06/11/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2011

Sauces Used To Be Thick, Gloppy, and Unhealthy. No More: Michel Roux Has Cut Carbs and Boosted Taste (RECIPES)

Unless you grew up with a chef in the kitchen, there's an excellent chance that your first memory of "sauce" is Campbell's condensed mushroom soup. Heated without water so it became even thicker, it was then poured over chicken like so much wet cement. Now picture it moving through your system. Think: future heart attack.

Move on to the classic French cookbooks. Meats weren't always bathed in their natural juices just before serving, were they? There was one final step: a butter-and-flour factor that thickened the gravy. Gloppy, wasn't it?

So when we see a book about sauces, something -- a combination of common sense and neo-Puritanism -- makes us recoil. All those carbs, all those calories. Who needs them?

On the other hand, do you really want to go through life eating broiled fish? Chicken paillard? Dry veal? Salad as an entrée?

Michel Roux has the smart alternative. Not the Michel Roux who wrote a book about sauces in the '90s. But the Michel Roux of Michel Roux Sauces: Revised and Updated Edition -- the master chef masterfully updating, tweaking, cutting calories and carbs.

Michel Roux, for those who don't follow chefs as if they were movie stars, had an early bit of good fortune. His father, a gambler and womanizer, moved out when he was about ten, and young Michel began spending quantity time with his mother in the kitchen. She cooked with sauces, and he learned them all.

As a young chef, his rise was meteoric. At a tender age, he was the chef for a Rothschild, and he had the luxury of an unlimited budget and a sophisticated patron. He moved on to the kitchens of the British Embassy in Paris. Then he moved out -- to England, where his brother was living. He opened a restaurant, won three stars from Michelin, and kept winning them. No question -- this Frenchman was the most influential chef in England.

For Roux, "lighter" now means "tastier." As he's said, "A navarin of spring lamb, for example, is simply delicious and can be wonderfully light. It doesn't have to be a 'stew' so long as the sauce is delicate."

In his new book, he presents recipes -- and terrific photographs -- of more than 200 sauces. Nothing takes two days; in classic recipes, he produces the same results in half the steps and half the time. But it's his inventions that thrill, for he's found ways to pep up your old favorites with sauces you never dreamed of.

Like, say, these.

Bois Boudran Sauce

An excellent accompaniment to roast chicken. It can also be used to coat a poached filet of salmon or trout just before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

1 ¼ cup peanut oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 heaping cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
5 drops of Tabasco
½ cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons finely shipped chervil
2 tablespoons finely snipped chives
7 tablespoons finely snipped tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine peanut oil and wine vinegar in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and three turns of the pepper mill. Stir with a small whisk.

Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, shallots and snipped herbs. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

The sauce is ready for use, but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Serve at room temperature.

Coconut and chile pepper sauce

This unusual spicy sauce works well on firm-fleshed white fish -- or wide noodles.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, rushed or minced, for the chiles
7 tablespoons butter
5 to 7 small hot red chiles, seeded and minched
1 medium green jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
9 ounces cooked peeled small shrimp (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and stir in flour to make a roux. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.

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