九龍華仁書院安省舊生會

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Back to school (3)__David Wong

Chapter 3 – the grasshopper strikes again. 

For those who are old enough to remember a TV series called “Kungfu”, there were 2 characters playing roles of teacher and student. The teacher was a sage, wise monk (sometimes I doubt this), and the student was a young foreign boy adopted by the temple where they both lived in. The teacher, with its all surround wisdom, was supposed to educate the young student with knowledge to face the world. The student was active, inquisitive, and impatient. The master would always teach the student in parables and wise cracks. The young student was the grasshopper who was always active, curious and dashing around. 

I was the grasshopper when I went back to work on line and try to learn the sauces. The heat on the cooking line, together with the noise level and the forever cranking sound of the chit machine had me wheeling around. I was with a bunch of young masters this time. I prayed I was not an obstacle. They could easily kick me off the line if I did not keep up to their demands. I survived. I thank all the young masters for all the valuable lessons. I do not forget the ones who make me scrub the floor either. 

         The formula is simple. We have 3 ingredients. There is butter, flour and cream. When you cook the flour in the butter and then add the cream, you will have a creamy white sauce. When you use the white sauce as the base and keep adding layers of flavour to the sauce, you come up with different sauces. 

So, butter + flour + cream = Béchamel

     Béchamel + Gruyere & Parmesan cheese = Mornay sauce

     Béchamel + sauté vegetable + Puree blended in = soubise sauce

     Béchamel + cheddar cheese = cheddar cheese sauce

The list goes on and on. 

Then another variation steps in. What will happen if we substitute the cream with stock? There are chicken stock, veal stock and fish stock. But stock is a lot lighter than cream and it does not gel up as fast. So, in order to thicken the solution, we leave the roux and the stock on the stove top and simmer it down slowly. This process we call it reduction. 

This product we call it Veloute sauce. This will develop into another big group of sauces.  

Clarified butter + flour + stock = Veloute

Here are 2 things different about the veloute sauce (by the way, veloute = velvet in French, they want the sauce to be velvety smooth.) 

Clarified butter is butter without the milk solids. It is simple to make. You leave a stick of butter in a warmer place and soon the butter would separate. The top layer is pure butter. You skim off the top layer and you have clarified butter. The butter has the characteristic of allowing a higher heat. We need a higher temperature to cook the flour into a more nutty flavour, therefore we use clarified butter.

Stock is the advanced level of soup. Stock is made by extracting the flavour and collagen out from bones. It has a gel like nature and it is good when making sauces. How to make stock is another big chapter. It requires time and patience to achieve an acceptable product. We will pursue after this topic later. 

Finally, there is the term we need to familiar with, reduction.

Notice the wine reduction that is shiny, nice consistency, beautiful reddish colour, and a good presentation of the background.

I never imagine such a simple thing as butter and flour can get so complicated. No wonder somebody said, “the simpler the dish, the harder to show its superiority!”

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