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Udon in Bonito Broth

udonIn this post I simply want to share a recipe I came up with at work using random things I had on hand to feed myself and a couple co-workers one slow Sunday evening. My French cooking back ground came through in some of the procedure of this Udon noodle soup, but the result still very much follows the Japanese tradition of noodles in broth. For the "guts": 1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled, shells reserved and roughly chopped into bite-size pieces 3/4 pound of Red Snapper fillet cut into 3/4 inch cubes 14 oz. dry Udon 2 oz. Celery heart sliced thin on a bias 2 oz. Leek white, sliced thin 3 oz. baby heirloom Carrots of mixed color or standard baby Carrots, sliced thin on a bias 2 oz. Scallion, sliced thin 2 oz. (3 spears) Asparagus, sliced thin on a bias 1/2 cup Sake or Dry White Vermouth For the broth: 2 quarts water 2 oz. or 56 grams shaved Katsuo (bonito) or 2 tablespoons instant Dashi a 4inch length of Konbu, wiped clean 1 cup light Mirin 1/2 cup Soy Sauce Juice of 1 Lemon Juice of 1 Lime 6 thin slices of fresh Ginger 1 teaspoon minced Garlic reserved Shrimp shells To start: Add the water to a large pot with the Konbu and bring to a simmer. In another large pot bring 3 quarts of salted water (it should taste like sea water) to a boil. Once the Konbu has come to a simmer, add the rest of the broth ingredients and bring back to a simmer. Allow this to steep on low heat for 20-30 minutes and strain, return the liquid to the pot and discard the solids (or make a "second Dashi" by steeping the solids again with the addition of another 1/2 oz. of Katsuobushi, and chill or freeze for use within a month). Coat the bottom of a large saute pan with a small amount of soy or canola oil and place over medium heat. Once heated, add the Leeks, Celery and Carrots and lightly salt, cook over medium heat until the carrots are soft but not thoroughly cooked. Deglaze with the Sake and reduce until the pan is almost dry. At this point add half the Dashi stock to the pan and bring back to a simmer. While that comes back up to a simmer, your other pot of salted water should be boiling. Add the Udon to the water and cook until the Udon is just past el dente. Strain and rinse the noodles under hot water if serving right away, or under cold water to reserve for later use and lightly oil the noodles for storage. All the while keeping an eye on the broth to make sure it doesn't come to a full boil. To finish: Divide the noodles among 4-5 bowls. Add the Shrimp, Red Snapper, and Asparagus to the simmering broth and bring back to a simmer, then kill the heat. Allow this to steep for 3-4 minutes to cook the meats, they won't take long and if cooked on high heat the Shrimp will get rubbery and the fish will fall apart. Divide this evenly into the bowls containing the noodles, top off with a little more of the left over Dashi stock if the noodles aren't almost fully submerged. Sprinkle a generous amount of sliced scallions over the top of each bowl and serve with chopsticks. Place a small bowl of Chili/Garlic paste in the center of the table with a small spoon for guests to use at their discretion. I used Shiso leaves to garnish for the picture, but that's optional, or Lime leaves would be a good substitute. If the three soup recipes I've posted weren't a clue, I am a huge fan of soups, especially Asian soups, and this one came out great. The key is in not overcooking anything so their natural flavors shine through bright and clear. I have a few other great soups in my repertoire, so expect to see those eventually. Until next time, live well and eat better! Jack

