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Broken sauce

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SpikeC

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Last night I made some scalloped au gratin potatoes, with a layer of thin sliced ham and a little lacinto kale for color. I cooked some onions in a 1/4 cup of butter, then stirred in a tablespoon of flour, followed after cooking it in by 1 3/4 cups of milk and a cup and a half of cheese and brought it to a boil then simmered a minute or so until it thickened. This was poured over the potato assemblage and baked at 325 for 1 hour 20 minutes, then a bread crumb cheese topping followed by another 20 minutes to brown.
The dish came out of the oven with a pool of clear liquid around the perimeter of the spuds. When removing a serving the presence of what looked like curds were in the liquid. I assume that this is what is known as a "broken sauce". Can anyone tell me how to this happened and what I can do to prevent another occurrence?
Thanks for any insight!

:scratchhead:
 

Vertigo

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Old Mister Spike, sat on a dike, eating his curds and whey. Don't boil cheese! Make the bechamel, then whisk in the cheese when it's off the heat. Also, what kind of cheese are we talking here? Some cheeses are more tolerant of prolonged exposure to high temps than others.
 

SpikeC

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One cup of Tillamook white vintage extra sharp cheddar and 1/2 cup of gouda.
 

mhlee

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You used one quarter cup of butter to 1 tbsp of flour? That's a 3 to 1 ratio of fat to flour.

The amount of flour is less than what is usually used. An additional tbsp of flour would have likely made a more stable sauce. Many recipes call for a 3 to 2 or 4 to 3 ratio of fat to flour. You could have even used a 1 to 1 ratio of fat to flour, although that could have made your milk and cheese mixture too thick.
 

Vertigo

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Cheddar turns to chunky slop when it boils. Get the bechamel to a simmer long enough to cook out the flour taste, take it from the heat, then whisk in the cheese. I can't promise you that nearly 2 hours at 325 won't still kick it's butt though, but you'll have a better start.
 

SpikeC

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I got the basic recipe from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. I thought the flour/butter ration looked odd, but tried it as written. The recipe called for natural sharp cheddar, and the boiling for a minute was part of the instructions.
 

James

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Old Mister Spike, sat on a dike, eating his curds and whey. Don't boil cheese! Make the bechamel, then whisk in the cheese when it's off the heat. Also, what kind of cheese are we talking here? Some cheeses are more tolerant of prolonged exposure to high temps than others.
+1
 

Vertigo

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I got the basic recipe from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. I thought the flour/butter ration looked odd, but tried it as written. The recipe called for natural sharp cheddar, and the boiling for a minute was part of the instructions.
Betty Crocker, while and excellent source of some culinary knowledge, may not have been the leading authority on Mornay sauces.
 

SpikeC

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So who has a good au gratin potato recipe?
I have a couple of passaround knives that need more work to do!
 

Eamon Burke

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I'll tell you what happened!

You didn't have enough fat in the sauce to keep the proteins from bundling up on each other and making buddies when the heat got too high. Next time, use half-and-half, or better yet, cream. If your dairy is at least 24% milkfat, it will not curdle without severe convincing--you can boil it down to like 1/6 of it's previous volume and it won't do anything but get thicker and maybe brown.

White wine has an enzyme in it that will help prevent curdling.

Having a thickener suspended in your sauce will help too, just like the fat.




This is all information I got from On Food and Cooking. After reading that chapter, at work, I made an Alfredo sauce with cream, chicken stock, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, a goodly amount of blonde roux, white wine, herbs, salt and pepper. I let it full-on boil for 15 minutes, and all that happened was it got thick and delicious.
 

mhlee

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I missed the one hour forty minutes - was reading on my phone. That's a long time.

I used a recipe from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking successfully. Just take it easy on the nutmeg.
 

SpikeC

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Thanks, Eamon. While the milk was not fat-full, there was quite a bit from the cheddar and the double cream gouda. I also did add some white wine before the flour.
Every recipe that I find on the net seems to be really close to what I did.
 

Eamon Burke

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Even full-fat milk is only 3.5-4%. I buy Heavy whipping cream that is 33% milkfat.

The fat in the cheese is busy dealing with the enzymes in the cheese that make it into cheese, so there's not enough to go around.

I know it often seems impossible, but I've baked mac and cheese with cheddar and heavy cream, and it didn't chunk up at all. Plenty of fat to keep things smooth. :cooking:

As far as recipes on the internet--I've learned in my time catering that about 80% of people on the internet are either very happy with terrible food, or just don't know better. :lol2:
 

mr drinky

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I'll defer to the pros about the food science, but my gut says Eamon is on to something. Most of my scalloped or au gratin potato recipes have heavy whipping cream. My current favorite has 1 3/4 C of whole milk and 1 3/4 C heavy whipping cream. Here is the recipe I use and it always comes out great -- but it isn't au gratin.

k.
 

Lucretia

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I can't find the original recipe with quantities/baking time, but for potatoes gratin:

rub the bottom of a casserole with butter.

Repeat the following layers until you're happy:

thinly sliced garlic to taste
sliced potatoes (soak the potato slices in cold water while you're prepping the other ingredients)
pour several Tbsp whipping cream over potatoes
salt, pepper, nutmeg (optional)
Shredded parmegiano reggiano
Dabs of butter

Bake in a 350-375 oven until bubbly, potatoes are tender and cheese starts to brown. I like to use a shorter pan with larger area to get as much of the browned cheese topping as possible.

IMO, you can't have too much cream and cheese. I like 'em juicy. Eat this too often and you will die. But you will die happy.
 

