Kelis Taught Me How to Make Sauce and She Will Teach You Too
The musical artist is also a trained saucier with fun recipes up her sleeve.
It’s national sauce month and I have the perfect way to celebrate: with Kelis’s new Skillshare class that focuses primarily on sauce. Yes, the singer-songwriter is a phenomenal musical artist, but she’s also a trained saucier with a culinary degree, the host of Netflix’s weed cooking show Cooked with Cannabis, and a cookbook author who wants to brighten your kitchen with some of her liquid gold recipes. In her own words, “everything literally is better smothered, dipped, or poured.” As a chicken tender with honey mustard supporter, I couldn’t agree more.
Kelis’s class is broken down into nine parts, with recipes for salad dressing, guava vinaigrette, gravy, sofrito starter, and jerk sauce. The classes themselves are never more than 15 minutes, but do instill a lot of thoughtful observations about the ways in which sauces are imbued with our heritage and identities. “It does define the meal,” Kelis says in one of the videos. “We can be anywhere and the sauce that comes with it, the sauce that it's in, really tells you where you’re at. You can order a steak anywhere in the world—the sauce is going to tell you where you’re at.”
After going through the first four intro classes, which explain why Kelis is so fixated on sauces and what tools you’ll need to be a successful sauce student, the first thing I attempted to make was the guava vinaigrette. This recipe appealed to me because I adore the tropical flavor of guava and it had been snowing mercilessly that day. I also happened to have a pile of mixed greens and shredded chicken that needed dressing. I bought the ingredients, pulled out my food processor, and got to work.
What I noticed is that the recipes Kelis provides are very forgiving—the ingredients are almost like suggestions rather than rigid necessities. That’s not to say Kelis doesn’t have cooking philosophies; “what grows together, goes together” is one of them. It’s just to say that Kelis encourages you to make the recipe your own. “Every time we cook, we should dig into some of the best parts of our life,” she wisely reminded me. So instead of following the recipe to a tee, I adapted it to my own preferences—shaped by what I grew up eating. Like puckery acid? Add a squeeze more of lime. Want to amp up the fruity, sticky sweet flavor? Spoon in more guava.
It’s the same with her jerk sauce, which is the lesson following guava vinaigrette. Jerk has always been somewhat mystifying to me, but Kelis breaks it down and allows room for flexibility. Although jerk sauce is typically made with Jamaican scotch bonnets, Kelis opts for habaneros because they were more readily available in her area. I did the same because I couldn’t find scotch bonnets, and paired with the rest of the ingredients—which included toasted sesame oil, fragrant allspice, and plenty of garlic—the results were still magical: spicy and sharp, nuanced and nutty.
In addition to walking us through the recipes, Kelis also provides tips for safely jarring and storing sauces—so our efforts can be savored long after their creation date.
The best part about the class is that it’s not pretentious. Cooking, especially for newcomers, can often feel stuffy and intimidating, but Kelis felt like a friend guiding me through the steps while cracking jokes and telling stories along the way. She gets into the science behind sauces, but nothing is ever too technical or out of reach to understand. “Sauce is the accessory; it’s the accoutrement,” Kelis explained. “It’s the shoes and the bag, and the earrings and the lipstick. The sauce is the answer.”
As of now, Kelis has over 2,000 students and counting cooking alongside her videos. I’m happy to be among them. To register for the class, you have to buy a subscription to Skillshare, which can either be paid annually at $168 per year or monthly at $32.00 per month. Would I make this purchase solely on this one class? Probably not—but the membership provides access to dozens of other classes in cooking, yes, but also interesting courses like crocheting, music theory, and figure drawing. As we continue to stay home with ample time on our hands, it might be worth investing in the subscription to try new hobbies, sauce making being one of them. You can sign up for Kelis’s class on Skillshare here.