Monday, June 15, 2009

Two caramel sauces

On the right, the caramel sauce from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchena bittersweet syrup the color of Kikkoman that you make by melting sugar and letting it gently burn. You use this sauce in savory braised dishes known as khos. I've made two khos in the last week, and they were both wonderful.
1. beef kho. Nguyen's recipe calls for rough flank, which is not the same as flank steak. Rough flank is a gnarled and gnarly and very cheap cut available at Chinese markets. There's a reason you have never heard of rough flank: the morsels of exquisite meat are sandwiched between thick layers of white membrane that I had to cut with shears. You hack your rough flank into smallish pieces, tie it into bundles, braise for a few hours in caramel sauce, then struggle to serve and eat with a modicum of decorum. The ratio of edible protein to gristle and other tissue was low, but I have to agree with Nguyen that the meat we did eventually excavate was "exceptionally flavorful." It was like pot roast except beefier, the flavors somehow condensed. If you want to try this yourself -- and though I've done a poor job selling, it was good! -- the recipe is here.

2. salmon kho with galangal. I've never before used galangal, which is sold at Asian markets and looks like this: 
You slice it into a pot with salmon, pork belly, and caramel sauce then cook the dish for an hour or so. This kho is fun because you don't have to worry about overcooking the fish, you actually want to overcook it so that the salty-sweet sauce impregnates every melting bite.

It was sort of sad to turn precious salmon into just another sloppy stew -- part of what makes salmon special is its creamy shell-pink color, tidiness, and overall delicacy -- but the results were ambrosial. Recipe is here.

Now for the caramel sauce on the left. This is the salted butter caramel sauce from David Lebovitz's Sweet Life in Paris, a wicked concotion of sugar, cream, butter, and salt. Lebovitz recommends slathering the stuff on buckwheat crepes, which was delicious, but it would also be tasty on ice cream, crackers, toast, waffles, spoon.


  1. For some reason, the first carmel sauce looks more like a big slab of raw liver.

  2. ...or maybe a beef heart. No, really, it looks very spreadable and tasty. I've had so many misadventures when trying to make caramel that I certainly shouldn't be criticizing other people's efforts. I think it looks tastier than the bowl on the right, which looks more like beef consomme to me.

  3. I thought the bowl on the right looked like soy sauce.
    I've had disasters making caramel as well. Two years ago I made a croquembouche for Xmas and then burned the caramel that you drizzle over it, but tried to convince myself it was okay. It wasn't. It ruined the whole thing, but everyone was very polite.

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