How do you save a cream sauce once it has curdled?

Answer

Sauces curdle while cooking because of chemistry, not biology. While it looks disgusting, a sauce that has curdled during cooking isn't spoiled and won't make you sick.


Robert L. Wolke, in his article on making a successful bechamel or mornay sauce, said:

"Now what if, because of a few moments of diverted attention, say, to answer the telephone, you return to face disaster: a stringy, watery sauce? No guarantees, but there may be a way out. A technique attributed to the late culinary dean of American cookery James Beard is to briskly whisk in a little lemon juice. It can be expected to work because protein molecules need low acidity and calcium ions -- positively charged calcium atoms -- in order to aggregate into their tangled networks. The lemon juice's citric acid interferes with this aggregation in two ways: It increases the acidity and it ties up (chelates) the calcium ions."

"Curdle Hurdles," Robert L. Wolke, The Washington Post; Wednesday, Oct 13, 2004; Page F01 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26968-2004Oct12.html