cucina bene; mangia bene (get saucy)
If you were inspired to make your own stock after reading the last post, then you can use it to make some sauces. Sauces are universal in every cuisine. Whether it is an Asian dipping sauce like Japanese Tempura or Thai Peanut, a simple pan sauce like the one served with Chicken Piccata (see recipe below), a more refined sauce such as port-reduction, or a homemade gravy; all of these sauces use a type of stock as a base.
Originally, sauces were used to mask food that was spoiled or very near close to being spoiled. In the past, they were laden with heavy spices, liquor, strong herbs, and anything else that could be used to overpower the meat it was poured over. Today, sauces are used in different ways: to elevate an ingredient to new heights (think grilled duck breast with fresh, in-season berry sauce), play an integral role in a dish such as beef stew, or compliment an entire meal such as Chicken Paprikash with spaetzle. Sauces that do not use stock as a base are just as important. Where would we be without the humble tomato sauce, or pesto, or guacamole? All are a type of sauce and are so ingrained in the American cuisine that you can find variations of them just about anywhere!
In this post, however, we will focus on sauces with homemade stock as the base. There are five sauces that are considered ‘Mother’ sauces (meaning they are base sauces that ‘children’ sauces can be created from): Béchamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Tomato. Two of those sauces, Veloute and Espagnole are made from stock. Veloute sauce is made with light stocks such as poultry, rabbit, veal, or pork, butter, and flour. Espagnole is made with dark stocks such as beef (and veal if the bones were roasted prior to making the stock). If you’ve made your own turkey gravy, then you’ve made a version of Veloute sauce. If you’ve made beef stew, then you’ve made a type of Espagnole sauce. Sauces are instrumental in making foods, especially proteins, look and taste delicious. The following recipe is for Chicken Piccata, but it can also be made with tofu, veal, or turkey. I like to serve it with bulgur wheat and roasted greens like kale, Swiss chard, or spinach. It’s easy and delicious and the sauce is a type of veloute…buon appetito!
Chicken Piccata (Serves 4):
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts trimmed of excess fat
1 cup flour
4 tbs. olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1-2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 tbs. capers (salt capers are the best if you can find them, be sure to rinse of excess salt)
3 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut one lemon in half lengthwise and thinly slice one of the halves removing any seeds. Juice remaining half and the other whole lemon and set aside. Slice the chicken lengthwise to make thinner pieces. Pound the pieces into thin cutlets and cut in half if they are too large. Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Working in batches, sauté chicken in olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned on each side. Remove from pan and cook remaining chicken; transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Add shallot to pan and sauté until translucent about 5 minutes, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken stock and lemon slices to pan to deglaze. Simmer until liquid reduces by 1/3; add lemon juice and capers and reduce by 1/3 again. Add butter and parsley and stir to thicken sauce. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.