Guest Author - Jason Hodge
We're going to concentrate on one of the techniques rather than actual sauces today. I've read that the main function of sauces in early history was to mask the aromas and flavors of the spoiling food it was covering or paired with. I don't buy it. Whereas that application applied somewhere, at some time, in a region, in world history, I would beg to differ that it was an universal invention spanning the global demographics of culinary artistry, predating the simple use of flavor elements to balance taste and function.
Through the balance of flavors and aromas your body is positively or negatively impacted. Modern and ancient science will attest to that. By adding the right contrast to an item you can bring out its subtle properties and flavors that would've otherwise gone undetected leaving your dish hopelessly nondescript and unmemorable. It's all about going back to the basics and delving into the essence of the foods you're working with. It's not rocket science, but it is a science where observation is key and timing is everything.
Have you ever noticed that you get different flavors from your spices if you add them to a dry skillet, boiling water or heated cooking oil? That's because different properties are released that affect the balance of their flavors given the methods you use when working with them.
From the time a fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, leaf, etc. or root gives up their flavor filled nectar [their juices] to the cooking pot, a sauce is in the making. From the rendering fats, combinations and recombinations of herbs, spices, and the like, the resulting products, sauces, are the perfect marriage and common threads that tie flavor, texture and the overall intention of a dish together.
So... with that in mind, I'm going to share with you one of the methods I use in creating my sauces. Hint... I fry them. Mind you, that's not always the case, but for what we're doing here today, this is the aspect we're going to look at. I think it draws the essence right out of the ingredients, readying it to interact with whatever accompanies it.
Simple Tomato Based Fried Sauce Recipe
1 large skillet
1 wooden spatula
1 mortar and pestle [or food processor - optional]
1 sterile container [canning jar] with lid
Olive oil [enough to cover cooking surface of skillet]
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic [mashed]
sea salt [to taste]
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 medium to large tomatoes diced
1 tbsp mustard [sauce]
natural sugar [to taste]
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Step 1. Delicately crush fennel seeds in your mortar and pestle, transfer to a small container and do a quick mash on your garlic and reserve for later use.
Step 2. Heat your skillet and add your oil, onions and salt and fry until translucent then toss in garlic and fennel seeds. Stir with spatula and wait for the aromas to mellow.
Step 3. Add tomatoes and fry until they break down into sauce [remembering to stir] and add mustard sugar and vinegar.
Step 4. Reduce to a simmer and cook to desired consistency.
Step 5. Adjust flavors as needed and bottle in sterile containers.
You can use this sauce on everything from your proteins, to braise them in; as a sandwich spread; as a dipping sauce; as a base for another sauce; etc. It's one of those things that will help boost your dish's appeal, from the look & feel to the flavor; and if you want to bring more digestive qualities to it, try adding fresh mint leaf or freshly ground ginger paste to it.
What you'll find is that by frying the sauce like this, everything will pop! Your flavors will be more intense, the colors will be more vibrant, the aromas will be more pronounced. It will smell like you're really cooking, your sauces will cook up faster and a little will go a lot further.
I hope this has been very helpful for you and spurred on new ideas for you.
As always, it's been my pleasure sharing these personal chef business building tips with you. Until next time...