Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


As many of you remember, a truly wonderful group of people (and I) are cooking several recipes from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, the 1961 classic from Julia, Louisette and Simka.  Up this time is Sauce au Cari, a light curry sauce.

Oh, we’ve had some new members join us, too.  Check out Kittie (whoops!), Shaun and Elle! 

Although it may seem like a safe choice, it is in fact loose canon because of the curry.  Curry, as we know, is in fact a blend of spices and it has been said there are as many curries as there are families in India.

I made this recipe twice because the first one I made was as thick as cake batter.  Now, I know classic French sauces in the 50’s were quite thick, but this was a bit much.  I’m still at a loss as to why it was so thick.  I know they made these recipes over and over again while writing the book, so I have a hard time believing the recipe is wrong.  My only guess is the flour at that time had less protein than flour does now; it was more like cake flour at the time.  Anyway, the second time I made it, I cut the flour from four tablespoons to two and the sauce was much better.  It could have used maybe a teaspoon or two more, but it was good.

Now the flavor – I liked it.  Many of my fellow co-conspirators were unhappy with the flavor, finding it weak and uninspired.  Again, this was nearly inevitable considering the plethora of curry powders (Shaun even made his own blend based on a recipe from Ghana) and how much tastes have changed in 47 years.  This was published at a time when spices where nearly unknown in the United States and spicy meant extra black pepper from the novelty pepper shaker.  Anything other than mild was going to be WAY TOO spicy.

Sauce au Cari

  • ½ cup white or yellow onion, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp butter

Cook the onions slowly in butter and oil in a medium saucepan over low heat for 10 minutes without allowing the onions to color.

  • 2-3 tbsp curry powder

Stir in curry powder and cook slowly for 2 minutes.

  • 4 tbsp flour

Add the flour and stir over low heat for 3 minutes.

  • 2 cups boiling milk, white stock or fish stock (I used my roasted chicken stock)

Take the pot off the heat and blend in the boiling liquid. Return the sauce to heat and simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • 4-6 tbsp whipping cream
  • Salt & pepper
  • Lemon juice

Stir in the cream by tablespoons, until the sauce has thinned to the consistency you wish. Check seasoning and add lemon juice to taste

  • 1-2 tbsp softened butter
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Off the heat, just before serving, stir in the butter by bits and then parsley.  Serve immediately.

Like I said, and unlike many of my partners in crime, I liked the less cake-battery sauce.  It wasn’t like the curry I had that last night in Calcutta, but nothing can compare to that night.  OK, so I never had a “last night in Calcutta”, heck – I’ve never had a FIRST night in Calcutta, so maybe that’s why I like it.  But whatever it is, I kind of liked this sauce, in fact, I can see me using milk instead of stock next time, because I like milk fat.  And the thought of a bovine product in Indian food sounds so wrong!

Check out all the better posts about this recipe:


June 23, 2008 - Posted by | Recipe, That Cookbook Thing II


  1. With the substitution I made for coconut milk, I completely love the sauce! I’m glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

    (hint: Kittie’s new too…:)

    Comment by Deborah | June 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. I have this cookbook. What a great idea. Looks good this recipe.

    Comment by Hélène | June 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. Mike ~ I love the colour of your sauce – so vibrant and warm. I very much appreciate softer curries, anyway, preferring nuance to ballast. With respect to the roux, it is stated that if one wants a medium general-purpose sauce, then use 1.5 T of flour per cup of liquid. I think some might have preferred that instead of the thick sauce achieved with 2 T of flour (p.56 of my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking – p/back, 40th Anniversary ed., 2001).

    Comment by Shaun | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for putting this all together. I love seeing so many different takes of the same dish.

    Can’t wait for the next round!

    Comment by Ruth | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  5. Looks good! It definitely needs some work and adjustments, but it’s a good basic recipe.

    Thanks for rounding us up!

    Comment by Elle | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  6. I thought about using milk but I chickened out at the last minute. If you try it that way let me know.

    Comment by Sara | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  7. Your sauce has a great colour (I cheated and added a bit of turmeric to get the warmth in mine…. oops!)

    Let us know how it turns out with milk!

    Comment by kittie | June 30, 2008 | Reply

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