Rethinking French Sauces

Rethinking French Sauces

Rediscovering the Art of Sauce-Making

As I step into the bustling kitchen of Camperdown Elm, the aromas of simmering stocks and sizzling ingredients fill the air, igniting my senses and piquing my curiosity. This Brooklyn-based restaurant has long been lauded for its innovative take on French cuisine, but today, I’m here to explore a particularly intriguing aspect of their culinary prowess: the reimagination of classic French sauces.

You see, I’ve always been fascinated by the intricate dance of flavors that unfolds in a well-crafted sauce. The way a silky béchamel can elevate a simple dish, or how a rich demi-glace can transform a humble cut of meat into a culinary masterpiece – it’s a kind of alchemy that has captivated me for years. And as I delve deeper into the world of Camperdown Elm, I can’t help but wonder: what new and exciting interpretations of these time-honored sauces are they exploring?

Challenging Tradition, Celebrating Innovation

I begin my journey by sitting down with the restaurant’s renowned chef, Elise, who greets me with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. “You know, when we opened Camperdown Elm, our mission was to challenge the status quo,” she explains, “to take the beloved flavors of French cuisine and give them a modern twist.”

As she leads me through the kitchen, I can’t help but be struck by the sheer level of precision and care that goes into every aspect of the sauce-making process. From meticulously selecting the freshest ingredients to the painstaking attention to detail in each step of the preparation, it’s clear that this is no mere exercise in culinary experimentation – it’s a labor of love, a quest to elevate the humble sauce to new heights.

“We don’t just want to replicate the classics,” Elise says, her eyes gleaming with passion. “We want to rethink them, to push the boundaries of what’s possible. And that’s why we’ve invested so much time and energy into exploring new techniques, new flavor profiles, and new ways of presenting these sauces to our diners.”

Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Classics

One of the first dishes she introduces me to is their take on the classic béchamel. “Instead of the traditional heavy cream-based sauce, we’ve created a lighter, more ethereal version using a blend of almond milk and vegetable stock,” Elise explains, gesturing toward the delicate, cloud-like topping adorning a perfectly cooked piece of fish.

As I take a bite, I’m immediately struck by the unexpected complexity of flavors – the subtle nuttiness of the almond milk, the depth of the vegetable stock, and the way the sauce seems to melt on my tongue, enveloping the fish in a velvety embrace. It’s a revelation, a masterful deconstruction and reconstruction of a beloved French staple.

But Camperdown Elm’s culinary team doesn’t stop there. In the corner of the kitchen, I spy a bubbling pot of what appears to be a classic demi-glace, but as I draw closer, I notice the deep, rich hue and the subtle aroma of roasted garlic and thyme. “We’ve taken the traditional demi-glace and infused it with a medley of aromatic herbs and spices,” Elise explains, her eyes alight with enthusiasm. “The result is a sauce that’s richer, more complex, and more versatile than the original.”

Embracing Experimentation and Collaboration

As I continue my tour of the kitchen, I’m struck by the sense of energy and creativity that permeates every corner. The chefs move with a fluid, almost choreographed grace, their hands working in perfect harmony as they whisk, sauté, and plate their creations.

“We’re always exploring new ideas, new techniques, and new flavor combinations,” Elise says, gesturing toward a stainless-steel pot simmering on the stove. “Just yesterday, we were experimenting with a wild mushroom sauce, inspired by the earthy, umami-rich flavors of the forest. And next week, we’re collaborating with a local forager to incorporate some of the season’s most vibrant, foraged ingredients into our sauces.”

It’s a level of culinary innovation that I’ve rarely witnessed, and I can’t help but be both amazed and envious. These chefs are true alchemists, transforming the humble into the extraordinary, and I find myself eager to be a part of their journey.

Elevating the Everyday

As our conversation continues, Elise shares another fascinating insight: “You know, we don’t just want to create exceptional sauces for our special dishes – we want to elevate the everyday, too.” She leads me over to a station where a chef is carefully drizzling a vibrant green sauce over a simple roasted chicken dish.

“This is our take on a classic chimichurri,” Elise explains. “We’ve combined the traditional parsley, garlic, and olive oil with a touch of sherry vinegar and a hint of smoky paprika. The result is a sauce that transforms a simple roast chicken into something truly extraordinary.”

I take a bite, and the flavors explode on my tongue – the bright, herbaceous notes of the parsley, the subtle warmth of the garlic, and the tangy, acidic kick of the vinegar, all perfectly balanced and elevated to new heights. It’s a revelation, a reminder that even the most humble of dishes can be elevated through the thoughtful application of a carefully crafted sauce.

Embracing the Unexpected

But Camperdown Elm’s culinary team doesn’t stop there. As I continue my exploration, I’m introduced to a series of sauces that push the boundaries of what I thought possible. There’s a vibrant, citrus-forward hollandaise that breathes new life into a classic eggs Benedict, a silky-smooth cauliflower purée that serves as a base for a tender lamb dish, and a boldly flavored miso-based sauce that adds a delightful umami punch to a simple grilled vegetable plate.

“We’re always looking for ways to surprise and delight our guests,” Elise says, a mischievous grin spreading across her face. “Sometimes that means taking a beloved classic and giving it a modern twist, and other times it means exploring completely uncharted territory. But no matter what, our goal is to create sauces that are not just delicious, but truly memorable.”

Celebrating the Sauce-Maker’s Art

As I leave Camperdown Elm, my head is buzzing with the incredible flavors and techniques I’ve experienced. But more than that, I’m left with a profound respect and appreciation for the art of sauce-making – the hours of careful preparation, the precise balancing of flavors, the unwavering commitment to quality and innovation.

In a world where so much of the culinary landscape is dominated by flashy trends and attention-grabbing gimmicks, it’s truly refreshing to encounter a restaurant that is so deeply committed to the foundational elements of great cooking. And as I reflect on my time at Camperdown Elm, I can’t help but feel inspired to rethink my own approach to sauces, to experiment and explore and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

After all, as Elise so eloquently put it, “The sauce is the soul of the dish.” And at Camperdown Elm, they’re not just embracing that philosophy – they’re elevating it to new heights, one unforgettable bite at a time.