“Fond” of Sauce?
By David Hall
You know that brown gunk that sticks to the bottom of the pan after searing or cooking meat? Chefs refer to that gunk as one of two things: “money” or “fond.” Fond is the French technical culinary term for the browned caramelized and concentrated bits or residue remaining in the pan after cooking meat. This is truly the concentrated flavor you are after when you “deglaze” a pan for flavoring sauces and gravies. Amazing “pan sauces” are quickly made by simply adding a bit of stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable, etc.), wine, shallots or other aromatics and sometimes a small amount of cream. That small amount of “gunk” translates to big flavors when reducing the deglazed solution into the final sauce. Never waste it.
Much of today’s cuisine relies on lighter bodied pan sauces rather than heavier sauces based on the traditional “mother” sauces that use flour as the thickening agent. Three of the classic mother sauces (béchamel, velouté and espagnole) rely on the “roux” (a 50%/50% blend of flour and fat) to thicken the sauce and give it body. There are times when I must use one of the heavier classic mother sauces for a particular dish, such as my three-cheese lobster mac and cheese dish. There is no way to make this delightful dish without first making the béchamel (a dairy based sauce) before adding the cheese, and still have the right taste and texture. This would obviously rule out dozens of classical sauces for those on a gluten-free diet, right?
I have found the using the gluten-free “all-purpose” flour blends not only produces excellent comparable results in the final product, but it does so in much less time! When cooking at a client’s home for their dinner party, time is at a premium. I have to put out a lot of food in a relatively short period of time. The classic mother sauces thickened with flour require the sauce to be cooked for a minimum of 20 minutes or so to cook out the white, sometimes gritty, paste flavor and texture if the sauce is not cooked long enough. This is not the case with either Bob’s Red Mill or Tom Sawyer’s all-purpose gluten-free flour. These GF products are quite neutral in flavor and break down and thicken almost immediately when making a sauce which is why I always use them whether or not I am cooking for a gluten-free client. The time savings is worth the added expense of these products.
While the heavier wheat and cream based sauces may not be en vogue, they do come in handy from time to time, especially when you want to add some body to a sauce. You don’t have to rely on tapioca flour/starch, which when used alone as a thickener tends to string and not flow, or corn starch which breaks down quickly and can have a slimy texture.
So break out the favorite Mac & Cheese recipe you used to make before you went gluten-free and make the following substitutions. Substitute the wheat flour with GF all-purpose flour, used brown rice pasta and top the dish with ground up Rice Chex and Italian seasoning instead of using bread crumbs. The Chex provide a better crunch anyway.
Be well and be blessed,
Chef David Hall