Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: sauces (page 1 of 4)


In our culture, eggs are an every time meal, not just for breakfast or brunch. Back on the block we had them for dinner or whenever times were lean. With that in mind, the recipe given below was especially popular. It’s Huevos al Horno, or baked eggs. The eggs weren’t simply baked, they were served with a white sauce to give it a certain panache. I’ve modified the sauce by adding turmeric to it for color and enhanced flavor. Traditionally, baked eggs was served over rice or with tostones (friend green plantains) or crusty bread. Yes, it’ s thrifty meal but, done right, it becomes a banquet.

I would suggest, for this recipe, while the eggs are being boiled, prepare the white sauce and place it on low heat in the back burner while cooking the eggs. That way the sauce will be ready when the eggs are baked. Or you can prepare the sauce earlier in the day and have it ready. Whatever works for you best.

(Baked Eggs)


8 hard boiled eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
½ chopped bell pepper (green, red or yellow)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups basic white sauce (see below)
¼ cup grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2.  Slice hard boiled eggs in half lengthwise and reserve yolks. Set the hollow whites aside.
  3.  In a small bowl, mix eggs and cream. Set aside.
  4. Heat butter in a large skillet or frying pan. Add onion, garlic and pepper. Stir-fry until tender (2-3 minutes).
  5. Add eggs, salt and pepper and sauté briefly.
  6.  Stuff the hollow egg whites with the egg mixture. Arrange eggs in a baking dish.
  7.  Spoon white sauce over eggs and sprinkle with cheese.
  8.  Bake for 20 minutes, and serve.
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings.



3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1½ cups milk
½ teaspoon ground turmeric


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Blend in salt and pepper.
  2.  Gradually add milk, stirring over medium heat until sauce thickens and comes to a boil.
  3.  Stir in turmeric and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
    Yield: About 2 cups



Here’s a treat: a sauce that can accommodate both meat and fish. We have it in Shallot Butter Sauce. Also, it’s so simple and so refined, it will transform a lowly pork chop or lamb chop, not to mention a fist steak, into a glorious dish. All you need is three basic ingredients: shallots, butter and a bit of white wine. That’s it. You can serve the dish with whatever accompaniment you like, be it rice, pasta or potatoes. We, in the Rivera clan, like it with a good hearty loaf of bread to sop  up the sauce as you enjoy the lamb  or pork chops (or fish).

The other thing that needs discussion is the time factor in terms of the item used with this sauce, I like to cook pork chops at an oven temperature of 375 degrees F.  It take about  25 minutes to cook depending on thickness. Some cooks prefer a 400 degree oven because it cooks faster. But I find that at the lower temperature, pork chops remain  tender and juicy rather than drying out. The same for Lamb chops. They take about 35-40 minutes to cook at 375º and 8-10 minutes at 400º.  Note that the longer baking time will give you a well done product. In my family we like chops well done. If you want medium or rare, then the baking time will be less. For fish steaks, it’s another story. It’ll be 25-30 minutes at 375º and 15-20 minutes at 400º.  How long to cook or how tender you want the product will be up to you.



3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ stick butter (or more to taste)
3 tablespoons white wine, dry or sweet (your preference)


  1. In a saucepan or skillet, melt butter over medium heat.
  2.  Add shallots and cook, stirring until onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  3.  Add wine and cook 3 minutes more.
  4.  Pour over 4 pork chops, lamb chops or fish steaks and bake in a preheated oven until tender (see above).
    Yield: 4 servings.


This meal came out of necessity. We had fish fillets on hand, and what do we do with them? I’ve cooked fish in every way possible, but this time I wanted something simple and quick. No fancy stuff. We wanted something tasty and economical. Thus, fillets with cheese and bread. What could be simpler than that? And if you look in your cupboard, I’m sure there’s some breadcrumbs in there. If not, just take any bread and grate it in a blender or food processor. As to the cheese, any cheese will do. We did it with blue cheese. But you can use cheddar,  parmesan, mozzarella, Romano, or even good ole American cheese.  Remember: this is an inexpensive, improvised meal—That will have guests and family clamoring for more.

This dish goes well with French fired and a simple salad or, better still, rice and pasta. Use your imagination, folks. Also, the fish fillets used can be any firm-fleshed fish fillets, be it cod, haddock, perch, whiting, bass, grouper, catfish, snapper, etc. The dish accommodates every taste and fancy.