Beer Review: Morimoto and Bourbon County

morimoto-black-obi-soba-labelI'm going to take a departure from my usual M.O. with this post. I will be reviewing 2 beers I recently picked up that were so damn good I just had to write about them. The first one is from the Rogue brewery (great name, huh?) in Newport, Oregon. First off, let me tell you that any beverage with a celebrities name on it I tend to shy away from, be it beer OR wine. Rogues new Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale is an exception to that rule, and being a huge Morimoto fan my curiosity got the best of me and I HAD to try it. I was not disappointed. It claims to have roasted Soba in it, but that seems to be a supporting character to the 6 different malts and the 4 different hops used in this wonderfully nutty and crisp offering. Nutty and slightly sweet right up front, pleasant floral hoppiness in the middle, bright and well balanced clean bitter/sweet finish, with a mild nose of pure Caramel and Carafa malts and a faint smokiness. You barely notice the 30 IBU and at 36 degrees Lovibond the color is a gorgeous deep, rich, nutty, reddish brown. The slightly mild carbonation makes the medium bodied mouth feel that much smoother. This beer would pair well with any mushroom based dish, grilled or roasted red meats or pork, spiced duck, dark berries, Butterkase and aged White Cheddar cheeses, and chocolate. Rogue brewery has rarely disappointed me, though sometimes they do tend to get a little out there, but this may be one of they're most well rounded libations yet. It goes for around $7 - $8 for a 22oz. bottle, but it's money well spent for a beer enthusiast. bourbon-county-stout-newThe next beer is from Goose Island in Chicago, their 2009 Bourbon County Stout. This special run beer was surprising, to say the least. Goose Island makes good beer, but not usually mind-blowing. They've outdone themselves with this one. As the name implies, they age this stout in used Bourbon barrels, infusing the beer with the nose and flavor of that sweet, caramel heavy Kentucky whiskey. The nose hits you first, Bourbon, held up by the black barley scent typical of the style. Satin smooth mouth feel, and sweet Bourbon flavor right up front, bitterness from the heavily roasted malts in the middle, finishing with a heavy sweetness, hoppy bitterness, and the smell of Bourbon yet again as the fumes rise up through your nasal passages from the back of your throat. The heavy bitterness from both the black barley and the hops is well balanced by the sweetness. Lightly carbonated and almost syrupy with a whopping 13% alcohol, this sweet stout is purely a desert beer. Heavy, very sweet, but wildly complex, this beer would pair well with creme brulee, chocolates flavored with Raspberries, ganache, balsamic vinegar, peaches, granny smith apples, bleu and very sharp goat cheeses (Humboldt Fog comes to mind), or anything with enough balls and acidity to stand up to it. I wouldn't pair this with citrus, though. While citrus does have the acidity, citrus flavors are pretty mild and would get overpowered leaving you with just the acid cutting through. This is, however, a pricey one at around $14 per 22oz. bottle, but it's a rare treat for fans of the style, and fans of good Bourbon alike. 22 ounces is hard to get through on your own due to how heavy and sweet it is, so have a friend help you or serve it in small snifters after or during desert at a dinner party. I will endeavor to bring you new beer reviews in between my recipes, commentaries and rantings as I encounter inspiring new malty goodness. Until next I post, live well and drink better! Jack http://www.rogue.com/ http://www.gooseisland.com/

