In her cookbook, “Mastering Sauces: The Home Cook’s Guide to New Techniques for Fresh Flavors,” author Susan Volland offers up more than 150 recipes for beginning and experienced sauciers alike. Volland says any sauce can be customized to suit your taste through following three fundamental principles: “maximize flavor, manipulate texture and season confidently.”
The key to creating fresh, homemade sauces without added thickeners is to use mock stocks or infusions that allow you to adjust consistency without losing the flavor. In this “Korean Chile Paste Sauce” recipe, depending upon your preference, Susan suggests using either chicken stock, vegetable stock or a barley tea infusion to dilute the gochujang fermented chile paste.
This chile sauce’s sweet, salty and spicy notes will perk up grilled meats, fish, tofu, meaty mushrooms or sautéed greens. You can find gochujang for sale in tubs or tubes at your local Asian grocer or at any good supermarket.
Sweet Potatoes with Korean Chile Paste Sauce
Kabocha squash and carrots also make good substitutes for sweet potatoes.
Yield: Makes 3 cups
2 cups sweet potato, diced and peeled (about 12 oz/340 g)
2 garlic cloves
3 cups Chicken Stock, Vegetable Stock or Roasted Barley Tea (recipe follows below)
2 tbsps Korean chile paste (gochujang), to taste
½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar (optional)
Combine the sweet potatoes, garlic and just enough stock to cover in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan into a blender and add the chile paste. Purée to a smooth paste, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add more stock to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Season with the salt and a touch of extra chile paste if you like.
Note: The purée should be intensely flavored enough to stand up to the entrée you’re serving it with; it should not just be a tasty soup. Add the rice vinegar if you prefer a bit more tanginess and season with additional salt if needed.
To reheat: If storing, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Warm gently and serve.
Roasted Barley Tea Infusion (Mock Stock)
1 tbsp Korean roasted barley
1 cup water
To steep: Simmer roasted barley (Korean barley tea) in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. It may be tempting to increase the quantity of grain, but that gives the liquid a more acrid, almost burnt flavor and is not recommended.