Chapter Two

Hard Times, Old Times, Good Times Sauces

A Word About Sauces

When you are cooking for hard times, sauces are a mainstay. With a good sauce, you can stretch ingredients, use less of the expensive portion of the meal, like meat, and more of the less expensive, like pasta, rice, potatoes, and corn tortillas. In hard times, stretching the more expensive ingredients is important. But even in good times, stretching the expensive ingredients is a good idea since they are those that are high in fats, calories, and the other things that should be avoided.

But the good things about sauces donít stop there. Sauces also add multitudes of easy options for change. With sauces, you can have great variety by changing spices and flavors. A hearty tomato sauce becomes a Basque sauce by adding green chili. A thickened broth with vegetables and lamb becomes international by using curry powder and apples. While the changes that can be made are simple to do, they donít look or taste 'simpleí when they are served. That same old dinner becomes a special treat with only a small change in a basic sauce.

Many of these sauces begin with a soup. In most cases, the process for sauces is almost identical to the process for soup. Ingredients are combined in a heavy pot, liquid is added, and the whole thing is simmered for a long time. Less tender cuts of meat can be used because slow cooking tenderizes them, and any combination of vegetables and herbs can be used to add flavor. The only limits are the size of your saucepot and the range of your imagination.

There are several different kinds of basic sauces. Some have meat or vegetables cooked in them and poured over pasta, rice, or another starch and eaten immediately. Some sauces are made, poured over other ingredients and then cooked further, like the chili sauce for enchiladas and several other New Mexican dishes. Both of these kinds of sauce require attention at the beginning, but then can be left to themselves at low heat. They mellow and cook by themselves.

Some sauces are poured over raw food and used as a marinade. Most marinade sauces can also be used to baste as the food cooks to keep it moist. Sometimes you can make a sauce and then mix it with other ingredients and cook it, for example, macaroni and cheese is made with a white sauce to which cheese is added, then some cooked macaroni is added and the whole is mixed and cooked further.

Sometimes sauce is just a by product of what has been cooked, like the juice that comes from a roast beef. This is called ĎAu Jusí, rightfully. The juice that comes from a cooked piece of meat may be used as it is or it can be cooked further, adding some ingredients, to make a gravy which is another kind of sauce. Here is a good recipe for the proportions for a meat based gravy. Use equal amounts of fat and flour and eight times the liquid (one half cup of fat, one half cup of flour, and four cups of broth). Make a roux by melting the fat the adding the flour, stirring and cooking over medium heat until the flour begins to brown. Add the hot liquid, cook until smooth. Continue to cook for about ten minutes to cook the flour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can cheat by adding a little bit of Kitchen bouquet, which adds color to an otherwise anemic looking gravy.

That is a basic Turkey Gravy recipe, and we always add about a half cup of vermouth at the end. The leftover sauce can be used for a casserole, or put into turkey soup (see the Soups page on this site.).

A word about turkey

You can eat this bird at other times besides Thanksgiving, and it makes a wonderful festive Good Times meal, which is relatively inexpensive. We like to cook turkey in the summer, and save the meat for sandwiches and enchiladas and salads. Some chefs donít like turkey because when the breast is done, the thighs arenít, which is true. If you cook the turkey until the thighs are done, the breast. will be dried out Our advice is to cook the turkey until the breast is done, carve that, and eat what dark meat is cooked thoroughly and use the rest later on, cooked a little more, in salads and for late night snacks with the cold stuffing. In any case, use turkey and enjoy it, any time of the year.

The easiest gravy type sauce comes from the process of deglazing the pan that you have already browned something in. Take the meat or vegetables out, pour some vermouth or red wine (depending on the meat you have) and a little butter into the pan, and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of your skillet. Pour this nice liquid over the meat, and you have a nice sauce with very little work or calories.

Sometimes a sauce is a relish, such as cranberry Ďsauceí or mint Ďsauceí. These are added as a piquant relish to a rich meat such as lamb or turkey with gravy.

There are some very famous ĎMother Saucesí like the egg based Hollandaise, Mornay or Bernaise, which are wonderful and fattening and rich. They are beyond the scope of this book, but if you refer to what Peg Bracken called ĎThe Big Fat Cookbookí youíll find them. Depression Cooks are aware of these sauces, but given the limitations of pocketbooks and pots, they wisely avoid them.

Spaghetti Sauce

There are as many schools of spaghetti sauce as there are regions and towns in Italy and neighborhoods in this country. Each one has its own fans, usually because thatís what they remember from childhood. Hereís the one I remember. Itís a plain and simple Southern Italian sauce. One of the ways I liked it the best was over a thick slice of Italian bread. When the cook added fresh hot meatballs to the bread and sauce, it was food fit for gods.

