This last week I made two dishes where I ordinarily would use a thickener of some sort.
The first was a shrimp curry, where in the past, I would have taken a bit of fish stock, added a tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot, and used it to thicken the sauce after adding the coconut milk.
For other stir fry recipes I used to coat the protein in cornstarch before adding it to the oil. The liquid ingredients when added would then thicken from the cornstarch. In the case of shrimp I do not coat them, but in the past, making coconut shrimp I have dusted them with sweet rice flour.
Last night, I got hungry for chicken marsala, and found a package of dry wild mushrooms in my pantry. So I went to work on that. Now, when making chicken marsala in the past, I would pound the medallions of breast to a thinness that allowed for through cooking in about one minute per side, after dredging them with seasoned white flour, in a half butter half olive oil mixture. When they are golden brown, I remove them from the pan, deglaze with marsala, add some well reduced chicken stock, the mushrooms, and a good cup of whipping cream. This stuff is to die for, but not when you cannot deglaze the browned bits of flour etc. with the marsala. It actually tasted as great as always, but was so runny we put it in those huge wide soup/pasta bowls (William-Sonoma)
What is a more primal way to accomplish a wonderful glossy thick sauce in a dish such as this?
If you want to try it, do what I said above, then add a pinch of rubbed sage just prior to serving.
Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Glucomannan Powder are three that I use.
We use arrow root in my house. it works and I don't really notice the flavor.
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Xanthan gum, potato starch, tapioca/cassava/manioc starch, white rice flour. They all work pretty well. I use xanthan gum for making chocolate syrup. 3/4 cup cocoa, 2 cups water, bring to a boil, add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and whisk. It thickens FAST.
I still use corn starch every now and again. A teaspoon here and there won't hurt IMO and it's fantastic as a thickener for clear sauces.
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Gelatin (i.e., super wobbly bone broths) can work if you boil down the sauce. But you really have to boil it down, and it won't get super thick. The same trick (and caveat) also applies to butter and cream.
Arrowroot is a good choice if you're going for instant gratification, as many have said here.
I sometimes use quick-cooking tapioca in crockpot recipes to thicken them. It holds up well to long periods of cooking, but you can't go crazy with it like you can flour.
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