The difference between good and bad cookery can scarcely be more strikingly shown than in the manner in which sauces are prepared and served. If well made, appropriate to the dishes they accompany, and sent to table With them as hot as possible, they not only give a heightened relish to a dinner, but they prove that both skill and taste have have been exerted in its arrangements. When coarsely or carelessly prepared, on the contrary, as they too often are, they greatly discredit the cook, and are anything but acceptable to the eaters. Melted butter, the most common of all - the "one sauce" of England and America, which excites the raillery of foreigners - is frequently found to be such an intolerable compound, either oiled or lumpy, or composed principally of flour and water, that it says but little for the state of cookery amongst us. We trust that the receipts in the present chapter are so clearly given, that if strictly followed they will materially assist the learner in preparing tolerably palatable sauces at the least.
The cut at the commencement of the chapter exhibits the vessel called a bain marie, in which saucepans are placed when it is necessary to keep their contents hot without allowing them to boil: it is extremely useful when dinners are delayed after they are ready to serve.
When this is done with the yolks of eggs, they should first be well beaten, and then mixed with a spoonful of cold stock, should it be at hand, and with one or two of the boiling sauce, which should be stirred very quickly to them, and they must in turn be stirred briskly to the sauce, which may be held over the fire, and well shaken for an instant afterwards, but never placed upon it, nor allowed to boil.
To the roux or French thickening (which follows,) the gravy or other liquid which is to be mixed with it should be poured boiling, and in small quantities, the saucepan being often well shaken round, and the sauce made to boil up after each portion is added. If this precaution be observed, the butter will never float upon the surface, but the whole will be well and smoothly blended: it will otherwise be difficult to clear the sauce from it perfectly.
For invalids, or persons who object to butter in their soups or sauces, flour only, mixed to a smooth batter and stirred into the boiling liquid, may be substituted for other thickening: arrow-root also, used in the same way, will answer even better than flour.
For ordinary purposes this may be made as it is wanted for use; but when it is required for various dishes at the same time, or for cookery upon a large scale, it can be prepared at once in sufficient quantity to last for several days, and it will remain good for some time. Dissolve with a very gentle degree of heat, half a pound of good butter, then draw it from the fire, skim it well, give time for it to settle, pour it gently from the sediment into a very clean frying-pan, and place it over a slow but clear fire. Put into a dredging box about seven ounces of fine dry flour; add it gradually to the butter, shake the pan often as it is thrown in, and keep the thickening constantly stirred until it has acquired a clear light brown colour. It should be very slowly and equally done, or its flavour will be unpleasant. Pour it into a jar, and stir a spoonful or two as it is needed into boiling soup or gravy. When the butter is not clarified it will absorb an additional ounce of flour, the whole of which ought to be fine and dry.
This thickening may be made in a well-tinned stewpan even better than in a frying-pan, and if simmered over a coal lire it should be placed high above it, and well guarded from smoke.
Bain Marie, or Water Bath.