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Common Cooking Terms

for Sauces & Gravies

One of the hardest things for anyone to learn is how to make sauces and gravies.  Some sauces just

 

 

involve cooking liquid at a simmer until the sauce thickens (tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce), others involve

 

 

thickening with a mixture of flour and fat.  Two things I can't do without when making these are a good heavy-

 

 

bottomed pan and a sturdy whisk.  They make the process so much simpler.

Holy Trinity

This is a term you often hear in Southern cooking, especially in the deep South.  It simply means a mixture of

 

 

onions, celery and green pepper, primarily used as a sautéed base for many Southern dishes, like beans

 

 

and rice.  

Mirepoix

Similar to the Holy Trinity, it's a sauteed mix of 2 parts onion,1 part celery and 1 part carrots, cooked until

 

 

done but usually not browned.  The vegetables are all cut the same size (¼ or ½-inch) , making it easier to

 

 

cook.  This mixure of sautéed vegetables is the base for many recipes of Southern cooks.

Roux

My mother (and I'm sure my grandmother) had been making a roux for years and never knew what it was

 

 

called.  Especially when they made gravy, because that was a big thing at our house.  Roux is simply equal

 

 

parts of fat and flour that is cooked over heat (usually medium) until it's smooth and the "raw flour" taste is

 

 

gone.  I use a whisk,  constantly mixing and gradually adding the liquid until I get the consistency that I like. 

 

 

Butter, oil or bacon fat are the ones I use most often.  Most ofter,  milk was the liquid that was added to the fat

 

 

mixture.  The longer you cook roux (before adding the liquid), the darker it gets and the flavor deepens at bit.

White sauce (or Béchamel) is from the French cuisine and is the base for a lot of their dishes.  For a small

 

 

amount, start with 1 tablespoon each of fat and flour. For something like Country Style Steak, I use ¼ cup of

 

 

each and add milk as my liquid.

 

 

 

Deglazing

If you've seen anyone make gravy after cooking bacon or sausage, then you're familiar with deglazing.  When

 

 

you cook  or sear most meats, they leave tiny bits of flavor stuck to the pan. The experts call that "fond".  If

 

 

you're going to make gravy, after cooking the meat,  remove any excess fat and burnt bits  that won't be used

 

 

by dabbing with a paper towel. (Or carefully pour it out and strain if saving for later use.)  Add a little water to

 

 

the pan and bring to a simmer, then start gently scraping the bottom of the pan; let it cook down a little bit

 

 

before adding the liquid for the gravy.  Then continue cooking, and whisk while adding the liquid a little at a

 

 

time until it reaches the consistency you like.  For other ideas on a form of deglazing, check out my simple

 

 

recipes for Lemon Chicken and Chicken Picatta.

KEYWORDS

mirepoix, holy trinity, roux, deglazing

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