Cookbook of the Week: In ‘Mastering Sauces,’ Susan Volland pours it on

Cookbook of the week: “Mastering Sauces” by Susan Volland (W.W. Norton & Co, $39.95)

You might think that the position of saucier is a relic of the French kitchen brigade system, something that people pay attention to only in the rarefied world of fine dining. But sauces are an intrinsic part of so many cuisines, as well as basic home cooking, whether elaborate compositions or the stuff you whisk together last-minute in a pan. And good books on sauce-making are difficult to come by.

Hence “Mastering Sauces,” the first solo cookbook by Seattle native Volland. What you should probably know about the author is that her previous projects were not your ordinary collaborations: Before writing her book on sauces, Volland served as recipe editor for Nathan Myhrvold’s “Modernist Cuisine” projects. Nice.

It’s therefore probably not a surprise that “Mastering Sauces” is both exhaustive and highly inventive, a 400-plus-page, over 150 recipe assembly of techniques and tips, sidebars and suggestions. This is good for classicists (she covers mother sauces) and multiculturalists (there are chapters on curries and barbecue sauces), as well as those who are intimidated by the whole idea. Which means there’s a reassuring amount of science laced through Volland’s book but also improvisation and homey prose: “Gravy should be available to all who crave it.” Indeed.