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 (W.W. Norton & Co, $39.95), the first solo cookbook by Susan Volland. 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.

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. 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.

— Amy Scattergood

Los Angeles Times