filling the empty nest with food
Mother Sauce #3 is Sauce Espagnole. This is a brown sauce, made with a brown roux, sautéed mirepoix (carrots and onions, thyme and bay leaf), a little tomato purée and beef stock. So, simple-sounding, isn’t it? Of course, as you all know by now, from my complaining about how complicated every recipe is, how many dishes I’ve been washing, and how long every recipe takes to make–that this sauce takes hours to simmer and to complete well. What did I expect, you ask? (Or you could say: I told you so!)
First, I whipped up some beef stock. Two days worth of simmering later, I browned butter and flour together for some minutes to make a brown roux. Escoffier says you can’t say how long to cook a brown roux since the timing depends on how hot your fire is. It is, however, better to cook it slowly rather than more quickly, since if you cook it too fast, the binding capability of the starch in the flour can get destroyed. A brown roux is done when it takes on “a beautiful, light, nut-brown color” and smells of hazelnuts. So, stir constantly over low heat and make sure your nose is working.
Then, you add stock, whisk until the roux and stock are well blended and simmer and skim for a while. Next, sauté onion and carrot with thyme and bay leaf in some of the stock fat, drain off the grease and add the mixture to the Espagnole sauce. Deglaze the mirepoix pan with a glass of white wine, reduce the wine by half, and add that to the sauce, too. Simmer again for some time. Strain the sauce. Next, add some tomato purée, and simmer some more. Cool and strain again.
At this point, I think I’m expected to use some gushy food-blog exuberance to tell you that this sauce, made with fresh, unadulterated ingredients and simmered carefully for hours, skimmed over and over, and strained several times, is a heavenly, clean and meaty-tasting sauce that will make a fine base for many sauces to come. That may well be the case.
But, frankly, I don’t really know what it’s supposed to taste like, and I am not convinced it was worth three days in the kitchen.
In the future, I may cheat and make a less time-consuming version. Hey, even the Escoffier International Culinary Academy only simmers their sauce for 45 minutes.
Je m’excuse, Monsieur Escoffier.