of a sauce as the jewel in the crown, the final symphony, or the pearl necklace on the throat of a beautiful woman, as if no food is complete without a sauce - and no beautiful woman is complete without pearls - is to giggle hysterically while tucking into one’s immaculately unsauced steak, fish or chicken.
But sometimes, you’ve grilled the steak, fried the schnitzel, or seared the salmon, and it’s still not turning you on.
You need that little something extra that makes the difference between the everyday and the wow-what-was-that?
When you find the time and the place for a good sauce, don’t deny it.
With it, you can add contrasting and complementing flavours, colours and scents,
disguise a delicious but boringly brown sludge of something,
spike up a bland flavour with a piquant one,
link two or three disparate ingredients on a plate,
or just make a witty bow to tradition with a classic sauce on an otherwise modern meal.
It gives the burger its relish, the pie its tomato sauce, the roast lamb its gravy, and the apple pie its pool of custard.
Sauces of the past used to be thickened with a beurre manié of flour, or rich liaisons, bound with egg yolks, butter, cream and breadcrumbs, but flavour has taken over from texture, and a simple vinaigrette of oil and vinegar flavoured with herbs, a puréed vegetable hit with a pinch of spice, or crushed lemon grass and chilli in Asian fish sauce is now enough of a statement.
If a sauce frames the dish with a flavour, then a broth is the canvas upon which you - oops,
nearly fell into a pot of hyperbole myself.
Far better to say that a good broth is the best start to a meal that a cook can have.
With it, you need no other flavour booster, no additives, and no strange little cubed things.
But not everything needs to be based on a veal, chicken, fish or vegetable broth.
Some things just don’t need the extra help.
There are vegetables that need only water to transform them into soup,
and vegetable and bean purées and that need only a little butter or oil to emulsify them into luscious, glossy things of beauty. So if you still think your meal is nothing without the kick of flavour from a broth or that final, glamorous, saucy accessory: go buy yourself some pearls.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.