Sauces and Such

Great sauces are an important skill for every home cook to master as they are often a critical component of a meal.

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Let’s take a closer look at three ingredients that you’ll be using in this week’s menu: soy sauce, Worcestershire, and sesame oil.

Soy sauce, traditionally made from fermented soybean paste, is a Chinese condiment, known for its salty, umami, flavor. It can be added directly to food, used to season meat, or incorporated into recipes and is often eaten with sushi, noodles, and sashimi. It has a long shelf life but is best kept in the fridge to ward off any funky aromas which can develop if it’s left unopened in the pantry for too long. Health concerns are commonly raised over soy sauce, mainly in relation to its high salt content, so If you’re looking to limit your sodium intake, pick up a salt-reduced variety, which is now widely available at grocery stores.

Worcestershire sauce is not only hard to spell and pronounce, but it’s also essential to traditional caesar salad dressing, cocktail sauce, steak tartare and more. This fermented condiment was created in Worcestershire, England, and imparts a wonderful umami flavor to foods. It contains a wide range of ingredients, of which anchovies are commonly one. It can be used directly as a condiment on meat and in the famous Bloody Mary cocktail as well. It’s worth noting that fish sauce – a pungent concoction made from fermented anchovies – can be used as a substitute for Worcestershire and soy sauce, but in smaller amounts since it’s even more pungent.

Sesame oil is a type of vegetable oil notable for its nutty aroma and taste. It is used as a flavor enhancer in many cuisines, but especially in Asian food. Derived from (you guessed it) sesame seeds, it comes in toasted and non-toasted varieties. The non-toasted kind is milder in flavor and used as cooking oil, whereas toasted sesame oil is mainly only used as a seasoning. Sesame oil works particularly well in stir frys and vinegar-based marinades and dressings since it balances out sharp, acidic flavors. Many Japanese bakeries have begun to use it as a substitute for butter as well! Outside of cooking, traditional Chinese medicine uses it to improve circulation and nourish the hair.

Sesame oil works particularly well in stir frys and vinegar-based marinades and dressings since it balances out sharp, acidic flavors.

Other must-haves in the liquid department include coconut milk, which makes a wonderful, rich base for curries and stews, and balsamic vinegar, which can be used far beyond a drizzle for salad. Because it holds a spicy kick, balances out the rich flavor of meats, and imparts great acidity to vegetables, it’s definitely a front-of-the-shelf staple for home chefs. Less used in many kitchens is sherry vinegar, but it’s a magical concoction that can be used in many different ways, especially in vinaigrettes and marinades. A few splashes also make a wonderful addition to baked beans!