Butter Sauces

Seared Salmon with Strawberry Beurre Rouge

Seared Salmon with Strawberry Beurre Rouge

With this article I'd like to continue with the sauce theme and tackle butter sauces. These can be some of the most difficult to pull off, but with a little patience (and practice) there is no reason a non-pro can't (ahem) churn these out at home. I'll be discussing three variants, particularly. Beurre Blanc, Beurre Rouge, and Beurre Nantais. The differences being Beurre Blanc (literally translated from French meaning "white butter") is made with white wine, Beurre Rouge (red butter) is made with red wine, and Beurre Nantais (named so after the town of Nantes in France) utilizes cream as a stabilizer. Monter Au Beurre, or mounting a sauce with butter (again with the fancy French terms, but is essentially what a Beurre Blanc is, a mounted sauce), simply means emulsifying butter into it, most commonly done with pan sauces (see my post about pan sauces here) the term applies to any sauce that has butter emulsified into it at the last step. While Hollandaise does have butter emulsified into it, it doesn't fall into the same category as a "mounted" sauce. Because of the presence of egg yolks and the butter is clarified it's more akin to a cooked mayonnaise, but that's a different article entirely. I'll start with Beurre Blanc. A classic French sauce that goes well with fish, shellfish, chicken, or any mild flavor that has little to no fat content of it's own. This is a very tricky sauce, however, and does not reheat well without alteration, so be sure the recipe you use will yield the quantity you will require for the meal with little to spare. More on reheating in a minute. The basic Beurre Blanc is really nothing more than white wine, a little vinegar, herbs, and butter. So why all the fuss? It's the way these ingredients are combined, the technique, that will make or, quite literally, break the sauce. So here's a basic recipe for Beurre Blanc (Beurre Rouge is made exactly the same, just substitute red wine for white): 1 750 ml bottle semi-dry white wine, Chardonnay works best 1 cup good gelatinous chicken stock (optional, but if chosen don't use anything prepackaged, homemade or not at all is the way to go) 2 tablespoons vinegar, tarragon vinegar is killer for this, champagne or standard white wine vinegars work well too, simple white vinegar need not apply. 1 teaspoon Tabasco (not generally used in the "classic" method, but I like the little added zing it provides) 2 shallots sliced fairly thin 1 tablespoon crushed garlic 5-6 thyme stems, whole 2-3 bay leaves, depending on size 1 tablespoon whole black pepper corns 1 pound butter, unsalted, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and well chilled Salt to taste Yield: 2.25 cups, or 18 oz., standard portion size for a dinner plate around 2oz. Begin by coating the bottom of a heavy sauce or saute pan with a little oil and heating over medium heat. Sweat the shallots until very soft, but not browned and add the garlic, pepper corns and bay leaves. Crank the heat up a little and saute this until the garlic is fragrant and deglaze with the whole bottle of wine (remember to have the wine uncorked and close at hand lest the garlic brown you you have to start over). With the wine, add the vinegar, Tabasco, and herbs. Reduce this on high heat until the pan is nearly dry, down to about 2-3 tablespoons total volume. If using the chicken stock, add that and reduce again. Cut the heat back to medium and slowly start whisking in the chilled butter cubes. This is the tricky part. You need to maintain a constant temperature to get the proper emulsification. Just under, but not quite boiling. If it boils it breaks, and you're left with a puddle of melted butter and acid. Adding the cold butter to the reduction will drop the temperature significantly at the beginning when the total volume is very small. So go slowly, adding one or two cubes at a time and whisking until almost fully incorporated. As the volume of the sauce increases with the addition of more butter, so too does it's ability to absorb the thermal shock of adding the cold butter to the hot sauce, so gradually increase the speed at which you add it. When all of the butter is fully incorporated, kill the heat and run the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Hold in a hot, but not boiling, double boiler until needed. If done right, you will be able to hold the finished sauce for quite a while at nearly boiling without it separating or "breaking". The key is maintaining the temperature at just under a boil. If the sauce does break on you, there is little you can do to save it. Beurre Nantais is nearly identical to Beurre Blanc with the addition of cream as a stabilizer. After the wine is reduced simply add 1 pint of heavy cream (as per that recipe above) and reduce that down to about 1/2 cup total volume before whisking in the butter. This increases the stability so well that a lot of restaurants will add cream to all of their butter sauces that need to be held hot for hours on end. I, personally, despise this.... If the cook in charge of making the sauce in the first place is taught proper technique and doesn't rush through it there's absolutely no need to add cream to a Beurre Blanc, turning it into a Beurre Nantais. The flavor and texture of a proper Beurre Blanc, or Beurre Rouge, is like satin. It glides off the tongue and leaves a very clean finish. Beurre Nantais, because of the added cream, does not. Not that I'm against Beurre Nantais, it just needs to be used differently. Most applications for Beurre Blanc require that smoother texture and cleaner finish. If your first attempt at making Beurre Blanc fails (and most of the time the first attempt does) there is a way to salvage the effort, though it won't hold for long at all and isn't always successful. Dip a spoon in it several times over the course of whipping in the butter, if it doesn't coat the back evenly, it's starting to break. If you notice this before you finish adding the butter, pull it off the heat immediately. In a separate pan, start reducing the pint of cream used in the Beurre Nantais recipe. When reduced to 1/2 cup start whipping the remainder of the cold butter into it, slowly as before. When you've run out of butter, slowly drizzle in the broken Beurre Blanc and add a little more salt to make up for the added fat content, effectively making a Beurre Nantais. Strain as before and use ASAP. If you do end up with left-over Beurre Blanc, you can chill it and reheat it for later use. However it involves the same process for fixing a broken sauce, again, turning it into a Beurre Nantais. Simply reduce your cream, as before, and treat the left-over, chilled sauce as you would the cold butter in the original recipe, whipping it in slowly then adjusting the seasoning.
Steamed Mussels in Beer Blanc

Steamed Mussels in Beer Blanc

Once you've got the technique down you can start experimenting with different varieties to better tailor the sauce to the dish at hand. At one of the first meetings of the Estate I made a variation on Beurre Blanc using beer instead of white wine and adding tomatoes and sliced scallions at the very end. This was poured over steamed Mussels and was quite a huge hit. At another, more recent meeting, I made a Beurre Rouge with strawberries instead of shallots and garlic to be served with seared Salmon. The variations are limited only by your imagination and creativity, so by all means ignore what your parents told you and play with your food! Jack

