How to Make A Great Sauce–Tips from a Saucy Lady.

Yeah. And that woman is me.  Believe me, I’m no professional chef nor am I a professionally trained cook, but the one thing I do well is a sauce.


So true. Not only is my taste in classic clothing strong, but my taste for a classic sauce is the same!

Let me also add that as I continue on my weight loss journey, I refuse to starve myself.   If I starve, I will become cranky. If I become cranky I will become resentful. If I become resentful I will become very bitchy to Bonaparte.  My phone conversations with Oona will  have her saying “Mom.” “You need to stop this.”


If’n I don’t eat. I get very cranky and resentful!

And so—because the cool weather is here, and the days are becoming shorter, Bonaparte and I have resumed our “Saturday Night Feaster”.  Last Saturday we opened up the Feaster Season with Chicken Veronique—which I wrote about in Thursday’s post.

But I really want to touch upon what truly makes a meal special.  The sauce.

If you want to get a better understanding of what I mean when I talk sauce, check out Netflix and watch the film “King Georges” about French chef Georges Perrier.  When I saw the film last week for the first time,  a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I am just like him with the sauce obsession.  I wrote to him but he didn’t write back. Just another delusion in “The Life Of My”!


If you like French food–and want to know why Perrier is so passionate, watch this movie! It is great and very entertaining. You WILL laugh!


And though I am just as passionate about my sauces as Georges is, I don’t smoke. Hmmm..maybe falling ashes into a sauce will give it a more “smoky” taste!

But I made Bonaparte watch this documentary Friday evening and he was quite entertained by it. I wanted Bonaparte to understand just how passionate Perrier was about sauces–especially since Bonaparte insists on sauces with our weekend meals!

Anyway, last night we had Cornish Hen. Now—Cornish hen is fine on its own. But to make it truly spectacular, you need a sauce.  I’m not talking about heavy, consistency-as-thick-as-paste gravy. I’m talking about a true sauce.

You don’t need flour to make a thicker sauce.  And you don’t need to go to the grocery store to buy a jarred sauce that cost about the same as making it from scratch.  And when you make a sauce at home, you are using fresh ingredients.  Caveat: If you cannot find dried cherries, substitute with the “cherry” craisins.

What you do need to make a great sauce is time.  And patience.  That’s why I don’t do sauces in the summer.  I don’t have the patience during the hot weather months to stand guard over the hot pot.

My only exception is Béarnaise because I can make it in the blender.


Photo from Wikipedia because I am too lazy to look through my own photos. ANyway, this is the color of a good Bearnaise. I’m a firm believer in the more tarragon in the recipe, the better!

I started off using Julia Child’s recipe but realized that Tyler Florence’s is more user-friendly.  (Click that purple printing for his recipe. It is very easy and not intimidating!)Now I just use my own instincts.


Child recommends Bearnaise for chicken and fried fish. I’m sorry but I would never put a Bearnaise on chicken. I’m iffy about putting it on fish too but for the birds. No. Just my opinion!



The Julia Child recipe for Bearnaise.  As you can tell from the filthy mess of these pages, I’ve used this recipe–a lot!  Truth be told–it’s the only recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” that I use.  I know this is sacrilegious, and as much as I love watching her on old TV shows, I find her recipes to be very convoluted to read properly. 

Anyway, back to the sauce I made last night.  I don’t know about you, but our cold-weather Saturdays are spent usually running errands in the earlier part of the day and relaxing during the afternoon.  This is the time I start the prep work for our dinner.

I’ll show you in pics what I did last night because it’s so much easier than my rambling. My apologies my friends!


Tonight it is Cornish Hen with my very own Cognac Cherry Rosemary Creme Sauce and Turnip greens!

henWe have our organic cornish hen from the Wayne Farmers Market..


I “Spatchcock” the little birds.

spatchcocking-doneSee that backbone?  It’s going to be made into a broth for the sauce.


