Saucy Summer is Over But Our Dreams Aren’t409
with Ashlee Redger
Test Kitchen Chef
Let’s go back in time: it was early June and there was a crowd gathered around the meeting table at our home office in Denver. A fiery debate was raging. Heads whipped from side to side to follow the argument as each person brought their individual stance to the table. Just as you thought one point was settled, a new perspective would shift the conversation. What were we discussing? The actual and final description of what qualifies “A True Sauce”.
This might sound familiar to you—Michael Kimball recounted the match when we officially declared that June through September of 2019 would be a totally Saucy Summer. Since then, we’ve learned a lot, cooked a ton, and maybe even grown a little too. After all of that we came to the conclusion that what makes a sauce is—well—a sauce. Probably.
What We Learned
Sauces can make or break a dish. For example, even baked skinless boneless chicken breast can approach respectability if it’s shredded and slathered with great barbecue sauce. They can act as the inspiration to so many different culinary creations—so Savory Spice co-founder Mike Johnston dropped a little knowledge about how he’s been influenced by spicy cultural sauces and the ghost of a 19th-century restauranteur (of course) while developing some of Savory customers’ favorite blends. Of course, that wasn’t enough. He also taught us how he converts existing seasoning blends to create super-quick, flavor-packed drizzles… because sauces don’t have to be a difficult affair.
That is not to say they can’t be complex, though (at least in flavor). I took a step back into my culinary training and immersed myself in the five classical French sauces. Not literally. I read my years-old scribbled notes, dragged the heaviest reference book off of my shelf, and revisited my old textbooks to write an introductory guide to that all-important quintet of the pillars of European cuisine. And we got to eat all the buttery, tomatoey, creamy, savory sauces–it’s a tough job.
What We Cooked
Of course, we had to get hands-on if we really wanted to live the Saucy Summer life. We slipped on our aprons and grabbed our spoons. First, we paired almost everything with Tex-Mex Queso (I’ll take one of those Quesos Benedictos please!). Michael from the Test Kitchen followed all of the strict nacho-isms to make nachos that proved that restraint has absolutely no place when you have DRIZZLE-ABLE CHEESE.
But a person can not live on cheese alone (I’ve tried). That’s where bacon comes in. What’s that you say? Okay, okay—you’re right. Daily bacon doesn’t suit everyone’s lifestyle, and it’s definitely not a sauce. But really good smoked paprika has the über savory, smoky flavor that we all love and it can be made into its own special umami-sauce… or stirred right into your favorite cream sauce, marinara, gravy, salsa, etc. etc. etc. That definitely suits my lifestyle.
If you can’t tell, summer was going great with all this amazing food around. But then August hit, temperatures inched toward triple digits, and we all started wondering if sunscreen was a sauce (the answer is no—unless it’s coconut flavored). As every hot-weather culture knows, the best way to deal with intense heat is to up the spice and sweat it out. So that’s what we did. Joseph Garcia, noted chile head, busted out the ground chiles to make chicken wings that were glazed with a sweet and tangy sauce. Oh yeah, and he put habanero powder in one batch because he likes seeing people suffer (please, no one tell him about ghost pepper). You can use Hatch Green Chile Powder or the aforementioned smoked paprika if you’re a “baby”—his term, I would use the word “normal.”
So… What is a sauce?
It’s something that tops something else—like hollandaise on eggs Benedict. No, wait. It’s something that can be smeared, like bacon sauce in a BLT sandwich. Not like pimento cheese though; it has to be drizzle-able, like queso! Under no circumstances is it something you would just eat with a spoon… unless it’s applesauce that you happen to be serving with pork chops. A sour cream dip is definitely not a sauce. Until you add a little milk and dress your salad with it, that is. Okay, we’re getting nowhere with this. Maybe Savory Spice co-founder Janet was right in that heated first meeting: “It’s not about what it is, it’s about how you use it.” Saucy Summer might be ending, but that doesn’t mean good food has to end too. Go find out what “sauce” means for you, and use it well. We can’t wait to hear about it.