Fresh Spring Pea Soup

At the behest of our ring leader this will be a simple post this time around containing the recipe for a soup I made at the most recent meeting of the Estate. The theme was spring, and all the bounty Michigan provides for that season (sadly, though, our resident forager was unable to get his paws on any Morels). It was a fresh Pea soup with mint, lemon and Ramps. It turned out to be the hit of the gathering, and it was the simplest dish I prepared that evening! Proving once again that simplicity in most cases is key. Chef/owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, Rick Bayless, has been quoted as saying, "how many ingredients can be taken away?" and still have a perfect dish. This recipe very much follows that philosophy. So, without further boring you with quotes and rambling: Spring Pea Soup: 3 pounds fresh Peas, without husks 1 bottle semi-dry white wine (Chardonay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, ect.) 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped Juice of 2 lemons 4oz. butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes Ramp stalks, sliced very thin Salt to taste Water Procedure: Start by reducing all but 4oz. of the wine in a 1.5-2 gallon heavy bottomed pot over high heat, reserve the remainder of the wine. When reduced by 3/4 add the peas and enough water to cover them by an inch or so and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the peas are soft, 15-20 minutes after a simmer is reached. Kill the heat and add the mint. Pour into a kitchen blender (in batches if needed) and puree until smooth, or to the desired consistency. We left ours just a little chunky, but that's a point of preference. Were I making this in a restaurant I would have made it as smooth as possible and then ran it through a fine sieve to get a satin smooth texture.
Finishing with butter.

Finishing with butter.

If blending in batches, pour into a mixing bowl or other temporary container until all the peas have been pureed. Add a little water to the blender if the mixture gets too thick to properly mix. This done, return to the pot over medium heat and add water until it's the desired consistency, loose enough to pour off a spoon but not runny. Slowly reheat, stirring often, we don't want to cook it too hard or we'll loose that freshness of the peas and the color will turn to the all too familiar dull "army green" of canned peas. Once steam starts to rise from the surface, add the butter and stir until fully incorporated. Now, bit by bit, and tasting between each addition, add the lemon juice. You may not need all of it, you just want enough to barely taste it through the peas and mint. That done, add the salt, again, bit by bit, and tasting between each addition. You shouldn't need all that much. Stir in the remainder of the white wine and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

That's it! Bowl it up and garnish with the sliced Ramps! Here are a couple alternative garnishes that will work just as well, if not better: Wash the Ramp greens and cut across into 1/2 inch strips. Dredge in corn starch and deep fry until just crisp. Season with a pinch of salt as soon as they leave the hot oil. Saute some fresh Morels in butter until soft. Add the sliced Ramp stalks and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add the Ramp greens (cut as for the previous suggestion) and cook for another minute. Season with a pinch of salt. Delicate cooking and simplicity are the key to this recipe. I would normally use stock instead of just water but for this soup it would have dulled the impact of the star ingredient, the fresh peas. The whole idea of this dish was to showcase their freshness at the height of the season, leaving their flavor as bright, vivid, unobscured and fresh as possible. The result is a recipe that even a retarded monkey could pull off successfully, and a soup that's worthy of any fine dining restaurant menu. Until next time, live well and eat better! Jack