The little birds covered with red onion and waiting to be prepped with a herbed butter in between the meat and the skin, topped with canned cherries and into the oven. 

Now for the sauce:


The backbones of the hen, along with necks and gizzards are brought to a boil and simmered for an hour. I also add some salt and pepper. The broth will reduce to about a cup.


This photo was taken before I ran back to the store for fresh Rosemary.  I had to go to more than one store. Believe me, the Rosemary is what adds the extra depth and flavor to this sauce.  Here’s the ingredients.  If you cannot find regular dried cherries, (Trader Joe’s has ’em) the cherry Craisins are a fine substitute.

canned-cherries-ill-use-the-juiceWhile the broth is cooking, drain the canned cherries.  The juice will be used in the sauce and the cherries will be cooked with the birds…


Let the dried cherries/craisins soak in about a cup of the cognac–but you will need more cognac later…

I forgot to take a photo, but while the cherries are draining and the Craisins are soaking and the broth is cooking,  peel and mince one large or two small shallots.  Melt two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, add the shallots and cook them until transparent.


Now you are going to keep an eye on the sauce like a nosy neighbor!


Add the broth to the cooked shallots, and cook it till reduced to about a half of a cup, add the cognac soaked Craisins and the cognac that you soaked them in…


Let it boil until it reduces a bit more…


Then add the cream.  Cook this until it boils–and let it boil until it almost reaches the top of the sauce pan–then lower the flame to below a simmer. KEEP STIRRING.  Add more cognac, salt and pepper (use white pepper) and a couple of sprigs of Rosemary as well as chopped Rosemary.  Let it cook on low for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Taste it to see if you need more cognac. Take it off the heat and let it rest while the hens cook.

And after the hens are cooked and taken out of the oven to rest for a few minutes, put the sauce back on over a low flame and add two tablespoons of COLD or CHILLED butter. The cold butter thickens the sauce and makes it super-silky!


While the food cooks, it is time to enjoy an aperitif or two.  We looked through this book  about Bonaparte’s grandfather while enjoying our Kir Royals!


Cornish Hen plated and….

close-up-of-the-sauce-with-cherries-and-rosemaryThe silkiest, smooth and most flavorful sauce ready to be spooned over the birds!

Bonaparte is looking forward to more dinners with sauces–maybe next weekend it’ll be steak au poivre or steak with Madeira sauce…

Steak with foie gras, mushrooms and madiera sauce

Steak with Mushrooms, Foie Gras and Madeira sauce.  I”ll do a step-by-step next time I make this!

See?  You CAN enjoy a good and hearty meal while losing weight–just don’t do it every night!  And you CAN have a great sauce without being heavy or using a ton of flour!

Oh..and after dinner, we watched a GREAT movie starring Vincent Lindon.  “The Measure of a Man”.  I HIGHLY recommend this film to ANYONE who has lost a job and has been on the search for a long time.  It is gripping and intense. To make matters more gut-wrenching, Lindon’s character has a special needs child.  It is filmed documentary-style. And there isn’t a ton of dialogue but Lindon acts mostly with his eyes and facial expressions.  He definitely deserved the Cesar award last year for best actor.  If you have Netflix–you are lucky because it was recently added!


The remarkable Vincent Lindon in a very emotional film–it doesn’t get more real than this!


Yeah. Let me know if you love a good sauce or if you’ve tried your hand at sauces–or what you think of sauces in general! I’m the nosy neighbor!!! Let me know if you’ve seen the two movies mentioned here too!!!!

Today’s song is a sort of “Six Degrees of Separation”.  Sandrine Kiberlain. She’s a French actress but also a singer–and I picked up her CD on one of my trips to Paris–it ended up to be one of my faves and I love this song “Le Quotidien”. But–it turns out she used to be married to Vincent Lindon!! Anyway, it is a very sweet song and her voice is just so very soothing!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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10 Responses to How to Make A Great Sauce–Tips from a Saucy Lady.

