Sunday, May 29, 2016

Week 19 - Mother Sauces

The theme for Week 19 of the cooking challenge was mother sauces, which are basically the 5 sauces that are the bases for other sauces. I wasn't sure if I had ever actually set out to make one of these before, but it was certainly possible that over the last few years, I'd followed a recipe that went through the steps of making a mother sauce without actually knowing I was making that. In any event, this was an easier challenge to figure out since there were only 5 choices: bechamel, espagnole, hollandaise, tomate, and veloute. I decided to go with veloute since it used chicken stock, and according to Wikipedia, it served as the basis for a sauce called poulette which added mushrooms, parsley, and lemon juice. Sounded good to me.

I decided to make some chicken to go with the sauce, since it was chicken stock-based, and on the side, roast some carrots and onions. I also ended up adding a microwave Seeds of Change packet of brown rice and quinoa to the meal, since as the sauce was cooking, I realized we had nothing to soak up the sauce. The final list of ingredients for dinner was:

- 2 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced ($3)
- 3 tbsp butter, divided (1 for chicken, 2 for veloute) ($0.60)
- 1/3 cup flour ($0.05)
- 4 cups chicken stock ($0.60)
- 8 oz of white mushrooms, finely chopped ($1.39)
- 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped ($1.20)
- a few spritzes of lemon juice ($0.08)
- 1-1/3 lbs of carrots, chopped ($1.09)
- 1 large onion, chopped ($0.60)
- olive oil to coat the carrots and onions ($0.35)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)

All together, dinner cost approximately $10.38, after adding in the rice packet. I usually try to get it under $10, but that's not too bad for dinner for two.

After peeling and chopping the carrots and onion, coating them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and putting them in the oven to roast, it was time to cook the chicken. A took care of the chicken while I went to work prepping the mushrooms and parsley. The timing actually worked out fairly well.

For the sauce itself, I followed the steps in this Martha Stewart recipe (mostly because it was the first one I found when I looked), and did the following:

1. Melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. (I used the same pan that we cooked the chicken in since I figured we cooked the chicken in butter and the sauce was going to use chicken stock anyway. I doubt this is how you are supposed to make your sauce, but whatever, I wasn't about to wash the pan or waste another.)

2. Add flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. (I was confused by the fact that the recipe said the flour should not take on any color. I don't know how that's possible. Maybe it took on even more color because of the chicken residue in the pan, but any time I've ever combined flour with butter, it doesn't stay white. Am I doing something wrong? Or am I misinterpreting the recipe comment?)

3. Pour in stock, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. (The roux was pretty clumpy, and it took a lot of stirring to get it to break up in the stock, which A worked on while I attended to the parsley.)

4. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

At that point, the mother sauce itself was done and the challenge was complete. I tasted it and it had a nice, rich chicken flavor. It made sense that this would be the basis for so many other sauces.

Once the sauce seemed thick enough, I added in the mushrooms and parsley, and let the sauce cook for a few more minutes. At some point, I also remembered there was supposed to be lemon juice, so I added a few spritzes in (basically whatever was left in the squeeze bottle we had). Then I added the chicken back to the pan and let it cook in the sauce for a few minutes before it was time to eat.

I really liked how the sauce turned out. The chicken flavor was really good, and the mushrooms and parsley were a nice addition to round out the sauce. The sauce worked on top of the chicken, the carrots, and also just the rice. I liked eating it with the rice on its own more than I thought I would. We ended up with about half a bowl (maybe a cup) of sauce left over (which I ate with some chicken nuggets for lunch the next day), so perhaps I didn't need all 4 cups of broth, but leftovers aren't a bad thing in our house.

I would definitely make this sauce again, since I thought this turned out well. I guess there's a reason these have been the classic sauces for centuries!

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