By But I like cocktails and lurking
I have mentioned before that there are five Mother Sauces in French cooking. One of those is Tomato Sauce, or Neopolitan Sauce. There are many, many variations on this one as anyone familiar with spaghetti sauce, lasagna, ketsup, or salsa knows. Today I want to talk about a tasty French/Indian/Spanish fusion we in Louisiana call Sauce Picquante (sauce peekahn). It has a unique flavor that, unless you know a couple of simple tricks, can be hard to obtain. It is going to be the base for a stew called (whatever meat you use) sauce piquante, in this case chicken and sausage sauce piquante. If you read my gumbo recipe, you will find this is very similar and equally easy.
A sauce Piquante is essentially a fancy roux. Instead of starting with flour and oil, we use a little oil and tomatoes. The tomatoes can be in the form of tomato paste, sauce, canned tomatoes, or fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes. Put 12 oz to 16 oz in a skillet over medium high heat. Mash them and stir them around until they boil, just like the basic roux, until they start to cook down. As the water evaporates and the tomatoes thicken they will also start to brown but you want this to happen slowly. Again, if it smokes or blackens, you have the stove too hot. As it thickens, it will become tomato paste and brown. When it gets to be the color of milk chocolate, add in an equal amount (4-6 oz) of ordinary dark roux and mix well. There you have it. A sauce piquante is a flour/tomato and oil roux – what some would call a tomato gravy.
My sister-in-law makes an excellent sauce piquante by mixing the flour into the tomato, then adding oil, and browning both simultaneously.
If all of this sounds like too much work for a base, then I will let you in on a little secret. Tomato paste is made by cooking tomatoes down, putting them into a can, and then steaming the cans to pasteurize them for preservation. This process often browns the tomatoes for you. You may have noticed that some canned tomato paste is brownish in color. That isn’t oxidation from a leaky can, it is cooked tomato. We want it like that.
If the paste is not already browned or browned enough straight out of the can, you can add a little oil and brown it very quickly in a skillet. Or not. It is nearly there anyway.
Sauce Piquante in Five Minutes
1 Six ounce can of tomato paste
¼ cup of dark roux (bought ready-made)
One 12 -16 oz bag of frozen seasoning mix (onion, bell pepper, celery)
One cube of beef boullion
1 tablespoon of minced garlic or 1 teaspoon of powdered garlic
1 teaspoon of Zataran’s liquid crab boil
1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
Dark chicken (8 boneless, skinless thighs or 4 leg quarters)
About 2 lbs of Andouille sausage ( ¼ inch slices)
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot. Just toss them all in willy-nilly. No need to mix or stir. That will happen when it boils. Add water until the level covers the meat, cover with a lid, and bring to low boil for one hour. Stir occasionally. Put away your ingredients and wash whatever dishes you have.
Serve over rice.
– Get yourself a microwave rice cooker. It is a simple plastic pot with a snap-on lid and a vent. It only costs a couple of bucks. To make your rice, put two cups of water, one cup of rice (basmati best), two chicken bouillon cubes, one and a half tablespoons of butter, and about one tablespoon of dried, sweet basil in the pot. Microwave on high for 15 minutes.
You can taste the rice but don’t let anyone else taste it before serving the meal. They will eat all of your rice right out of the cooker.
You can put this together and get it boiling in just five minutes with little effort. It has a very unique flavor and is hearty and satisfying. Outside of Louisiana, I have never had anything like it. It is the perfect dish for cold days or just plain ol’ hungry people. Be careful that no one overeats to the point of not being able to get up from their chair.