  1. Judy says:

    You are my sort of woman!! Sauces are almost the most important part of the meal! I love making proper hollandaise and bearnaise in a bowl over gently simmering water, it’s very therapeutic and you can make it in advance and reheat gently. I use good old Hellmann’s for everyday stuff
    but love making mayonnaise by hand, Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking taught me how. Salsa verde is another fabulous sauce, I add a little creme fraiche as it’s a little sharp without. I love the idea of cherries and cognac, must definitely try it. Thanks for a great post, Catherine.

    • Catherine says:

      JUdy. Oh you are so correct that the sauce is the most important part. AND–we are MAYO kindred spirits! My go-to is Hellman’s too–but there is nothing–and I mean nothing like a home made mayo!!!! Definitely try making a sauce with the cognac and is excellent over hen, quail, duck breast..I’m sure you will love it!! XOXOXOXOX!!!

  2. KB says:

    Looks amazing. I’m not saucy at all. I rarely think to make a sauce. Mayo and salad dressings, yes. And Cornish game hens! I used to be able to buy them for $2 each.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi KB. Oh..I also remember when Cornish game hens were dirt cheap. Bone marrow used to practically be given away and now its expensive–same with kidneys!! I think the only meat that is still inexpensive isn’t even meat–it’s hot dogs!!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  3. julietC says:

    Yum! What a delicious post, and yes I love sauce (particularly anything with tarragon, and especially béarnaise, although I am a sucker for salsa verde in summer with a good anchovy kick, OK I admit – I just a complete gannet…) – but just as much as a good sauce I also love a good stock, to me a gently simmering stock pot is a thing of beauty and very exciting (sad I know, but stock is all about the potential to be something wonderful and delicious). I am going to have to try your recipe, and I totally agree a good sauce does not need flour – and neither does a good home made gravy mmmmmmm.

    I have a lovely pot of ham hough stock in my frig waiting for me to go home and make a good Scottish lentil broth for tea tonight, that’s one of the joys of the cooler weather – soup!

    • Catherine says:

      HI Juliet. I actually have a jar of stock that I made from herbs and mushrooms. I’m with you though–a large pot of stock simmering on the oven is not only a thing of beauty but it makes the home smell so great with that savory scent! Tarragon–I even put it in tuna fish. I love herbs!! Ohhhhhh boy–that lentil broth sounds mighty good!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  4. doodletllc says:

    I was totally intrigued with how to make a sauce…I had no idea…love the photo spread with instructions…perfect…I’m saving this one to try. Thanks Catherine!

  5. Rosemary Eychenne says:

    Woa, Catherine. Steady on there. I added up that you must have about half a litre of cognac in your sauce by the time you’ve finished. It can’t Not be good !!
    No,only joking, it looks delicious. Will try it. Last weekend, we went to the ‘fete DE la palombe ‘ in a little village in the Pyrenees mountains. A palombe is a migrating pigeon which has the misfortune to fly over that part of France on its way to warmer climes for the winter. Misfortune because hunting these birds is a very serious business down there. The morning started off with bands and choirs and the parish priest blessing a few palombes that they set free for the occasion. He also blessed the palombes we had for lunch afterwards. They were cooked in a thick sauce made from their own blood. Have to say, it was bloody delicious. Hey ho, another day in paradise :).

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Rosemary!Oh, I would have been admiring the priest for blessing the bird that I was about to eat. I have a funny story about pigeon. When we were staying at Daniele’s apartment some years ago, she made pigeon–or squab. Anyway, she was afraid to tell me what it was because she heard that Americans could be fussy about what they eat. As soon as I cut into it I figured what it was because the meat was darker. So I said, Daniele, this pigeon is absolutely delicious! We all had a good laugh over that!
      But yeah, I do add quite a bit of cognac to the sauce to give it some “depth”!! Oh, I would LOVE to learn how to make a good blood sauce!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!

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