4 medium-sized fish fillets
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and black  pepper to taste
½ cup butter
¼ cup flour
¼ cup milk
¾ cup light or heavy cream (your choice)
1½ cups grated cheese
2/3  cup grated cheese


  1. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub all over with the oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet or frying pan, melt ¼  cup butter over moderate heat. When the foams subsides, add the fish and fry for 5 minutes on each side. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to a warmed flameproof serving dish (we prefer cast-iron).
  3.  In the original pan, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. Remove the pan from heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour to form a smooth paste.  Gradually add the milk and cream, stirring constantly and being careful to avoid lumps. Return the pan to the heat and cook the sauce, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until it is smooth and fairly thick and hot but not boiling. Remove pan from heat and pour the sauce over the fish.
  4.  Preheat the broiler to high. Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the fish. Place the fish under the broiler and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Remove the serving dish from the grill and serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.


I had some fish fillets om hand and I needed a quicky recipe. So, I created this gem:, pouched fish fillets in an onion sauce. Now, for some explanation: Poaching is a cooking technique that involves heating food submerged in a liquid, such as water, milk, stock or wine. Poaching is differentiated from the other “moist heat” cooking methods, such as simmering and boiling; and ii uses a relatively lower temperature. There are three basic methods for poaching; shallow, submerge, or deep-poaching. Fish fillets are excellent for poaching. In the recipe given I used the shallow water cooking method. I also decided to use a good, easy and quick to prepare sauce to go with the fish. Onion Sauce came to mind, and it worked out pretty good.

The recipe itself  is multifaceted in that it can be served with pasta, a grain ( like rice, couscous, quinoa) or like we did it this time, with kasha (buckwheat groats).  Thanks to my Jewish Brethren, I’ve developed a fondness for kasha.



4 fish fillets of your choice, about 6-8 ounces each
½ cup white wine
8 whole peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt to taste


  1. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except the fish, in a large skillet and add at least 2 inches of water. Heat the water on medium high heat until it is steaming. The water should be moving around but not bubbling.
  3.  Slide the fillets into the water. reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook approximately 8-10 minutes to poach. The pouching time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. Once the fillets are tender to your satisfaction, carefully remove the fish to a serving dish or platter, using a slotted spatula. Serve immediately with Onion Sauce (recipe given below).
    Yield: 4 servings.



2 onions, peeled and slice thinly in circles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 vegetable  bouillon cubes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden.
  2.  Add flour, bouillon cubes and water. Turn heat to low and blend, stirring constantly until sauce has a smooth, gravy-like consistency.
  3.  Pour sauce over fillets, garnish with parsley and serve



BUTTER SAUCE (Sauce Bátarde)

We are fortunate that there is an open air market nearby where a Mexican family sells home-made prepared tamales. We love the suckers. Recently, we bought a batch but then considered, normally we have the tamales with a spicy salsa or a marinara sauce. We thought, why not have something different this time? What would be a good sauce that would accompany the tamales?  The answer was immediate: how about a nice butter sauce? One of the tastiest butter sauce I know is sauce bátarde from the classic French canon of sauces. It’s mainly a hot, thick simple sauce that is usually served with vegetables and boiled fish. And it was delicious when combined with the tamales.

You’re not limited with this butter sauce. I’ve had it over chicken, venison, even steak. To me, it’s an all-purpose sauce, easy to make and simply delicious.

(Sauce Bátarde)


2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm water, lightly salted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the cold water. With a fork or a whisk, beat the mixture until it is smooth. Set aside.
  2.  In a heavy  saucepan or skillet over low heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir until the mixture begins to bubble. Take the pan from the heat and add the lightly salted warm water, whisking rapidly. Return the pan to the heat and continue whisking until the mixture boils. Remove the pan, allow the mixture to cool for at least a minute, then add the beaten egg yolks. Return the pan to the heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens slightly. Do not allow the sauce to boil.
  3.  Again remove the pan from heat, pour in the lemon juice, add the rest of the butter and whisk steadily until it is combined with the sauce. Serve immediately.
    Yield: about 2 cups sauce.


