Daniel Humm Makes 6 Sauces That Will Turn Your Kitchen into a Michelin-Star Restaurant

Eleven Madison Park’s chef shares his secrets to making the best sauces better.

Henry Phillips

“If it doesn’t play a role, it shouldn’t be on the plate,” says Daniel Humm, chef of New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, ranked the fifth-best restaurant in the world on the 2015 San Pellegrino list (the highest placement of any North American restaurant). Humm is a master of layering flavors, and the humble sauce is an essential part of his formula. “It is just as important as the other parts of the dish. Whether it’s supposed to bring acidity, salt, richness or other flavors, it always has a role in my mind.”

“While we’re a forward-thinking restaurant, we still are rooted in the classics, and sauces are essential to so many cuisines. They can play many roles, even when some of our dishes only have a few elements on the plate — the sauce can actually be one of the focal points,” Humm says. “Because of that, the sauce, just as anything else on the plate, must be incredible…. No matter what goes on the plate, each component must add value and must be delicious; otherwise the dish fails.” Humm also knows that how the sauce is applied is just as important as how it’s made. “Sauces can bring new flavors to a dish, accentuate those already on a plate, and provide balance and also texture. What’s important to learn is how much of a sauce to use and when to use it so as to not overpower, or under season a dish.”

The sauce recipes below aren’t watered down, and they range in difficulty from relatively easy (a few steps and a few ingredients) to more complex (a pantry of ingredients and numerous steps). The list covers a swath of flavors and many pairings: buttermilk vinaigrette (for salads), curry lemongrass nage (for whitefish), sauce bouillabaisse (also for whitefish), citrus gastrique (for poultry), citrus beurre blanc (for poached shellfish) and sauce bordelaise (for red meat). Though all the sauces are delicious, they work best paired with the appropriate dish. As Humm specifies, “The best sauce is the one you need for the dish you’re working on. They are never interchangeable and all serve a purpose.” By taking a few cues from what Humm and his team do at America’s top restaurant, you too can have world-class meals at home.

The Sauces

A World of Flavor in 6 Recipes

Buttermilk Vinaigrette


Humm’s Pairing: Tomato Salad with Lobster

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


1. Combine the buttermilk, crème fraîche, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and blend with an immersion blender.

Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc


Humm’s Pairing: Butter Poached Lobster

Makes 1 1/2 cups

2 cups white wine
1 1/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup grapefruit juice
1 1/2 cups butter, cut into 2cm (3/4-inch) pieces
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt


1. In a small saucepan, reduce the wine over medium heat by three quarters.
2. Add the orange juice and grapefruit juice and reduce to a thick syrupy consistency.
3. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the butter, being careful to maintain the emulsion. Season the beurre blanc with the Meyer lemon juice and salt.

Citrus Gastrique


Humm’s Pairing: Honey Lavender Glazed Duck

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup sugar
1 star anise
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 lemons, zested and juiced
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 oranges, zested and juiced


1. Cook the sugar in a dry saucepan over medium heat, swirling to caramelize evenly. While the sugar is caramelizing, in a sauté pan, toast the star anise, over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the red wine vinegar to the star anise and keep warm. When the sugar is deeply caramelized, add the star anise and red wine vinegar, whisking to fully incorporate, and reduce by half.
3. Add the citrus juice and reduce by half again. Mix in the citrus zest and let cool to room temperature.

Bone Marrow Bordelaise


Humm’s Pairing: Beef Tenderloin with Parsnips and Royal Trumpet Mushrooms

Makes 1 cup


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced beef tenderloin
1/4 cup peeled and sliced shallot
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken jus
2 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons diced bone marrow
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon picked thyme


1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the beef in a single layer. Caramelize the beef trim on all sides, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the red wine and bring to a simmer. Reduce the wine until almost dry.
3. Add the caramelized beef trim back to the pan, along with the chicken jus and thyme sprigs. Heat the sauce to a simmer and reduce the sauce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Remove the pan from heat and strain the sauce through a chinois. Season the sauce, the red wine vinegar and salt. Keep warm. Preheat the broiler.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the bone marrow dice, chopped shallots and picked thyme. Spread the bone marrow mixture on an unlined baking sheet.
6. Cook the bone marrow in the broiler until the bone marrow just starts to soften but still holds its shape, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer the bone marrow to the refrigerator to cool. Just before serving, add the bone marrow to the warm sauce.

Lemongrass Curry Sauce


Humm’s Pairing: Skate, Roasted with Curry, Coconut and Seaweed

Makes 4 cups

1 tablespoon canola oil
2/3 cup minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon peeled and thinly sliced ginger
2/3 cup thinly sliced leeks
1 1/2 cups peeled and thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1/3 cup dry white vermouth
1/4 cup white port
1/3 cup white wine
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 1/2 cups white chicken stock
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/2 banana
1 tablespoon parsley leaves
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne


1. Heat the canola oil in a straight-sided pan over medium heat. Add the lemongrass and ginger and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the leeks and shallots and sweat until they are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and toast for 1 minute.
3. Add the vermouth, port and wine and bring to a simmer. Add the kaffir lime leaves and cook until the liquid has reduced by 3/4.
4. Add the chicken stock and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and coconut flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Transfer the mixture to a blender and, while still hot, puree with the apple, pineapple, banana and parsley on high speed. When the mixture is thoroughly pureed, emulsify in the butter on medium speed.
6. Strain the sauce through a chinois and season with lime juice, salt and cayenne.

Sauce Bouillabaisse


Humm’s Pairing: Loup de Mer, Seared with Cannellini Beans and Chorizo

Makes 3 cups

1/4 pound whitefish bones
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced fennel
1/4 cup peeled and sliced carrot
2 tablespoons peeled and sliced shallot
2 cloves
Pinch of saffron
1/4 cup Pernod
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup fish fumet
1 cup white chicken stock
1 cup lobster stock
1 cup clam stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water from Manila clams
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
Pinch of cayenne


1. Rinse the fish bones well under cold running water. Cut the fish bones into 3-inch pieces and pat dry.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the fish bones and sear until lightly browned. Add the fennel, carrot, shallot, garlic and saffron, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Deglaze the pan with the Pernod and reduce until almost dry. Add the white wine and cook until almost dry. Add the tomatoes, fumet, chicken stock, lobster stock and clam stock. Simmer the stock mixture for 30 minutes.
4. Transfer the entire mixture (stocks, vegetables and fish bones) to a blender, and puree on high speed for several minutes until smooth. Push the mixture through a chinois.
5. Transfer the strained mixture back to the blender and blend again. Strain the sauce through a chinois 7 to 8 times. Do not push the liquid through with a ladle; instead, tap the chinois with a spoon or swirl the liquid through. The end product should be smooth but have body.
6. Return the sauce to a clean saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl to make a slurry.
7. Slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the simmering sauce. Continue to simmer the sauce, whisking constantly, until the starch is cooked out and the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.
8. Strain the sauce again through a chinois and season with salt, lime juice and cayenne to taste.

About Our Expert


Daniel Humm, along with business partner Will Guidara, purchased Eleven Madison Park from Union square Hospitality Group in 2011 and in the following year, EMP was awarded three Michelin stars. In 2015, Eleven Madison Park received the San Pellegrino Chefs’ Choice award. Humm and Guidara also have a restaurant in the NoMad hotel in lower Midtown Manhattan that focuses on elevated casual dining, and it’s received three stars from The New York Times and one Michelin star.

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