The secret to elevating any meal from meh to memorable is all in the sauce. A delicious sauce is a sure-fire way to boost flavour and add texture and dimension to any dish. These three classic sauces from Junior Chef Showdown judge and mentor Lynn Crawford are super versatile and can elevate any weeknight dinner from just delicious to simply divine. From a creamy, cheesy Mornay sauce (daughter sauce to the French béchamel) to a simple and fresh Sofrito (a Latin American staple) to a Chinese black bean sauce that’s bursting with salty umami flavour, you’ll be making these staple sauces again and again.
Chinese Veggie Stir Fry With Quick and Easy Black Bean Sauce
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yields: 4 servings + 1 cup of sauce
Black Bean Sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 green onion, minced
3 Tbsp fermented beans, soaked in water for one hour, drained and mashed with a fork
½ cup mirin
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp water
1-½ tsp cornstarch
Chinese Veggie Stir-Fry
2 heaping Tbsp of Black Bean Sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
2 cups sliced or torn shiitake mushrooms
½ cup Vidalia onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into ½ inch strips
2 Tbsp julienned ginger
6 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise
6 stems gai lan (Chinese broccoli), stems cut in half lengthwise, cut into 1-inch sections
1 cup sugar snap peas
4 cups cooked jasmine rice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 finger chili, thinly sliced
1. For the Black Bean Sauce, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add green onion; cook for 1 minute. Add beans and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add mirin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and pepper to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
3. Mix together water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to bean mixture and cook until thickened slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Spoon onto a serving platter and sprinkle with pine nuts and cheese.
5. For the stir-fry, heat up 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large non-stick skillet.
6. Place the mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
7. Then, add the remaining oil, onion and carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add red pepper and ginger into the wok and continue to cook for another minute.
8. Add bok choy and gai lan; cook until the gai lan is tender crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.
9. Stir in sauce to combine (add up to two tablespoons of water if needed to help the sauce coat the vegetables).
10. Serve hot over rice sprinkled with green onions, sesame seeds and chilies.
See More: Jordan Andino’s Perfect Burger Recipe
Creamy Mac and Cheese With Classic Mornay Sauce
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4-6 servings + 3 cups of sauce
Creamy Mornay Sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 white onion, peeled, root attached
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
⅛ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp white pepper
2 cups whole milk
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt, to taste
Mac and Cheese
Classic Mornay Sauce
½ cup diced pancetta
⅓ cup breadcrumbs (seasoned or plain)
8 cups cooked short pasta, such as macaroni or rigatoni
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1. For the Creamy Mornay Sauce, first, pin bay leaf to onion with the clove.
2. Then, melt butter in the medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour, nutmeg and pepper; whisk until the mixture is bubbling; cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute.
3. Gradually whisk in milk, add onion and increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a simmer and continue to whisk until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Strain out the onion, bay leaf and clove, reduce heat to medium-low and return mixture to saucepan.
5. Stir in the cheese until melted. Season with salt, to taste.
6. For the mac and cheese, heat oven to 375°F.
7. Cook pancetta in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
8. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and add breadcrumbs. Cook until toasted, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
9. Toss pasta with mornay sauce and transfer to a lightly greased 2L casserole dish.
10. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.
11. Bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbling at the sides.
Refreshing Grain Salad With Authentic Sofrito Sauce
Total Rime: 35 minutes
Yields: 4 servings + 1 cup of sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 small bay leaf
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
¼ tsp pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 cups cooked farro
1-1/2 cups cooked barley
1-1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1 small bunch watercress
1 cup breakfast radishes, quartered lengthwise
1 cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, mint and cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1. For the Sofrito sauce, pulverize garlic with salt into a paste using the side of a chef’s knife on a cutting board.
2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat; add the garlic puree and cook for 1 minute. Add onion and herbs, cook until onion is translucent, for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes to the pan and cook until broken down and sauce has thickened slightly for approximately 4 minutes.
4. For the grain salad, mix together Sofrito, olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl.
5. Add grains, watercress, radishes and herbs. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Spoon onto a serving platter and sprinkle with pine nuts and cheese.