For anyone looking to diversify their culinary game, learning a few new sauces is a must. When I was writing the World Sauces Cookbook, it was always a pleasant surprise to note just how many different proteins a particular sauce could accommodate. A Rolodex of sauces at your disposal can heighten your standard fare and push you from “competent” to “skilled” in the kitchen. That’s a big level up.
Case in point, let’s says you’re in your comfort zone and know how to make grilled steak and French fries. A different sauce on each day of the week can take your taste buds on a completely separate journey each time you prep those two items. Whether you’re looking to wow a date, cooking for more people than you’re used to, or just looking to expand your gastronomic repertoire, these are the sauces that any home cook ought to know — plus recipes for three of my absolute favorites.
Mole Poblano — Pueblo, Mexico
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There are many variations of mole and most have a plethora of ingredients. For this reason, I feel like most people overlook making it at home. Also, they may have rightfully been led to believe that they will get it better elsewhere. However, a simple mole Poblano is fairly straightforward as it is tasty.
The mole I make most often comes from the grandfather of my Mexican friend Lola. Even though he is from Veracruz, his mole is an easy-to-make sauce that gets better each time you reheat it. An added bonus to making mole is that the leftovers are raging with flavor. I love making a batch and then eating it all week long. Make sure you get some bolillo bread rolls to help thicken things up.
Toum — Lebanon
Toum is a garlic emulsion not unlike alïoli in Spain or skordalia in Greece. Fair warning, this is for garlic lovers only — it straight up punches you on the nose. We in America tend to over-garlic everything, so this sauce is generally a hit (as our own food competing writers can attest). The secret to toum is achieving the perfect fluffiness and whiteness. This means using cooking oil like canola instead of olive, which will make it yellowish. Also, the authentic toum debate is decided on whether using an egg to emulsify the sauce is appropriate. I’ve heard historic defenses of both. If not using an egg, it’s important to add very carefully each portion of garlic and oil as you blend it so it doesn’t break. As an added bonus, it will last longer in the fridge. But using an egg is faster and easier to produce the desired outcome, your call.
Here’s the recipe from my pal TJ Trad, who as founder for Cura for the World, is as well-traveled as they come:
- 1⁄2 cup garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg white, divided
- 11⁄2 cups vegetable oil, divided 1⁄4 cup cold water, divided
- 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED
- Food processor
- Remove any green parts or stems from the garlic cloves (they tend to be sour) by degerming them. Slice each clove in half lengthwise, then use your finger to take out the little stem in the middle of the clove.
- In the food processor, process the garlic and salt for about one minute. Scrape down the sides for chunks, and process again.
- With the food processor running, very slowly add half of the egg white. Then very slowly add 1⁄2 cup of oil. Very slowly add a cup of water.
- With the processor still running, slowly add the remaining egg white, then another 1⁄2 cup of oil, then the remaining cup of water. Very slowly add the remaining 1⁄2 cup of oil, and finally, the lemon juice. This emulsification process should take about 15 minutes.