Martha Holmberg Is A Sauce Boss In Modern Sauces

Smother your fears in béchamel

Sauces are among the most integral–and intimidating–aspects of cooking.

Any culinary student will be prompted to perfect the five French "mother" sauces, yet even our most ambitious cook friends harbor some fear about the category, fearing burnt roux or broken hollandaise.

The task of demystifying the genre is weighty, so it's our good fortune that someone as tenured as Martha Holmberg has taken it upon herself.

The editor, chef and cookbook author has penned Modern Sauces ($35), which breaks down the foundational pillar into 14 categories, both savory and sweet.

Each section begins with a historic and scientific explanation of the sauce in question, which provides better context for how to master and use it. Then come the basic recipes (like a simple vinaigrette), complete with troubleshooting tips and suggestions for improvisational substitutions (maple-bacon vinaigrette).

The daisy chain then leads to recipes for dishes to best feature your creation (smashed potato salad with warm maple-bacon vinaigrette), so you finish the chapter with a cohesive understanding of the now-not-so-scary subject.

We're devoting our January to béchamel, the creamy sauce that excels in baked dishes. Holmberg's recipe, when spiked with sharp cheddar cheese, is a perfect cloak for any noodle.