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Jan 11, 2005 10:37 AM

Sauce SOS!!

  • l

Hi all,

I enjoy making my own simple chicken and mushroom dish with a white wine cream sauce, but am having a hard time keeping it from separating, and getting it thick (but not starchy, of course) and creamy.

Basically, what I've been doing is sauteeing the chicken pieces in butter, removing them from the pan, and adding shallots, mushrooms and chicken stock/white wine to de-glaze the pan and make the sauce. I squirt a bit of lemon juice in for flavor, but that, along with the wine, is what I fear is causing the sauce to separate slightly, once I finish with the cream, and it's always too thin, no matter how much cream I add. After simmering that for awhile, I re-add the chicken to the pan, let it simmer a short while, and serve the whole thing over rice or pasta.

I've never made a roux before, but have the sneaking suspicion that this could be my answer to heretofore untold heights of creaminess and thickness.

Can somebody please help? Also, feel free to change the sequencing of how/when I add the other ingredients to the pan.


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  1. Lisa, you are right that you need to add a little bit of startch (such as flour) to help the fat from the butter bind with the cream and the lemon.

    My suggestion would be that you add about 2 Tbls of all purpose flour to the pan after you take the chick out but before you add anything else. Stir until the flour is absorbed by the remaining butter and let it cook for about a minute. (this is a classic roux, if a bit unorthodox in method). Once you have a nice foamy off-white paste, slowly add your wine while whisking. Hold off on adding the lemon and cream for about 1 minute, which is how long it takes for the sauce to show its real thickness. It should be a bit thicker than you want the final product because the cream will thin it out. Lower the heat, add the lemon juice (and some finely minced lemon zest for extra lemony-ness) stir once more - check for salt and pepper, and add back the chicken.

    Best of luck!

    1. Roux is so much easier than people think -- all you really need to do is put equal parts fat and flour in the pan (here I'd use butter, but for a soup you can use oil too) and cook them together over low heat until they come together and turn the color you want. If you're making a white sauce, you don't want to cook the roux too long or it will start turning brown and therefore making your sauce darker. But basically, a minute or two after it's homogeneous you should be safe to add your other ingredients.

      I think you should be able to do your chicken-first method, then remove the chicken, eyeball your amount of butter in the pan, add the flour, make the roux, and then put your veggies in and proceed -- but perhaps someone else knows more about the order you should use. In any case, I'd definitely use a roux to thicken your sauce.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Adrienne

        You don't need a roux for this dish!!! Listen to Pete-man!!!

      2. A roux would be one good solution to your problem. You could make the roux separately (what my boyfriend does to be on the safe side), or you could follow a lot of sauce recipes that will have you sprinkle flour on your oil/shallots directly.

        To do it the way I do, put equal parts room temperature flour and oil in a small pan over medium low heat (1/2 cup each is a good starting point and enough unless you're making a huge bowl of sauce). Whisk together gently, and keep stirring until the flour starts changing color. It will give off a slightly nutty smell. If it's bubbling too quickly, turn the stove down. How "blonde" or dark you want your roux will be up to you once you get the hang of it. Darker roux has a nuttier, stronger flavor. A blonde roux will thicken without changing flavor too much. Just make sure it really has changed colors and started to give off aroma, or you might end up with raw flour taste in your sauce.

        Once the flour is golden, pour the roux into your sauce slowly, while whisking it in with your other hand. Do half, then stir your sauce for a minute or two to see how much it's thickened. Then decide if you want to add more roux.

        1. I would sautee your shallots and mushrooms in the oil and then sprinkle the flour over these - cook for another 2 or 3 minutes before adding your liquids. A rule of thumb is 1T fat + 1T starch thickens 1C liquid.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Shmingrid

            I could be totally wrong on this but I was under the impression that a classic roux was equal parts fat and flour by weight, not by volume. When we made roux in culinary school I remember it always being very thick and dry in the pan. Not soupy at all. Then we would add just a small amount of liquid and whisk it in vigorously before adding the rest of the sauce components.

            In response to another posters note about cooking out the flour taste: You should taste your sauce/soup and keep cooking it until the flour taste is gone (adding more liquid if it gets too thick). This undesirable flavor won't really cook out in the making of the roux itself.

            I would be very glad for an expert to come in and correct me if I'm wrong on any of this.