Sauces 101

One of the biggest mysteries to home cooks, it seems, is how to make sauces like the professionals. To this i have only three words to say. Stock, stock, and stock! It's not hard to make at home, keeps well frozen, and will make a world of difference. So why don't more people learn the ways of stock making? Well, the time involved might be one reason. Another might be the availability of pre-made substitutes, like "broth" and now even pre-made stock itself. However, broths have way too much sodium to use in a reduction sauce (or any sauce for that matter), even the "low sodium" varieties, and even the pre-made stocks have too much sodium and not enough gelatin to make a rich and unctuous demi-glace. The only resort left to the home cook is to make it ones self. But there are some things that need to be kept in mind when the decision has been made to undertake this noble art. stockFirst, to roast or not to roast (the bones). You'll get deeper, richer color and flavor if you roast the bones, but will that suit the dish being prepared? A lighter spring dish, possibly not. This is generally just a point of preference, but if you're making a veggie stock I would definitely roast them a little just to add some color (remember, color=flavor!) before putting them in the stock pot and adding any liquid. Escoffier (if you don't know who Escoffier is, check the links I included) makes a distinction between stocks made with roasted bones and those without. Calling those with roasted "brown stocks" and those without "white". This terminology has long been industry standard. Having made your decision on this, next we consider our aromatics, the vegetables used for background depth and aroma. Typically this is a mix of equal parts onion, celery and carrots, the classic French mirepoix. I have also seen recipes that call for 2 parts onion, 1part celery, and 1 part carrot. Leeks and other green onions also make a nice addition. Bay leaves, whole black peppercorns, whole garlic cloves and herb stems are pretty standard as well. Though with herb stems it's always best to err on the side of caution using only mild herbs such as parsley and thyme. Rosemary, tarragon, and the like are easy to over use and may not be suited to every application of the finished stock, such as a reduction sauce. The amount of water used is crucial, as well. It should be just enough to cover all the ingredients. Too much and you'll have to reduce it longer, too little and you won't get the proper flavor extraction from the bones and vegetables. How long and what temperature to simmer a stock at is also something I should cover, as this is of extreme importance to the clarity, gelatin content and flavor of the end product. You don't want to bring your stock to a full boil, in any case. This makes any proteins extracted from the bones tighten up and cause the stock to be cloudy and murky. Affecting flavor as well, it could cause some bitterness. A gentle simmer, where the surface of the water is just barely rolling and little if any bubbles are surfacing is ideal. Here is a simple table of guidelines to follow as far as simmering time goes: Vegetable stock = 20-30 minutes Fish stock (also known as fumet) = 40 minutes - 1 hour Poultry stock = 6-8+ hours Meat stock = 8-12 hours Now for a basic stock recipe. We'll go with chicken since it's the most versatile. 3-4 pounds of chicken carcasses, washed and (optional) browned in a moderate oven, 325ish 1/2-1 pound white or Spanish onion, roughly chopped (if using leeks as well only 1 pound) 1/2 pound celery, roughly chopped 1/2 pound carrots, roughly chopped 1/2 pound leeks, washed and roughly chopped or 1/4 pound of scallions 4 whole garlic cloves 3-5 bay leaves (depending on size) 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 10 parsley stems 10 thyme stems Sweat the vegetables and garlic briefly in the bottom of a tall stockpot in a small amount of light oil. Add the rest of the ingredients, and just enough water to cover. Simmer for the amount of time specified above, and gently skim off any scum that rises to the surface with as little agitation as possible, another thing that contributes to cloudy stock. So by NO means stir it. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, lightly tapping the side of the strainer. Don't try mashing it through or otherwise scraping the inside of the strainer, it'll leave the stock murky. After it has cooled down place it in the refrigerator. When it has been chilled and the fat has risen to the surface and solidified, remove the fat and from here you can package the stock (which should resemble loose Jello at this point) in air tight 1 quart containers and freeze it for several months. Or, if you know you will use it soon and in small amounts, put it in an ice cube tray, or both. Don't be too hasty in throwing away that fat though! It makes a great fat component in the place of butter for roux, which will totally crank up the volume of flavor you can get out of a chicken sauce or gravy you might be thinkin to use the stock for! Keep it in a sealed container in the 'fridge if you plan on using it within the week, or freeze it for a couple months. The only real difference between this and other preparations I mentioned in the time table is the differing bones used. For fish you should sweat the washed bones as for the vegetables, and if using fish heads cut out the gills. Spines and heads are best, and choose a fish that's not too oily. Halibut spines are one of the best to use, as well as sturgeon. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are a bit too strong and oily for stock. If you have salmon bones they can be used as long as the stock is going to be utilized in a heavy dish, like a fish stew. Beyond that, the ingredients are pretty much the same. Some tweeking may be required for different applications once a little more experience is gained, but that should be a good start. Consomme is any stock further clarified to get a glass clear product, but that is a post all unto it's self and a procedure that many professionals even have a hard time getting right. For meat stocks, like beef, veal, venison, and lamb, roasting the bones and vegetables is more common, but still optional. Again, keep in mind what you will most likely use the stock for. Soups? Don't roast. Stews? Up to you. For a demi-glace, the undisputed king of sauces, veal stock is used, but even here roasting is a matter of preference. If you do decide to roast the bones and vegetables, half way through the roasting of the bones brush them with tomato paste and allow it to brown slightly. This suits a demi-glace well since there will be tomatoes further in the process. So, that said, here's another recipe. For Demi-Glace: 2 gallons good veal stock 1/2 pound of shallots, sliced 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 1/4 cup tomato paste 1 bottle (750 ml) good medium bodied red wine, Shiraz is my personal favorite 4-5 whole thyme stems 1 inch sprig of rosemary 1 teaspoon Red Wine vinegar 2-3 Bay leaves
Demi-Glace

