“We take the essence of the scallops, mussels, shrimp, and the sea and we infuse it into the sauce,” said Chef Pascal Olhats as he described the preparation of his velvety Chardonnay Sauce. Brimming with fruits-de-mer fullness, the sauce is served under a thyme-crusted fillet of sea bass. This dish is based on a regional classic from Normandy, France. Chef Olhats opened Pascal to high expectations, as he was already a well-known restauranteur in Orange County who serves high-quality classics in the French tradition.
Pascal sits on a bluff in the quaint village of San Juan Capistrano, made famous by the flocks of swallows that return to nest in the mission in the center of town each spring. Southern Californians are accustomed to finding culinary treasures tucked away in mini-malls, and Pascal is just such a place. With a curated pastry counter in the front, a large wine selection, and a small, atmospheric dining room in the back, the menu reflects old-country traditions. The cuisine takes you straight to France. Despite the formality, the chef and wait staff are personable and friendly, with a happy-to-be-in-California positivity. The food is meticulous, authentic, and made with locally-sourced ingredients. Like the swallows, those of us who have sampled this menu return regularly to Pascal.
In culinary school, students learn their 5 mother sauces (those that provide the foundation for most others) through the acronym BETH V:
–BECHEMAL – a flour-thickened white, made with milk and often used under melted cheese for Vegetable Gratin
–ESPAGNOL – a brown stock-based sauce codified by Escoffier in his Le Guide Culinaire, the hand-book of classic French cuisine
–TOMATO – the base for beloved pasta sauces like Bolognese and Marinara
–HOLLANDAISE – an emulsion of egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice – think Eggs Benedict!
–VELOUTE – a flour-thickened white sauce flavored with chicken or veal stock
Variations on these five sauces include most sauces you will ever need. Watch Chef Pascal here as he makes his famous Chardonnay Sauce, derived from the classic Veloute.
Resources for Chardonnay Sauce and others:
Want to know more about sauces? Try James Peterson’s book, Sauces, which explains the historical context and derivation of classics and contemporary sauces. And try Modern Sauces by Martha Holmberg. And don’t forget The Joy of Cooking for the basics of fish and sauce preparations.
Finally, for dessert sauces like the Creme Anglaise and Raspberry sauces that accompany Chef Olhats’s egg tart dessert in the photo above, try Bo Friberg’s The Professional Pastry Chef and The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef.
From the Archives:
A few more French & California adventures: