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Jun 23, 2008 09:45 PM

Why Did My Sauce Break?

I am very much an amateur when it comes to sauces, so I would really like to understand what happened to a sauce I made the other night. It was a french sauce from Laura Calder's cookbook and I followed it exactly but when I added the cream I ended up with a curdled type consistency.

The recipe called for 1T of butter and 1T of oil. Fry some chicken pieces until brown, add back to the pan and cover for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken and make the sauce in the chicken juices. I added 2/3C of wine and a minced shallot and deglazed. Boiled for 5 minutes then added 3/4C cream and some herbs. The recipe said to let it simmer for another 3 and add lemon juice and serve. However as soon as I added the cream you could see that there was just too much oil and it was in no way fused. So I started whisking.. but it never came together.

What went wrong? Was it a temperature thing? The cream was cold... Maybe the proportions just weren't right? Maybe I should've poured off some fat before adding the wine?

Any help is appreciated :)

You can see a picture here:

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  1. Too much fat, I think. Sometimes you find too much fat breaks the emulsion even of things that were good before you added them, if that makes sense. Like if you add mayo too quickly to more fat it can break completely. Same with cream. Dump it into hot fat and it can separate. Lemon juice sometimes curdles dairy but the way you describe sounds like fat- esp if the chicken was anything but skinless breasts. Pour off the fat, and also make sure you reduce the wine- don't go by cooking time. This recipe sounds like the wine should be reduced to, I'd guess, 2 T or less when you add the cream.

    1. When you added the cream the sauce was too hot, so a temperature thing. I've done that :(

      1 Reply
      1. re: seahag

        I think both of these responses are right. I wouldn't put cream into anything boiling.

      2. Were you using 35% or higher milk fat cream?

        1. You needed to defat after browning and cooking covered for 25 minutes. As c'tine says, you needed to reduce the wine. This may be a repeat due to the stuttering system.

          1. Before you deglaze, pour off all the fat. If you browned the chicken properly, there should be brown bits, or 'fond', at the bottom of the pan. Thats where the flavor is coming from. After the wine has deglazed and reduced with the shallots a little, remove from heat and whisk in room temp cream.

            Just make sure you get rid of that oil, this isn't an emulsified sauce by any means, or even a beurre blanc, just a pan sauce finished with cream.