I’ve always had a palate for Mexican refried beans. Mainly because it’s not something common to Puerto Rican cuisine. Thus the thought of refried beans has always intrigued me. Which set me to thinking? What if I made my own version  of it? A Nuyorican version? And why not?  So, here is my version of refried beans with sausages. That’s right. I’ve added sausage to it. Basically, spicy Spanish chorizo sausage which is a stable in  our cooking. For the recipe given, you can use any sausage you prefer, even turkey or chicken . I’m not a stickler to any rules here. Use what you like. The idea is to prepare something good and Nutritious.

Another innovation is that we used white beans for the dish. Mexican refried beans usually consist of pinto beans or black beans. I just figured most beans varieties could be refried. So I tried the white beans and they came out great.

In my culture we usually serve beans with rice. My Mexican brethren also serve refried beans with rice. But they also enjoy it with chips or in a burrito. Following that line of thought, this dish is so good that we serve it by itself with crusty bread. And we do not add chili powder like in some recipes. Remember, this is the Nuyorican version (and we don’t use chili powder) but, if you want, go right ahead and put some in while the beans are simmering. Your choice.

Also, you may like wine with dinner; but refried beans is the type of dish that goes great with beer.


1 3/4 cup white beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup grated cheese of your choice


  1. Place Beans in a large pot (preferably cast iron) with water to cover with water by 2 inches. Cover and let soak overnight.
  2. Next day, drain beans, put them back in pot with fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are softened.
  3. Use a colander to transfer the liquid from the beans, but reserve the liquid. Heat oil in the same pot (or a large skillet), add the grated cheese. Mix to combine. Add ¼ cup reserved water from the broth and gently smash the beans with a potato masher or fork until you get the right texture. The beans should have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Add more bean broth liquid if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed by adding more salt or pepper.

While beans are cooking, prepare sausage


 2 chorizo sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried


1.Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté sausage until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
2.Add onion and oregano and stir fry for 5 minutes more, turning frequently.
3.Add to fried beans. Stir to mix, and serve immediately.
Yield: 4-6 servings

BROCOLI CON SALSA (Sauced Broccoli)

Back in the Barrio, when times were lean, Brocoli con Salsa was a cheapy weekday dinner. Basically it’s broccoli cooked with tomato sauce and spices. Depending on where you came from, it was also called Brocoli Guisado (stewed broccoli). Normally, in our family, we served it with rice. Once in a while we substituted spaghetti for the rice. In the version given below we served it with penne pasta and black olives, topped with grated cheese. Let me add you can substitute any preferred pasta be it noodles or shells. Your choice. The dish makes for an inexpensive and filling vegetarian dinner that even carnivores will love. We’ve come a long ways from Spanish Harlem but this dish, then and now, is a winner. With some crusty bread and a good wine, preferably Chianti, it can’t be beat.

Note that this dish includes that archetypical Puerto Rican flavoring, sofrito. Today you can find sofrito in almost any store or supermarket. It’s become ubiquitous. In our family, we still make it from scratch. If you need a good recipe, you can go to my post of 11/08/10, or my video on Spanish Rice (07/11/14). If all else fails, then substitute 2 teaspoons turmeric and add a chicken bouillon cube to the sauce.

(Sauced Broccoli)


1 bunch fresh broccoli
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
9 whole black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2½  cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sofrito
½ cup black olives, halved
Grated Parmesan cheese or cheese of choice


  1. Wash broccoli under cold running water.
  2. Curt off the florets and chop the top half of the stems into small bite-sized pieces.
  3.  Put garlic, oregano, peppercorns and salt in a mortar. Pound with a pestle until crushed. Add olive oil and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add seasoning and broccoli to a large skillet or frying pan. Stir fry for 2 minutes over medium high heat. Add 3 tablespoons water and cook for 3 minutes more or until water evaporates.
  5.  Add tomato sauce and stir in sofrito. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pan and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  6.  Add olives, stir to combine, and serve immediately with penne or rice. If using pasta, top with grated cheese.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.


Steamed mussels is a very popular dish in the Mediterranean. To be honest, back in Spanish Harlem, we never had mussels as a dinner dish. We had it in sandwiches, yes, sandwiches. Figurer that one out. It  wasn’t until my early manhood that I enjoyed steamed mussels. And invariably it was Provençal style. That is, infused in a broth with olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a host of other herbs. The mussels are steamed in their own juices and served with crusty bread. In the recipe given, we serve them with fresh spinach, braised in the broth in which the mussels are steamed. Another good aspect of this dish is that leftover broth can be used as a base for a cream sauce for fish,  poultry or even steak.

