It was the unmistakable aroma of caramelized mirepoix that wafted through the entire test kitchen-1.
The chicken, lightly dusted with flour flirted with the oil. As if one would spread themselves on the Florida beach getting tanned, she lazily lay there in the hot pan with the brown of Maillard reaction spreading on to her white skin. The carrots, onions and celery were having their own good time blending with each other as they released their foodgasmic flavors….
He looked sideways towards his friend who was busy sweating over his skillet. His friend was a little panic stricken as he explained the situation to the head Chef. Apparently, to quicken his process of making a silky smooth Espagnole he had increased the flame a teeny little bit. The chicken had seared well and the mirepoix seemed well browned but that little extra push of heat had suddenly set off a frenzy of over-excitement in the ingredients; And the heated stainless steel skillet was of no help either. The result was obvious – burnt carrots, charred onions and whatever was left of the celery lay dismally on the surface. His friend’s disappointment was pretty palpable as he sat there trying to read the few pages of theory of the five mother sauces until everyone finished their dishes.
“Food!!”, yelled our head Chef, in the middle of the class, (it was his habit to give some unique, pompous sounding philosophy),” understands emotions. You treat the ingredients like they understand you. To cook a perfect sauce add a little love, a touch of care and be patient. A sauce boiled is a sauce spoiled!”
Seeing that he heaved a sigh of relief. Few minutes ago he too was tempted to increase the flame a little bit to speed up the process. But he just realized that among all the important ingredients added to make any of the mother sauces, time was the most essential of all. He slowly tamed the urge and focused on stirring the vegetables and the meat patiently. A few minutes later, they started clinging on to the pan, a shade of dark brown and tender. He pushed his patience level a little further allowing them to caramelize more and yet not be burnt. The heat was high, steady and continuous giving them all the more chance to get charred but just not yet. He took a deep breath of the delicious aroma and knew the time was right- this was the fine line between wonderfully caramelized ingredients and completely burnt ones. The mirepoix was finally just about to go over to the darkest side when he poured in a few ounces of Bordeaux into the pan. The chicken sizzled, the pan hissed, and the onions, carrots and celery began exchanging flavor gossips with the wine.
“Deglazing is important. When you have pushed any ingredients to their farthest flavor limit you add a touch more of that ruthless acidity- it brings them all together. It blends, it gives the flavors a perspective. It fits and it creates a wonderful, delicious, subtle yet divine tasting sauce that you have tasted!”, the Chef piped in.
He did not know much about all that but just that his sauce was almost perfect. It coated the back of the spoon well, had no lumps, surely no black spots revealing anything burnt and gave off a really enticing aroma. He strained the sauce and arranged the chicken in two plates. The ‘nape’ was done and the dish was garnished. He took the other plate to his friend to share….. they both dug into the food gleefully discussing the movie they had long been planning to catch after college.