You source the best ingredients you possibly can, prepare them with delicacy and respect, heat them just so and serve them covered in sauce. Loads of sauce. Richly flavoured sauce. And there they lie, languishing in a sea of flavour, their own flavour lost.
I’m sure you’ve been there: on your plate is Romain lettuce, crispy and flavoursome, mixed with crispy croutons and sprinkled with parmesan. A careful balance of flavours and textures have been built up and need just one more ingredient to bring it all together: Caesar salad dressing. Caesar salad dressing has a slightly fishy flavour, is rich and somewhat salty. It’s gorgeous. Unless it covers every millimetre of lettuce and every facet of crouton, making it all soggily samey.
Or here: on your plate are wild mushrooms, cooked just so, accompanied by tender courgette. Their earthy flavour evokes the scents and textures of wide forests. Their texture, slightly chewy yet tender, is interesting. There’s something new in every mouthful. But if they’re covered in strong mustard sauce, then all you get is mustard.
Or here, even: on your plate is carpaccio. Thin, almost translucent slices of mature beef, fanned out across the plate. Slivers of meat, with the very distinctive taste of mature beef. Raw and delicious, pungent yet delicate. Unless it’s slathered in mayonnaise-like sauce, that is. Then you can’t taste the meat at all.
I could carry on. Tell you sad tales of lobster tails drenched in sweet tomato gunk, fish so swamped by green pepper sauce that it could be just as well be chicken and prawns in Mary Rose sauce. Sauce can make a dish but it can equally destroy it.
Over-saucing is endemic. It shows a lack of respect for the ingredients. Lack of confidence in the cooking arts. Good ingredients do not need hiding. They need lifting up and putting forward.
Will you join me in a call for less sauce and more flavour?