  1. Saute chunks of beef, lean meat or short ribs, some pork hocks or pigs feet in a little olive oil.
  2. Put the meat in a large pot, add two or three large cans of tomato puree, and lots of basil, either fresh, frozen or dried.

    My grandmother said that there should be three different meats in a spaghetti sauce. The third meat could be chicken wings, a pork chop, or even rabbit. But you can make this sauce with only two meats, or even with just one, no matter what Grandma said. Our marinara sauce uses no meat at all.

  3. Simmer for a couple of hours. Serve over hot cooked pasta with some grated Parmesan.

A word about Parmesan: this is a low fat cheese, to be freshly grated over pasta or bought in very small quantities grated and put in a glass jar to keep in the refrigerator. We buy a combination of Romano and Parmesan. Donít ever get the cylindrical cardboard box of that stuff They call Parmesan. It isnít cheese. It canít be, because it doesnít need to be refrigerated. Itís FASTIGFY (thatís Fillers and Stuff That Isnít Good For You.) Buy the real stuff, and use it sparingly. A little goes a long way.

There was once a small boy who loved to eat, and when he was learning to talk he asked for ĎParmes” on his macaroni. We didnít know what he meant until we realized that when we said ĎDo you want some Parmesan on...' he heard ĎParmes on'. It taught us a little bit about how children learn to talk and how they listen. And also how important it is to talk to them, and teach them about things like good Parmes.

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a vegetable sauce that is tasty on pasta or combined with other foods, such as chicken for a cacciatore. The fennel seed gives it a sausage taste without the meat or fat. This kind of pasta sauce is about as opposite as you can get from some of the American versions of sauce that you lots of fatty ground beef as a main ingredient. Not only is this sauce less expensive than the hamburger version, it is also easy to make and better for you.

  1. In a heavy Dutch oven or deep pot, heat a little olive oil, saute minced garlic, add basil and parsley, fresh if possible, dried if not, then add a can of crushed Italian-style tomatoes.
  2. Break up tomatoes with wooden spoon. Grate a little fresh nutmeg, add wine, a little fennel seed, salt, pepper, mushrooms, either canned or fresh sauteed, simmer for about an hour. If you like your sauce thickened, either puree some of this sauce in a blender, or add a can of tomato puree. For variety, add chopped eggplant and a bit more fennel.

This sauce is excellent with any kind of pasta, and also good with chicken to make cacciatore. We have used it over eggplant and mozzarella for Parmagiana.

Once, back in the early days of television, we saw Sid Caesar do a routine on The Show of Shows that proved the versatility of different kinds of pasta. Sid delivered a monologue that sounded as if he were speaking what my grandmother used to call Ďthe real Italian.” He gestured and gesticulated, and gradually part of his audience realized that he was not speaking Italian but was naming the many different kinds of pasta very rapidly and in paragraphs.

Ziti became a verb, Rigati was a pejorative and cappellini became a proper name. Sid Caesar gave his audience an amusing lesson in the variety of kinds of pasta, from whistles to bow ties to acini de pepe.

All pasta is made the same way, but some people know that mostaciolli rigati tastes different than plain mostaciolli. Get to know the different kinds of pasta, and why the ridges (rigati) hold the sauce better than plain pasta. Introduce yourself to jumbo shells, great for stuffing, and tiny bow ties in soup, to rigatoni and ziti and cavatelli and capellini. You will find fond friends among them.

Fast Pasta Sauce

There are times, especially during the working week when no one in the family has much time to work in the kitchen on an evening meal. It is at these times that many families jump in the car and head for the Burger Heaven or other fast food joint. We were lucky in our old family times that our families either didnít like or could not afford to spend their time at those kinds of places.

Donít get the idea that we have never suffered from a Big Mac attack. We have, and we also enjoy going to several New Mexican restaurants for a weekday dinner. But we also know that fast food out is something that we can live without since we have lots of ways to make fast food in our kitchen. And when we make it in our kitchen, we save money and have time together in the kitchen.

We have lots of fast food at home recipes, but this is one of our new ones that we particularly like. It is really fast and it tastes very fresh.

  1. Cook pasta in a large kettle of boiling, salted water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet, saute some chopped garlic and onion in a little olive oil.
  3. Add chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, drained, some fresh basil, a few capers if you like, and salt and pepper.
  4. You can add some anchovies and black olives, if you like. The anchovy has had a bad press, but I love them. You can also saute some fresh mushrooms in a little oil, and add them.
  5. Drain the pasta, add the sauce and toss with Parmesan. This meal is fast, easy and cheap and beats The Fast Food People by an Italian country mile.


