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The Soul Of Sauces

Published on
22 October 2023
Chef Silvano
Chef Silvano

When you observe children eating, what do they most frequently dip into? Sauce.
How do you judge a chef? By the soul of sauces.
When gourmets start raving, what is usually the reason? A sauce.
Why do we say the meal was bland? No sauce.
Why are hamburgers such a hit? Because of the sauce.

Let me state it plainly: The soul of a sauce is air. Besides the soul, sauces also have body and spirit.

Admit it: a garden-fresh carrot might be crisp, sweet, and aromatic, but after a dozen of them,
you long for a flavorful sauce.

And that’s precisely the role of a sauce: To make you crave it. It’s a mediator, a connector. It can be the actual flavour or subtly fade into the background, harmonising or creating a vivid colour contrast. It can be down-to-earth or flit away effortlessly. But it must always do one thing: set things in motion.

For those who want to cook without meat, perhaps with less fat and salt, a harsh truth soon becomes evident, concerning sauces, there isn’t much to use from traditional cuisine.

Finding myself in the same situation many years ago when I exhausted all wisdom about béchamel sauce, soy sauce was pouring out of my ears, and the endlessly “creative” gratins were causing silent despair.

chef-silvano-braga-journal the soul of sauces

Hard to accept that the entire realm of the second greatest earthly pleasure should depend on bones, meat, and cream…as explained in numerous cookbooks.

So, leaving the books be books and stepping into the kitchen, after a while, it dawned on me, how a sauce must work at its core.

With this understanding in mind, continue experimenting, the results kept getting better. But it took a couple of years of experience in the industry. Preparing countless dishes every day, evaluating guest reactions, understanding all the unpredictable causes of errors.

You’ll quickly realise that knowledge comes from practical experience. It matters more if something succeeds than adhering to the so called right opinion. In this sense, no-one should claim ultimate truth.
Describing the contents more in pictures. So, don’t take everything word for word at every turn!
The goal is to cook good sauces, not to add more theories to the world.

As mentioned, it’s the air that makes up the soul of the sauce. The more air is trapped in a sauce, the smoother, finer, and more delicate it is. To capture the air and envelop it for a while, you need a body. This body is practically always an emulsion, except for fat-free fruit and vegetable juice sauces.

chef-silvano-braga the soul of sauces

But even the most beautiful consistency would be useless if the sauce didn’t taste good.

That’s the spirit of the sauce: Aromas, flavours, and subtle stimuli. An emulsion is a stable combination of fat and liquid. The durability of this combination is favored by various substances and factors. Basically, the better the foundation for an emulsion is prepared, the more liquid it can absorb, and the less fat is needed. The more precisely you adhere to these laws, the airier, tenderer sauces you will make with less and less fat.

Let’s take mayonnaise as a classic example of an emulsion: It’s very easy to make if everything is right. But be a little inattentive, nervous, or distracted, and it curdles immediately. That’s why cookbooks are full of rescue tips. However, you don’t need them if you work especially attentively and carefully right from the start, so to speak, on tiptoe. Think of it as if you were building a house and first preparing a solid foundation. All actions have a precise sequence. You can’t install windows before the walls are up.

Guidelines for Making an Emulsion: You always proceed in several steps. First, the base emulsion is prepared. This requires little liquid and protein- or slime-containing ingredients.

The starting ingredients vary depending on the recipe: Mustard, mustard seeds, flaxseeds (slime), swollen rice (slime and protein), cooked legumes, nutritional yeast flakes, egg, curd, yogurt (protein). A slightly acidic environment facilitates emulsification. Therefore, add some white wine, vinegar, or lemon juice at the beginning. Heat also aids emulsification. That’s why we process sauces that will be cooked as hot as possible. So, initially, a small amount of liquid is processed with the base ingredient into a fine, homogeneous mixture. This can be done by hand or in a mixer or cutter, depending on the need. The hand mixer is more of a last resort.


In the second step, with the mixer running continuously, oil is added very carefully and drop by drop until the base mixture binds well with the oil, becoming lighter and absolutely homogeneous. In the third step, if necessary, the emulsion is diluted with hot liquid, and the remaining oil is incorporated. This can happen a bit faster, but only as fast as the oil can integrate into the emulsion.
If necessary, dilute again with hot liquid.