Jim

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Sorry to hear about your troubles spike. Really interesting thread though.:doublethumbsup:
 

SpikeC

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The problem here is that I don't want to load more fat into this than is there already.
 

Vertigo

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Adding more fat is not going to prevent your cheddar from turning to glop when it boils. Cheddar is not parmesan.
 

Vertigo

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I love cheddar in a gratin. I recommend not boiling your cheese. ;)
 

Eamon Burke

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Oh you can melt the cheddar down(below boiling) and once it's a consistent sauce(with enough fat content), boiling won't hurt it. I do this for 12-20qts of Broccoli Cheese at work about every week. Sometimes it's not thick enough, and if I thicken it with cornstarch to fix it, I've gotta boil it for a few minutes so that it thickens all it's going to--or else it might turn paste on the line.

If you want to go low fat, you're going to have to up the slurry. But enough starch to keep the cheddar from coagulating is going to be so thick it won't be nice au gratin once the potatoes break down a little and thicken it more, and it cools a little--it'll be gluey. I'd switch to a blue cheese.

...Or a recipe that doesn't boil the cheddar.


:2cents:
 

SpikeC

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OK, I have some things to try, thanks a lot for all the input!
 

dough

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you got a lot of got a lot of good replies here.
i think your sauce cooked too long when you baked it.

if you are happy with the sauce one thing you could do to reduce cooking time would be to blanch to potatoes then just bake til golden brown in a fraction the time.

an easier fix might be if you pour your sauce over your potato then cool the whole thing then bake it off once cool. watch out the potato and sauce doesnt sit in the danger zone too long though or you will create a whole new fun problem.
 

BraisedorStewed

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I would take the flour out of the equation. I slice my potatoes put them in a sauce pot cover with cream season and cook over a very low flame until they are done, stirring just enough to prevent the bottom from scorching. The cream will get very thick, like a good mornay and will actually have a cheesy smell. If you want to incorporate cheese, pull the finished product off the heat, when it cools slightly, stir in the cheese and pop the whole thing under a broiler until crispy brown.

Just another method to try out, good luck.

Drew
 

bieniek

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Just braise ox cheeks or chump or whatever part of beef you wish, just remember where the flavour is.
Braise it looong and slooowly and dont forget the basics of love, celery, garlic, leeks, carrot, parsnip, onions, red wine, nice sized thyme/bay leaves and some button mushroom sliced.

Now, I would say to first cool the meat in the liquid, as it will drink up to 10% of it, then reheat and do the following, but again, some people dont like 3 days recipes.
After braising, take meat out, cool slightly, and when warm pick. Liquid reduce with the veg in until just starts to thicken, not more, strain through muslin or fine sieve.
[its good time now to think of little cornstarch, not to thicken, but to keep the sauce from splitting while reheated again as part of gratin]
Reduce more until you have glace. Season with whatever you feel like, some oyster sauce/worcestershire wouldnt hurt it, but its your choice.
Now mix the picked meat with the glace, did it absorbed almost all?How does it taste at the moment?

Slice wild mushroom into 1/2 cm slices. Fry on butter once, take out, strain, then fry twice keeping the butter for finely chopped onions/garlic. Fry it together and I like loads of parsley on them :)

Now, potato slice on mandolin but hey, just slice it, at home I dont care if I see my fingers through the slice...
Butter the baking tray, its up to you whether you want to mix the meat with potato and then bang it on, or you want to layer it up. I would do layering.
Start with few extra layers of spuds on the bottom, then seasoning, then meat, 2x potato layer, seasoning, mushroom, 2potato, seasoning, meat etc, but do as you pleased. I do like when theres more potato on the botton, allows you to cut nicer, but that only matters if you plan to cool it down and cut cold/reheat.

Anyways, please eat it after 15 minutes of taking out oven.

Im not really huge fan of heavy creamed potato with cheese falvouring, do you have to?
 

MadMel

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I don't do any cheese or flour in my Gratin. Basically, heat your milk, season it (salt, pepper, nutmeg), add some creme fraiche, throw in your cut potatoes (I'll usually go with charlottes). Cook on low heat for about 20 mins. Gotta stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. transfer to a baking dish that has been rubbed over with some butter and garlic. pat down, dot with some butter all over. Into a pre-heated oven @ 180 Celsius for about 1 1/2 hrs. I cover my gratin with foil until the last 45 mins or so then remove the foil to brown the top. If you like, parmesan may be added in place of salt

The potatoes should not be rinsed till they are free of their natural starch. That's what will thicken your sauce.
 

ThEoRy

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I usually par blanch my potatoes before I assemble the gratin. This way you don't have to bake it nearly as long. 350 for about 45 mins. Take the top off crank it up to 425 and brulee the top for 5 mins or until golden brown.
 

ajhuff

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I think au gratin refers to the dishware, iirc. However, thanks to America's love of potatoes in a box from Betty Crocker, potatoes au gratin has become synonymous with cheesy potatoes to the average person on the street.

-AJ
 

Andrew H

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I think au gratin refers to the dishware, iirc. However, thanks to America's love of potatoes in a box from Betty Crocker, potatoes au gratin has become synonymous with cheesy potatoes to the average person on the street.

-AJ
Au gratin refers to it being baked in a gratin dish, and a gratin dish is used to cook something that will be topped with cheese (or breadcrumbs, etc) and browned. That's the entire point of the vessel, to increase the surface area to volume ratio so you get a wonderful crust.
If you cook your potatoes before putting them in the oven you should have more success. That's just a terrible recipe from Betty Crocker, sorry Spike.
 
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