September 15, 2009
by Gareth Mark
I was watching Top Chef: Las Vegas and saw one of the contestants struggling with sauce velouté. Really? You can't make a blonde roux and mix it with white stock? So, for future contestants, here's what you need to know, and I'll even teach you how to make it into a soup.
First, make a white stock. The basic characteristic of a white stock is that the bones aren't roasted. The carcass of a chicken with breast meat and thigh quarters removed will make a good quart or so of stock. A whole chicken is even better.
Start by putting the bones you're using into a large pot, cover with cold water by a couple of inches, then bring to a very lazy boil. While you're waiting, dice the basic aromatics: onions, celery, carrots, leeks.
After the stock has slowly boiled for about ten minutes, reduce the heat to simmer and carefully skim all the gray gunk off the top. Then add the aromatics, a bay leaf or two, and a small handful of peppercorns. Let simmer for at least 1½ hours, but longer is better.
Once the simmering is done--you'll decide by aroma--take the pot off the heat and let it settle for about 15 minutes before degreasing. For you Top Chef contestants, that means you gently skim off all the fat floating on the surface of the stock. After degreasing, lift as much of the bone and aromatics mixture out as you can, then gently pour the stock through a strainer to remove what you couldn't get out otherwise. Cool the stock as quickly as possible by setting it into an ice water bath, then refrigerate up to 3 days, or freeze up to 1 month.
Now, for the sauce velouté, bring some stock to a lazy boil--1½ cups will produce about the same amount of sauce. In a saucier make a blond roux by melting 2 tablespoons of butter, then adding 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stirring. After about 2-3 minutes, the flour will have cooked.
Remove the roux from the heat and add a few tablespoons of hot stock, whisking vigorously to mix without causing lumps. Return the mixture to the heat and slowly whisk in the remaining stock. Season to taste with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Strain through a fine mesh seive or chinoise and serve.
If you want to make a soup, use a quart of stock instead of 1½ cups. In the saucier, add 2 tablespoons of butter to melt, then 1 finely minced shallot to sauté for a couple of minutes, then 4 tablespoons flour. Proceed as with the sauce above. If you have some nice French brandy, a splash of brandy to finish the soup is rather nice. Adjust the seasoning, then strain to remove any lingering lumps and the shallots. The shallots are there to perfume the soup, not to eat. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and some minced chives.
When you taste this soup you will find it hard to believe that it's almost completely dairy-free and low-fat. It's velvety, as the name says, and if you've made a good stock, very flavorful.