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Last week we covered homemade marinara. This week we will continue with sauces and you will learn the technique of making a very versatile scampi sauce.
Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Scampi sauce?! Isn’t that only for shrimp scampi?” No, it is not. Think for a moment about the components of a scampi sauce: lemon, butter, wine, garlic… Sounds delicious, right? Well, with the right technique, you can make this sauce and then use it as a base for so much more.
Let’s start with the scampi sauce and then we can discuss all the variations that can be made from this wonderful sauce.
I will start with your "mise en place," which simply translates as, "put in place." A well-organized mise en place is a chef’s best friend. If your ingredients are prepped and ready, then the actual cooking of the dish will go very smoothly. You will need a two quart saucepan, because we want something deep enough to hold all the sauce liquid until it gets reduced. Next, you will want ¼ stick of unsalted butter. Remember, we use unsalted butter so we, the cooks, can control the seasoning.
You will also need garlic puree. Make garlic puree by blending whole peeled garlic cloves with canola oil in a blender. The ratio is 1:1, so if you use 1 cup of garlic, then you would use one cup of canola oil. We use this instead of plain garlic because it helps keep the garlic from burning, distributes the garlic evenly through the dish and it avoids any large pieces of garlic.
Also, you will need a good Chardonnay. Please, don’t cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink. Any flavor in the wine gets concentrated as you cook it and it reduces. So, if it was bad before cooking, it will be horrible after. This doesn’t mean you have to cook with a $50.00 bottle either. Just something you enjoy drinking.
Don’t want the wine? Then substitute one of these stocks: chicken, fish or vegetable. Just make sure they are homemade or low sodium. Remember, the same rule that applies to wine, applies to stock. If it is high in sodium when you add it, it will be a salt bomb by the time it is reduced.
Additionally, you will need a large lemon, fresh basil and fresh thyme.
Okay, let’s start cooking!
Melt the butter over medium heat. As it is melting, add one teaspoon garlic puree. Now, we wait for this to come to a froth. A froth is when bubbles start to form on the top of the butter, but there is no browning. Your garlic at this point should just be slightly tanned. Time for the wine! Add one cup Chardonnay (or stock), stir and continue to cook uncovered. The liquid needs to reduce by 1/3. Once reduced, squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add one teaspoon of the fresh herb mixture (basil and thyme) finely chopped. Stir again and you have a scampi sauce!
But there is one more thing, we must now salt and pepper. Add this at the end, a pinch at a time, tasting after every pinch. When the sauce tastes well-seasoned, stop adding.
Easier than you thought, wasn’t it? Okay, let’s talk about all the wonderful sauces we can now make from this scampi sauce.
Do you like spice? Then add ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes with the herbs. To make a smoky and spicy scampi sauce, simply add a teaspoon of chipotle. Chipotle powder is made from ground jalapenos that were slowly smoked over a wood fire. I really like the depth of flavor that comes from that long wood smoke.
Want a piccata sauce? Then you add one tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped. Capers are the unripened flower buds of a plant. They are picked, dried, then pickled in a vinegar and salt brine. We rinse them because we want SOME of their salt, just not all of it.
For a southwestern sauce, add a few tablespoons of chopped roasted red pepper and use cilantro instead of the basil and thyme.
Mediterranean? Yes, we can do that too! After the sauce has reduced add 1 small chopped tomato and ½ tablespoon finely chopped Kalamata olives. Kalamatas are large black olive from Greece with a meaty texture. If you can’t find them, then substitute black olives. Finally, replace the basil and thyme with fresh oregano.
Here is one more, a Northern Italian sauce, a favorite of mine. Simply add one tablespoon finely chopped salami and one tablespoon of your homemade marinara sauce. With this variation, use the same chopped herbs as in the scampi sauce. Add marinara and salami after sauce reduces.
There you have it! You can now make a variety of delicious sauces using the technique of one. Have fun and use your imagination, you never know what you will create! As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.
Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.