7 Sauces and Seasonings to Flavor-Boost Any Meal
Quart containers are chefs’ best friends, keeping secret sauces and seasonings close at hand. Let’s peel back the lid to see what’s inside.
1. A Cream
“Rather than using plain whipped cream, I make a mixture of mascarpone and heavy cream, so when it is whipped it tastes kind of like Cool Whip (in a good way). It also makes it a bit more stable, so it’s good for traveling.” —Chef Pat O’Malley, Hungry Pigeon, Philadelphia
Total 10 min; Makes 5 cups
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese (such as Vermont Creamery)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Beat all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, starting on low speed and gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until medium peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use, up to 3 days.
2. A Dressing
“My best friend came up with this ‘Save the Day’ dressing; I add this magic enhancer to a lot of things I do. It always makes them better. It’s a mix of fish sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and togarashi.” —Chef Hilda Ysusi, Broken Barrel, The Woodlands, Texas
Total 10 min; Makes about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Three Crabs)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, fish sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Add shichimi togarashi, sugar, and salt; whisk until sugar dissolves.
3. An Emulsion
“I always travel with my saffron emulsion sauce. It works great for pasta, seafood, fish, and filet mignon. I make it with shallots, saffron, clarified butter, heavy cream, and salt to taste.” —Chef Nicholas Poulmentis, Akrotiri Seafood Taverna, New York
Total 20 min; Makes 1 3/4 cups
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 (1-ounce) shallots, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup crème fraîche (about 8 ounce)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until translucent and softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, crème fraîche, saffron, and salt. Bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce turns light yellow and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
4. A Sprinkle
“Homemade, smoky black sesame gomashio. I toast black sesame seeds until smoking and grind in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt. This picks up any simple veg and makes it special.” —F&W BNC Alum Katy Sparks, Katy Sparks Culinary Consulting
Active 10 min; Total 30 min; Makes 2 cups
1 1/2 cups black sesame seeds (about 7 ounces)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon coarsely ground sea salt, sel gris, Celtic sea salt, or flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
1. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add sesame seeds; cook, stirring well every 30 seconds, until sesame seeds start to smoke and smell very nutty, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and spread in an even layer. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Stir salt into sesame seeds.
2. Transfer sesame seed mixture to a food processor. Pulse until mixture is the consistency of coarsely ground cornmeal, about 6 times. Transfer to an airtight container (preferably glass), and store at room temperature up to 10 days.
5. A Paste
“I make a spicy saté paste. I start with rehydrated dried chiles de árbol and an equal amount of garlic. After I puree it, I cook it in oil for four hours. I use it to punch up everything from braised lamb to cocktail sauce.” —Chef Todd Pulsinelli, Warbucks, New Orleans
Active 25 min; Total 1 hr 5 min; Makes 2 1/3 cups
2 cups chiles de árbol (about 1 5/8 ounce)
2 cups water
3/4 cup chopped garlic (from 3 garlic heads)
2 cups blended oil (such as Spectrum Canola and Olive Oil Blend)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (optional)
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (optional)
1. Place chiles in a medium-size heatproof bowl. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high; pour over chiles in bowl. Fit an inverted plate inside bowl on top of chiles to submerge in water. Let stand until chiles are soft and pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain and discard water. Remove and discard chile stems. (Do not deseed.)
2. Place chiles and garlic in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
3. Transfer chile paste to a medium saucepan; stir in blended oil. Bring to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring bottom of saucepan occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool 30 minutes.
4. Stir paste as-is into your favorite condiments, or stir in vinegar, lime juice, and salt, if desired, to use as a standalone condiment (without as much heat).
6. A Sauce
“I always have my Aisoon sauce on hand, inspired by my Korean grandmother. It’s a soy-based, spicy-sweet mixture with fish sauce, chile flakes, sesame seeds, and scallions.” —Chef Nyesha Arrington, Native, Santa Monica, California
Total 10 min; Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 4 scallions)
3 tablespoons gochugaru
2 tablespoons crushed toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 garlic cloves)
Whisk together soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, and sugar in a bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk in canola oil, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Whisk in scallions, gochugaru, sesame seeds, and garlic. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 months.
7. A Butter
“I can’t leave home without my Beefed-Up Butter! I make a compound butter with beef jus, red wine, garlic, and herbs. It’s the perfect ingredient to enhance the flavor of your favorite steak, mashed potatoes, or green beans. It simply makes everything taste better!” —F&W BNC Alum Chef Danny Grant, Etta and Maple & Ash, Chicago
Total 10 min; Makes 2 1/3 cups
2 tablespoons very hot water
2 teaspoons veal demiglace (such as Williams Sonoma)
2 cups unsalted butter (16 ounces), cut into pieces and softened
2 tablespoons Red Wine Reduction (recipe below)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 medium garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Stir together 2 tablespoons very hot water and demiglace in a bowl until completely dissolved. Using a rubber spatula, fold together demiglace mixture, butter, wine reduction, salt, Worcestershire, garlic, pepper, mustard, and thyme in a medium bowl, or beat together with an electric mixer on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.
Red Wine Reduction
A simple reduction of red wine adds color and richness to Danny Grant’s Beefed-Up Butter (recipe above).
Total 30 min; Makes 2 tablespoons
2 cups Burgundy red wine
Bring wine to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 2 tablespoons, 25 to 30 minutes.