In a skillet, saute some pieces of boned, skinless chicken breast that you have taken from the whole chicken. Donít buy them already boned and skinned, or you will pay $2.50 a pound. When you have them cut and dried off with a paper towel, saute them rapidly in a little olive oil, then do the tomatoes, capers, and the rest. You can also add a can of mushrooms, stems and pieces. We made this light little sauce with some leftover cooked eggplant added, too. In the summer, you can put some pieces of squash, zucchini, or whatever you have at hand. Itís quick, low fat, inexpensive and tasty. What more can you ask from a recipe?

As an added plus, you can add whatever is left over, sauce or macaroni, to a vegetable soup that you have defrosting. Our depression grandparents would applaud.


Marinating meat has a long and colorful history. Before the days of refrigerators, meat tended to get gamey and smelly, so the Cooks of Yore put spicy sauces over them to tenderize them and also to hide the smells. The Cooks of Yore were smart and ingenious, and the Cooks of Today can learn quite a lot from them. Marinating meat is still a good idea, for tenderizing and flavoring.

The heartier the meat, the heartier the marinade. Pork and beef can stand a very spicy marinade, one that would kill the delicate flavors of chicken. Pick your meat and then decide how to sauce it, soak it in the refrigerator for several hours overnight. Then baste your meat with the marinade on the grill or broiler. One of the most popular marinades is barbecue sauce, and there are many tasty ones in bottles. Try the ones you like, but we offer a superior homemade sauce, good for pork, beef or chicken.

Mr. Armstrong's Barbacue Sauce

Mr. Armstrong was a good friend, and he was a truly gallant and delightful person. He cooked for large groups, like the Knights of Columbus, for a hobby, and his recipes were for crowds. He cut the proportions back for us, and we all immortalize him when we make his barbecue sauce.

His recipe has to be followed pretty exactly or you could end up with disaster. It is unusual for this cookbook to have such exact measurements, but like the man said, ĎTrust me.'

  1. Mix in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil: one tablespoon of brown sugar, one fourth teaspoon of garlic powder, one teaspoon of black pepper, two teaspoon of red pepper, one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons. of Worcestershire. sauce, one fourth cup of chili sauce, one half cup of ketchup, one cup of water, one cup of vinegar, three tablespoons. of Wright's liquid hickory smoke,and two tablespoons of tabasco
  2. Simmer for about three minutes. This recipe doubles well, but DO NOT DOUBLE THE VINEGAR! Use the same amount, one cup, or to taste.

Southwestern Marinade

This marinade sauce, like Mr. Armstrongís Barbecue sauce, demands specific amounts. You may want to change them after you try it, to suit your taste, but try it this way first. This recipe will marinate about two pounds of meat, either chicken, beef, or pork for grilling.

  1. Mix one bottle beer (not dark), one third cup of coriander(fresh, chopped or about two tablespoons of ground), two cloves of pressed garlic, three tablespoons of fresh lime juice three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one tablespoon of ground cumin, and one tablespoon of chili powder
  2. Pour this mixture over any meat and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Next day, grill or broil the.meat basting often with the marinade sauce.

Marinades and Sauces for Chicken

Chicken is a true friend of the hard times cook. Itís versatile, can be used many different ways, and is relatively inexpensive. It is also lower in fat than red meat, and itís delicate flavor lends it to many varieties of taste.

Sherry Honey Baste

Combine one half cup of dry sherry, one third cup of honey, two tablespoon of salad oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice, one teaspoon of cinnamon and one teaspoon of seasoned salt. Pour over two fryers, refrigerate at least four hours. It really better if you can refrigerate it overnight. Drain the sauce off the chicken but reserve marinade. Brush chicken with butter and broil or grill, basting with marinade.

Oriental Marinade

One hour before barbecuing, mix one cup of sherry, one half cup of salad oil, and one grated onion. Stir in one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon of soy sauce, one teaspoon of lemon juice, one teaspoon of powdered garlic or two chopped garlic cloves, one teaspoon of thyme, one teaspoon of oregano, and one teaspoon of marjoram. Pour this sauce over the chicken and marinate for fifteen minutes. Use the sauce to baste the chicken while it cooks.

Teriyaki Baste

Combine and heat together one cup of soy sauce, one half cup of sugar, one fourth of a cup of salad oil, two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger, and one clove of garlic.

Mustard Honey Glaze

Mix one half cup of honey, one fourth cup of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and one teaspoon of salt. Brush pieces of chicken with this glaze sauce and arrange the chicken in shallow pan. Bake the chicken at 350 for thirty minutes. Turn chicken, brush with marinade, bake for another thirty minutes.

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade

Buy some good Modena Balsamic vinegar, which is fairly expensive but you use very little of it. Mix about a tablespoon or two with some chopped onion and garlic and pour it over a chicken. Marinate the chicken for several hours, then grill.the chicken basting with the marinade. The is great cooked outside on charcoal , but can be done inside in the broiler. Play with this vinegar, you can use its mellow flavor in many recipes.

