An All-Purpose Sauce Covers All

By Neman, Daniel | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

An All-Purpose Sauce Covers All


Neman, Daniel, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


I don't remember how I came up with my all-purpose sauce.

I know I was making a pot roast. The sauce tastes best when it begins with a pot roast. I suppose I was just looking for something new to do, pot-roastwise.

I was probably just playing around with flavor combinations I liked while looking for a way to make a cheap cut of meat more tender. So I began with a can of tomato pure or maybe crushed tomatoes (but I have also used diced tomatoes to excellent effect).

If tomatoes will make a chuck roast more tender, I theorized, then perhaps a little more acid in the form of orange juice will help break down the tough meat even more. I had an orange on hand; I squeezed it and drained the juice into the pot. Simple.

And then I added the spices that I think make the sauce stand out from pretty much anything else, ever: cloves and cinnamon.

Cinnamon and cloves are probably the two most predominant spices in my favorite kind of chili (both are used in Greek cooking and the chili was invented by Greek immigrants). So they were on my mind when I first came up with the sauce, and ever since, and long before it.

A delicate hand is necessary for these spices in this sauce. You don't want to go overboard with them. You want them to contribute to the flavor rather than overwhelm it; subtlety is the key. I use just two cloves, maybe three, and one stick of cinnamon.

Red wine goes in there, too, and onions and garlic for additional aromatic punch.

I made it, I tasted it and I realized right then that I had developed my all-purpose sauce.

Here's what I mean: I made it again last week (the first time was years ago). Last week's version was used as a braising liquid in which I cooked a hunk of beef.

That was the first night. The second night, I cut the leftover beef into cubes and served it on top of egg noodles with the sauce as a kind of pasta sauce. None of the beef was left for the third night, so I used the remaining sauce as a flavoring for ground turkey sloppy joe style that I served over rice.

Three nights, three different preparations, one sauce. It's versatile that way. And I actually made four different preparations, because the second night I also put slices of the beef on bread and covered it with the sauce for an open-faced sandwich. I just didn't mention it because I didn't want to seem like a pig. …

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