            1. re: ChefElias

              I have always eyeballed my "equal parts," but I definitely agree with you about how the consistency of the roux should be -- I've never made a "pourable" roux, as one poster described.

              1. re: Adrienne

                Me either, although my roux tends to thin out as it darkens to a golden color (if I'm taking them to a deeper color), but never pourable.

                I'm going to have to try out the ideas of measuring by weight. I always use a Tablespoon or two of each and it comes out fine. (And actually, I cheat a lot and use skim milk for all of my rouxs to cut down on fat and they always taste as if I'm serving something very decadent.)

                1. re: Krissywats

                  "although my roux tends to thin out as it darkens to a golden color (if I'm taking them to a deeper color), but never pourable."

                  I see the same thing, especially when I'm doing gumbo, where the roux is cooked for almost an hour to the color of dark chocolate. When I'm done cooking the roux, unless there is WAY too much oil, I let it sit for a couple of minutes, then drape paper towels on it over and over, throwing them away. I can get out quite a bit of unwanted oil out of the roux befor it goes into the gumbo. If not, you have to skin the final product, which is tedious and not as effective.

                  *Be careful* with this method - you can burn yourself. Roux is a lot hotter than boiing water.

              2. re: ChefElias
                Curriculum Vitae

                Roux has no appreciable water in it, so if it is pourable, that's a lot of oil, and that extra oil will separate from the larger sauce.

                But more importantly, you must add liquid it the roux, and slowly, and whisking all the while, because to do otherwise risks clumps of the roux not mixing an producing a kind of lumpiness that is hard to wisk away.

            2. Adding flour (or any starch) is one solution, but it is different than making a pan sauce, so let me throw out a different way. This doesn't make tons of smothering gravy, just a few spoonfuls of very rich sauce. This amount is about right for two people:

              Remove the chicken when it's just short of done, plate and tent with foil (it will continue to cook for a few minutes -- you're not going to add it back to the pan).

              If you use lemon, add it directly to the chicken while cooking, about half-way through the second side. It will have cooked away by the time you make your sauce, leaving a bright citrus flavor on the chicken without breaking your sauce (that's certainly the culprit with your current method).

              Heat should be medium high.
              Add shallots and mushrooms and saute until mushrooms just begin to release their moisture (about 2-3 minutes)
              Add about 1/2 cup of white wine (or sherry, or brandy), scraping up the bits of fond, reduce rapidly by 2/3 or more.
              Add about 1/2 C heavy cream (not milk or H&H) and reduce rapidly
              As this approaches a sauce-like consistency (through reduction only), add 2-3 T cold butter, whisking constantly, a bit at a time. This emulsifies the butter and gives the sauce a velvety smooth consistency.

              Spoon immediately over the chicken and serve.

              The thickness of the sauce is dependent on how much you reduce it. But it's a sauce, not as thick as gravy. You can add more or less butter, depending on the threat to your waistline.

              For a very elegant occasion, you may want to strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer.

              You can add lots of stuff other than mushies and shallots if you want. Herbs, for one. Julienne carrots and celery. Shaved fennel & Pernod is interesting....

              4 Replies
              1. re: Pete-Man

                That sounds fantastic. I'll try this method on my next dish. You say it has to be this for the sake of thickening?

                1. re: Krissywats

                  Heavy cream just works better. Milk is way to thin, and h&h breaks pretty easily if there's alcohol or significant acidity left in the pan.

                  As Rude Boy points out, it >>is<< rich.

                2. re: Pete-Man

                  Your method sounds the best, however when whisking in the butter at the end, the pan should not be over high heat. This would cause the sauce to break. Whisk in butter off heat, to a nicely reduced and hot cream mixture and you'll create a nice emullsion.

                  1. re: Pete-Man

                    This sounds nice and rather tasty, but it is a reduction and not a sauce, and it will be high in butterfat. I usually never reduce heavy cream by 2/3, especially on a weekly basis. I reduce the heck out of stock and wine all the time, but if the poster is using canned or boxed stock, then it could be very salty if you aren't careful.

                    Plenty of sauces contain roux - that doesn't make it "gravy" or "pan gravy." The original poster seemed to be trying to make a cross between a veloute and a bechamel type sauce, but with no thickener. I think that a veloute with cream added would be appropriate for this dish, as the chicken stock would add richness w/o fat and compliment the main item.