Demi-Glace

In a heavy bottomed pan lightly sweat the black pepper, Bay leaves, and shallots until very soft over medium low heat. We're not looking to get any color on the shallots, just cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and tomato paste and turn the heat up to medium. Once browned slightly, add the wine and herbs and reduce the wine by 2/3 to 3/4. Here is where the veal stock comes in, and there are 2 ways to go about this next step. One way is to reduce the stock ahead of time down to 1 quart and add it to the wine reduction here. The other is to start the wine reduction in a pot large enough to hold the 2 gallons of veal stock and wine reduction at the same time and reduce down to 1.25 quarts. Either way works fine, it's just easier and quicker to use the 2 pot method since you can have the wine reduction going when the veal stock is almost finished reducing. Whichever way you go about it, keep tasting the stock throughout the reduction process, if you got a good amount of gelatin out of the bones used for the stock you might not need to reduce it as far. Point being, there are always variables, and by constantly tasting and knowing the target consistency you will avoid over reducing. When reduced to about 1.25 quarts strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and add the vinegar. Here it doesn't matter as much if you mash it through, though Keller swears not to, I think I'll side with him. You can store this in ice cube trays as well and add it to whatever you need to in the amounts you need it. Or just reheat in a pan over a very low flame (you don't want to reduce it further), pour over a grilled steak and dig in! Whipping in a small amount of butter gradually once the Demi is hot will smooth out the texture and give it a very clean finish. Another optional step best suited to veal and pork dishes. The ideas and recipes above are all French or French inspired. The Japanese, however, utilize stock as well, and have a very different approach. The most common stock used, and one of the key ingredients to Japanese cooking, is Dashi stock. This is made by steeping Katsuo Bushi (Skipjack Tuna, also known as Bonito) that's been dried and shaved paper thin along with Konbu (dried kelp) in water, much like making tea. There are readily available packets of shaved Katsuo at any Japanese grocer, and ready made Dashi No-Moto (Bonito stock base granules) as well. So it's really a matter of what level of dedication you have to reproducing this at home. I can tell you from experience the only real difference in any of these approaches is the salt content. The ready made Dashi No-Moto soup base has some salt content, where as you can regulate that yourself if you buy the shaved Bonito or whole dried variety and shave yourself. However, most restaurants, even in Japan, opt for the Dashi base. The salt content is minimal and you only ever use Dashi for lighter preparations, so you don't need to use much, and it's never used in heavy reduction sauces so you don't have to worry about concentrating the salt content. That said, I would highly recommend the Dashi base in this case. The flavor profile is pretty much the same, and can be altered, in any case. Since we're on the subject of stock/soup bases, let me tell you my personal opinion on them, as a chef. They are a good thing! Surprised? I'm not advocating them as the main flavor component, by any means. If your stock sucks, your sauce is gonna suck, bottom line. I am, however, advocating them as a flavor enhancement, to be added at the end of the sauce making process. What's the most prevalent flavor in a base? Salt. Be it powdered, cubed, paste, what have you, they're all mostly salt. So treat them as such. A flavored salt, to add your salt content to whatever you are cooking and an extra flavor boost at the same time. Keep in mind the components, though, and add the base that is appropriate. Chicken base to chicken stock sauces, mushroom base to sauces that have mushrooms in them, ect. This can be an amazing way to enhance your cooking of pretty much anything. The most important thing in great sauce making is tasting while you go. Every step of the process, taste it! After a couple tries at making the same sauce or soup you'll get to know what it tastes like at different stages of the preparation. This will help you guide the process to achieve the desired results. Indeed, this is an important concept in ANY cooking. Taste as you go, and taste often! In most professional kitchens there are huge boxes of disposable plastic spoons for this very reason. Tasting spoons are a cheap, one use, sanitary way to keep your cooking on the right track. I could speak volumes on the subject of sauces (there is a reason why the sauce maker, or "saucier", is the most highly respected position in a French kitchen), but I'm not tryin to write a damn book here. I'm trying to show that restaurant quality soups and sauces are very much achievable at home. All it takes is a little knowledge, and the desire to cook better and healthier. If there is anything I didn't cover that you are still curious about, please feel free to ask in the comments. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escoffier http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soup_stock http://www.cheftalk.com/cooking_articles/Making_Stock/112-How_To_Make_White_Stock.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consomm%C3%A9 Thanks for reading. Until next time, live well and eat better! Jack