Craftsy Class Review: Homestyle Pan Sauces with Martha Holmberg

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Somewhere along the way, from some Food Network cooking show or another, I picked up the little tidbit that a simple sauce can go a long way towards making a basic piece of meat seem just that much fancier. I've mostly only waded in the gravy pond when it comes to sauces, but have always wanted to learn more. This class is definitely the way to go!

I actually started this class late last fall and did several of her recipes back then. A couple of days ago when I was tooling through my class list trying to decide what to do next, I looked at this one and realized how close I was to finishing it. Apparently I'd gotten distracted by the holidays. So, now...done!

Homestyle Pan Sauces with Martha Holmberg walks you through the steps of making several sauces, from simple to slightly more complex, though all of them are things you can do pretty easily on a weeknight. As usual in Craftsy food classes, there are several recipes available but each recipe is used as a way to teach different techniques that you can apply across the board.

The class begins with some basic information about pans, tools, and supplies, then the best techniques for seasoning and browning meat. I've been browning meat for years, and still picked up some good information. After laying this foundation, the rest of the lessons work through various types of sauces and techniques that you need to know in order to pull them off with success.

Again, none of it's complicated!

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries with Balsamic Reduction

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries with Balsamic Reduction

The first sauce she teaches is a balsamic reduction. I'd done reductions once or twice before, and rarely with confidence that I was doing it right. But after watching her do it, I created a balsamic reduction that weekend to use in an appetizer for a party I was hosting--and it turned out beautifully! (Have you ever had Blue Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries? Yum. I used what I'd learned about balsamic reductions in this class to make the strawberries and it was beautiful.)

Lesson two works with additional kinds of reductions, as well as doing some teaching around aromatics. (She spent a lot of time talking about chopping and sauteing garlic--again, something I've been doing for awhile but still learned something.) As she talks about the reductions, she explains different types of liquids you can use, things to be aware of with each, and what you're trying to accomplish in the cooking process. I loved the amount of information she gives behind each step. She also gets into using cream and cheeses in sauces.

The rest of the lessons are different types of sauces, gravies, and jus, each again teaching several techniques within the lessons. Even if you're not interested in the recipe or type of sauce she's talking about in that lesson, it's worth watching anyway just to see what other techniques and information you might pick up. I'd also made her recipe for Chicken with Meyer Lemons and Capers last fall (never took a picture--sorry!)--it all went fine as per her technique, but we only very rarely see Meyer lemons in these parts, and using regular lemons instead made the sauce too sour for our tastes, even though she said you'd use the same amount either way. I'd still make the recipe again, I'd just cut way back on the amount of lemon I use. In another lesson she has a Lemony Cream sauce for pasta with vegetables--I made that recipe too (again, no pictures--sorry!) and liked it quite a bit.

Martha Holmberg is, as I've said about so many other Craftsy teachers, very good at what she does. You can tell she's got a lot of experience teaching. She's very easy to follow, easy to watch, and she occasionally throws in a little humor--nothing rip-roaring, but enough to make me chuckle.

And she has a way of talking about food that can turn one's head. No one in my family likes caramel sauce but I still sat and watched her bonus lesson on salted caramel sauce and found myself thinking, "Hmmm. Maybe I would like it if I made hers!" Probably no time soon. We really don't like caramel here. But still, she's that good.

The Basics:

  • 7 Lessons ranging in time from about 15 minutes to around 40 minutes.
  • The sauces start right out in the very first lesson--she takes just a few minutes to introduce herself and the course, and then gets right down to business. The lessons include  working with multiple reductions, butter, cream and parmesan, vegetables and herbs; reduction sauces--base liquids, spices and herbs, more about aromatics, a lemon cream sauce, using sauces on pasta and vegetables; gravy; jus; and the aforementioned salted caramel sauce.

I did like her recipes--or will, once I adjust for missing ingredients--but even beyond that, I learned quite a bit from watching the lessons even if I hadn't made those specific recipes.

So I highly recommend this class. A quick sauce can make the difference between the same-old-same-old on a weeknight, and something that feels just a bit more special!

That's Homestyle Pan Sauces with Martha Holmberg. Yummy stuff.

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