Culinary 101 – Mastering the Brown- Sauce Espagnole
Okay, so we have covered some of the more simple sauces, stocks and roux. That covers 3 of the 5 mother sauces, Veloute, Bechamel and Tomate. On the complicated scale, this is next in line. Sauce Espagnole or Brown Sauce.
Your Brown Sauce is the basis for the rich and hearty sauces that are common place with the red meats and rich foods. We all LOVE rich foods right?
Okay. Now for the different stuff. Your last two roux based sauces used Blonde and White roux. Now we roll with the brown roux. We are looking for color and flavor. Not only that, this roux will add a twist. You are going to make your roux with the veggies still in the pan! Don’t fear. It is not as complex as it sounds. We are going to make a gallon of the good stuff today.
Let’s start with Mise en Place. Yes, I am going to continue to hammer that word. It’s really that important.
For this recipe you need the following:
- 1 lb. onion, medium dice (remember how to dice an onion? No? Check out the meat loaf article for a refresher)
- 8 oz. carrot, medium dice
- 8 oz. of celery, medium dice
- 8 oz. butter
- 8 oz. bread flour
- 6 qt of your brown stock (warm)
- 8 oz. tomato puree
- Sachet of the following
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 6-8 parsley stems
- Tie it into a bag of cheese cloth bag
Okay. Time for some culinary talk. What is a medium dice? We are not talking about what you toss on the craps tables, and that word is tossed around in the kitchen world like animal crackers in a day care. Let’s get down to the technical side of it. There are 2 different categories of square cut items. Brunoise and Diced. It’s all a matter of size.
- Fine Brunoise is 1/16” x 1/16” square
- Brunoise is 1/8” x 1/8” square
- Small Dice is ¼” x ¼” square
- Medium Dice is ½” x ½” square
- Large Dice is ¾” x ¾” square
Why do you want to cut things so accurately? Simple answer. When you are cooking vegetables you want them to all cook to the same doneness at the same time. If you have 25 different sizes of vegetable, you will have 25 different times that the vegetables will be done. Now that we have addressed the size of the cuts, let’s make our sauce!
Sauté your Mirepoix…. Culinary term again huh? Mirepoix is the base for the majority of all French food. It consists of Onion, Celery and Carrot. The ratio of this is 2 parts onion to 1 part each of celery or carrot. A classic mirepoix variation includes using leeks instead of onions. Okay, now sauté it until brown in your butter. One more time with the culinary terms, cause I just don’t have enough to tell ya right? Sauté.
Sounds simple enough right? Sauté is defined as cooking quickly in a small amount of fat. The key word there is small. You want medium high heat and small amount of fat; otherwise you are just frying your food.
Now back to your regularly scheduled food program. Now that you have your well browned vegetables, add your flour. Cook your flour to a brown roux. You want the roux to be the color of milk chocolate. Watch your roux carefully. The darker it gets, the quicker it will cook. It is real easy to go from brown to burned.
Now that the roux is brown, it’s time to start with the stock. Gradually stir in your WARM brown stock; putting it in cold to your hot roux can cause clumping; and your tomato puree, stirring constantly until the pot comes to a boil. Now reduce your heat to a simmer, and add your sachet. Skim of whatever foam, fat or other things from the top, and cook slowly uncovered, for about 2 hours, or until it reduces down to about 1 gallon.
Now that it’s all done, you need to strain out the “stuff” that’s left over. I use a china cap, lined with cheese cloth or a chinoise strainer. If you do not have one of these tools, don’t worry. Grab the biggest colander you have, and line it in several layers of cheese cloth. Put the colander over your container of choice and slowly pour your sauce into the container. When you are down to the cooked veggies, you can press them gently with a ladle to get the good juice out, but don’t press them through the strainer.
Cool your sauce and cover it. Now you can use this wonderful mother sauce to make a TON of things. The most classic first thing? Demi-Glace. That yummy, rich brown stuff that is common on French meat. Easy stuff. Mix equal parts Brown Sauce and Brown stock. Cook it until it reduces by half. Strain it just like you did your Brown Sauce, and you have Demi.
What other wonderful classic sauces can you make? Here are a few:
- Sauce Bordelaise: 1 cup red wine, reduced ¾, 2 oz. shallots, ¼ tsp. crushed peppercorns, pinch of dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, add 1 qt demi-glaze, simmer 20 minutes, and strain, finish with 2 oz. of whole butter.
- Sauce Robert: Cook 4 oz. onions without browning in butter. Add 1 cup white wine and reduce 2/3. Add 1 qt demi-glaze simmer 10 minutes. Strain and add 2 tsp. dry mustard and a pinch of sugar dissolved in a little lemon juice.
- Sauce Diable: Reduce by 2/3 1 cup white wine, 4 oz. shallots, ½ tsp. crushed peppercorns, add 1 qt demi-glaze simmer 20 minutes. Strain and season with cayenne pepper.
- Sauce Madeira: Reduce 1 qt demi-glaze by ½ cup. Add 3 to 4 ounces of Madeira wine.
- Port Wine: See Madeira. Substitute Port Wine.
- Mushroom: Sauté 8 oz. mushrooms and 1 oz. shallots in 2 ounces of butter until browned. Add 1 qt of demi-glaze and simmer 10 minutes. Add 2 oz. sherry and a few drops of lemon juice.
The varieties of small sauces are as varied as the ingredients that you can imagine using. Don’t be afraid of the sauce man!