Modern Sauces NPR coverage of Modern Sauces: More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day by Martha Holmberg and Ellen Silverman. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
NPR logo Modern Sauces

Modern Sauces

More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day

by Martha Holmberg

Hardcover, 256 pages, Chronicle Books, List Price: $35 |


Buy Featured Book

Modern Sauces
More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day
Martha Holmberg

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

NPR Summary

Martha Holmberg's look at this sometimes-intimidating genre — expressed in clear, short bites of information and through dozens of process photographs — delivers the skill of great sauce-making to every kind of cook, from beginners to those more accomplished who wish to expand their repertoire.

Read an excerpt of this book

NPR stories about Modern Sauces

Recipe Rebellion: A Year Of Contrarian Cookbooks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Recipe: 'Smashed New Potato Salad' With 'Warm Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette And Scallions'

Smashed New Potato Salad

In too many potato salads, the dressing slides around on the surface of the potatoes and never sinks in, so the experience is a disconnect between tangy and bland. I address that problem two different ways here: First, I smash the potatoes a bit to create lots of crevices to catch the dressing (who says potato salad equals diced potato?). Second, I use a warm dressing on warm potatoes, so the two get intimate quite quickly.

1½ lb/680 g small new potatoes or larger waxy potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-in/2.5-cm chunks

2 bay leaves (optional)

Kosher salt

½ cup Warm Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette (please see separate recipe)

Freshly ground black pepper

3 green onions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced crosswise

In a large pot, combine the potatoes, bay leaves (if using), 2 tbsp salt, and water to cover by 1 to 2 in/2.5 to 5 cm and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Scoop out about 1 cup/ 240 ml of the cooking water, and then drain the potatoes in a colander.

Return the potatoes to the pot off the heat and crush the potatoes lightly with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the potatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss gently to coat. Let sit for a couple of minutes so the potatoes can absorb the dressing, and then pour over the remaining vinaigrette, and toss again. If the potatoes seem a touch dry, fold in a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to moisten them and make everything creamy.

Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the green onions, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 6

Warm Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette

This rich and somewhat indulgent sauce calls for bacon fat, in addition to olive oil. That combination keeps the vinaigrette from seeming too greasy, especially once it cools a bit. Feel free to shift the balance toward even more olive oil, if you like.

The key to using a warm vinaigrette is to pair it with a sturdy partner. If it's a green salad, use frisée, escarole, radicchio, baby kale, or other hearty green that will wilt slightly from the heat but not turn into a slimy mess, which a tender lettuce, such as Bibb, would do. I also like warm vinaigrettes like this one on cooked lentils, roasted root vegetables, and especially on potatoes.

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ½-in/12-mm pieces

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for finishing (optional)

2 tbsp finely minced shallot

½ cup/120 ml sherry vinegar

¼ cup/60 ml pure maple syrup, preferably grade B

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper, or dash of hot-pepper sauce such as Sriracha

In a frying pan, combine the bacon and the 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and cook, turning the bacon occasionally, until it is browned and crisp and has rendered most of its fat, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel– lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tsp of the fat from the pan into a small bowl and set the bowl aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the shallot, and cook, stirring constantly, until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the vinegar (stand back, the fumes are pungent!), and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits from the pan bottom. Let the vinegar reduce by about half, about 3 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard and cook, stirring, until well blended and heated through, another 30 seconds or so. (You can prepare the dressing up to this point up to 4 hours before serving. Just before serving, reheat gently.)

Whisk about 2 tbsp of the oil-bacon fat mixture, or 1 tbsp of the oil-bacon fat mixture and the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, into the warm vinegar mixture, then taste. The flavor should be quite sharp, but if it's too sharp, whisk in more oil. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and cayenne, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the reserved bacon and dress your salad right away.

Makes about ½ cup/120 ml

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you are making the vinaigrette in advance, store the bacon pieces and vinaigrette separately and add the bacon just before serving. Gently reheat until warm.

Quick Change: Omit the maple syrup and use half balsamic and half sherry vinegar.

From Modern Sauces by Martha Holmberg. Copyright 2012 by Martha Holmberg. Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books.