Today we are fortunate that most markets have mussels that come already cleaned. So, you don’t have to spend time cleaning the suckers .But if you are not fortunate enough to get mussels already set, then you will have to go through the ritual of removing all the barnacles, seaweed material and sand from the shells. Then you will have to scrape off the “beards” from the barnacles with a clam knife or any bunt-edged knife. Afterward, you put the mussels in a deep bowl and cover them with cool water. It’s good to agitate them with your hands for 30 seconds or so. Finally you drain them well and discard the water.  You repeat this until the water is clear. Discard any mussels that open  before it is cooked.

Admittedly, the above procedure is a pain in the you-know-what. But, as stated, you’ll probably find cleaned and prepared mussels in most  markets.  Something that makes it all easier.

One of the great things about mussels is that you can use whatever variety of seasonings you desire. In French cuisine, the favorite ingredients are white wine and shallots, that’s it. As for myself,  I like to liven them up with whatever herbs and seasonings I have in the cupboard. So, give yourself and family a treat today. Get some mussels and go at it. It’s a cheap, delicious meal and, apart from the cleaning and preparation, the dish can be cooked in 5-6 minutes.



2 pound fresh mussels
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
½ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. If mussels come in a package, already clean, then proceed with recipe. If not, scrub them, remove beards and barnacles and wash in cold water. Drain well (see above).
  2.  Heat olive oil in a large pot or saucepan. Add garlic, onions and sweet red pepper, Cook briefly over medium heat until wilted.  Stir often and do not burn garlic.
  3. Add tomatoes, saffron, turmeric, red pepper flakes, wine, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.
  4.  Add mussels and parsley. Cover pan tightly and cook over high  heat until all the mussels are opened., 5 to 6 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread.
    Yield: 4 or more servings



It was in my young manhood that I first encountered a dish called Ragoût. When I saw it on the menu I pronounced it “rag-OUT.” It shows how far I’ve come in my culinary knowledge. Whatever you call it, the French categorize it as well-seasoned meat and vegetables cooked in a thick sauce. In essence, a  main-dish stew. Now, the Italians have their own thing, ragù, which  is a class of Italian pasta sauces made with ground or minced meat, vegetables, and occasionally, tomatoes.

Today’s dish follows the French pattern, though it’s a Lebanese dish,  Yakhnet Dajaj (Chicken Ragout in our vernacular.) For full disclosure, this is  from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lebanese Delights by Raymonda Khoury Naaman. It’s a compendium that features the art of Lebanese cuisine in all its glory. The recipe is a ragout unlike any I’ve ever encountered. It has cinnamon as an ingredient, and it gives the dish a unique taste and flavor. Rice is normally served as the accompaniment to this dish.



1kg (2.2 lbs.) chicken breast (skinned and deboned)
3 tbsp. butter
½ kg (1.1 lbs.) tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 cups water
1 kg (2.2 lbs.) potatoes
Salt, pepper and cinnamon as desired


Rinse and cut the chicken breast into medium cubes.

Peel and rinse the potatoes, then cut them into medium cubes

Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a frying pan. Add the chicken cubes, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Cook until the chicken cubes turn golden in color.

Sautee the potato cubes in 1 tbsp. of butter.

Place the fried chicken in a cooking pot, add the potato cubes, the sliced tomatoes, the tomato paste (dissolved in half a cup of cold water) and the remaining water.  Boil until the chicken is done (about 25 minutes).

Serve hot with cooked rice.


I call this recipe ‘Marvelous Green Sauce.’  It goes specially well with fish, especially if fresh caught. Think of it as a green jade sauce since it also has a splendid  green color as well as taste. We recommend you prepare it several hours ahead of serving time to get a full blending of flavors. It’s a wonderful  summer meal when served cold over pouched or steamed fish. This time around we added pasta to the dish, using tagliolini, a type of ribbon pasta; but you can also use spaghetti, tagliatelle or capellini, or even rice with this dish. The sauce just makes it perfect.



1¼ cups mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup finely chopped spinach leaves
½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream ,spinach, parsley, dill, scallions and lemon juice, Mix well.
  2.  Season with pepper and check to see it salt ifs needed. If so, add sparingly. Cover and chill thoroughly before serving. Flavors develop further during this time.
    Yield: 2½ cups (approx.)
    As noted above, in this recipe we served it over poached fish on a bed of tagliolini (or you can substitute any ribbon pasta).
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