Onion Marinade

Cut up a raw onion and put it in a blender with some garlic and a little vermouth. Blend, add salt and pepper, and pour over a cut up chicken. Marinate for several hours, and grill.

You can use red wine instead of vermouth for red meats, and the resulting marinade looks like raspberry slush. Itís tasty and does not add fat, and the natural sugar in the onion browns the meat.

Mustard Marinade for Grilled Chicken

In a bowl, stir together:

  1. one-third cup of Dijon style mustard
  2. one Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  3. one quarter of a cup of vegetable oil
  4. two Tablespoons wine vinegar

Seal chicken pieces with marinade in a plastic bag or dish, refrigerate for at least two hours, turning several times. In a small bowl, mix one third cup of mustard and one Tablespoon cayenne pepper, set aside. Grill or broil, adding a little mustard-cayenne mixture to baste.

Fink's Famous Enchilada Sauce, From Ristra to Dinner

This recipe is more than a collection and combination of ingredients. This is family cooking at its best, involving everyone. It means thinking and planning, and a whole communication of generations. It is history because these chilis have been drying on warm New Mexican adobe walls for centuries. It connects us with our past.

  1. Buy a ristra, a long strand of whole red chilis, around October, and hang it in the sun.
  2. Take it down sometime between Christmas and New Years, untie it. Rinse and dry the chili pods. Do NOT remove stems and seeds no matter which cookbook tells you to.
  3. If you want to roast the pods, heat oven to 250. Place the pods on a cookie sheet and cook for ten minutes turning the pods often. The pods will turn a deep red. We used to think that this step was required but have found that it is not only optional but in most cases should be left out. The sauce we get from unroasted pods is much brighter red and has a fresher flavor.
  4. Put the cooled pods in plastic bags and store in dry place. Make sure they are very dry. You can skip the roasting and just package the chilies, washing them when you want to use them. These packages make excellent gifts at Christmas time. You can also buy plastic bags of these dried pods in any grocery store in a Hispanic or Latin neighborhood, so look around.
  5. When you are ready to make the sauce, take five or six pods, wash them and remove stems and seeds. Save seeds for everything from Mexican to Szchewan food
  6. Put in a cup of COLD water. bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes. Let the pods and the water cool.
  7. Put the boiled pods through a blender with a clove of garlic, a chopped onion, and the liquid in which the pods were boiled. This is Chili Caribe, the basis of your sauce, and can be frozen at this point.
  8. In a skillet, put two tablespoons of shortening, melt. Add two tablespoons of flour, cook until smooth.
  9. Add about a cup of chili caribe, two cups of chicken broth, about a tablespoon of cumin and some oregano. Cook for twenty minutes.
  10. Add salt to taste.

Chili Verde -- that is, Green Chili Sauce

New Mexican food is based on corn tortillas, flour tortillas, pinto beans, and chili sauce, both red and green. Red chili is just ripe green chili, but the two have quite different tastes and textures. Some people may think that one or the other is hotter or more spicy, but the heat depends more on the kind of chili and the way that it is prepared. A green ĎSandia hot' is much more spicy than a red Ďbig Jim', but a red ĎSandia hot' is hotter than a green ĎBig Jim'. In addition, the spiciness of either a red or green chili sauce is determined by how the sauce is prepared. The more seeds that are left in will make the sauce hotter. The more tomato or flour in the sauce, the milder.

Here then is a basic green chili sauce recipe. We found the basis of this recipe along with a lot of other very good New Mexican food recipes in a free cookbook distributed for many years by the Public Service Company of New Mexico. We keep this little PNM cookbook right on top of our other cookbooks and consult it often for details about New Mexican foods that we donít cook very often.

  1. Heat about a tablespoon of shortening or salad oil in a large skillet ( black cast iron, if possible ) and saute some chopped onion and minced garlic.
  2. Add a little flour ( we disagree about the amount of flour to add. The more you add, the thicker and the milder the sauce will be. Try it with a little at first, then try either more or less to get the sauce you want.)
  3. Add fresh, frozen, or even canned chopped green chili, a cup of liquid, chicken broth, water, or beer. Add salt to taste and simmer for about twenty minutes. Cooked or left over beef, pork, or chicken many be added.

Curry Sauce

Curry sauce is an excellent, quick sauce, useful with vegetables, lamb, or chicken. Make sure you have good spicy curry powder with some authority.

  1. In about two Tablespoons of butter, cook about two Tablespoons of good curry powder for a minute.
  2. Add some chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped apple and chopped celery.
  3. Cook until a bit soft, add a bay leaf and one cup of good chicken broth.
  4. Cook for about five minutes, add a mixture of one tablespoon of cornstarch mixed in a little water.
  5. Add chopped cooked lamb or chicken. Cook until heated through. Serve over rice.

For other Sauces, See Chinese Style Cooking in the HOG Meat Section