Mother Sauces Part II of V: Espagnole.


Espangole sauce is my second feat in the quest to command and conquer the mother sauces and making them my bitches.  As we touched on last post, the mother sauces were born from the culinary loins of famous 19th century French chef Marie-Antoine Carême and later refined by 20th century chef Auguste Escoffier.  As I’m sure you’ve assumed, Espagnole is the French word meaning Spanish, though it’s not certain why they’ve named this sauce as such.  Some will say that it is because its base had originated in Spain, others will argue it’s because the dark color of the sauce is reminiscent of the coffee complexion of the Spanish people, and rest couldn’t care less.  I also read that a 17th century French chef, whose name has been omitted, named it Espagnole because he was reminded of a saucy little prostitute whom he’d met in Spain during a black-out drunken weekend, and he was drawn to her by her incredibly distinct, meaty smell.  Which isn’t at all true, but wouldn’t that be a more interesting story to hear?

Making Espagnole is fairly easy and only requires a few steps, though this wasn’t always the case.  At one point, Espagnole sauce was painstakingly laborious and incredibly costly given that it would require a large amount of meat to produce the stock, which would then be reduced multiple times to cultivate its highly-concentrated flavor.  Given the availability of stock at a fraction of the cost, you don’t have to break the bank to make this recipe.

The ingredients you will need to make Espagnole are:

  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomato puree
  • 4.5 cups hot beef stock
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf)
  • 1 tbsp of oil or bacon grease
  • salt and pepper to taste

If you have the time and are up to the challenge, I encourage you to make your own beef stock.  I however, realizing that my time on this particular day is somewhat limited, picked up a few boxes of the finest organic, low-sodium beef stock.  It’s not as good or as brag-worthy as making your own, but we busy business women have to do whatever fits our schedule sometimes.

Traditionally this sauce is made with veal stock, but this is where I come to a full stop at a moral impasse.  Veal is easily one of the finer meats; it’s moist, buttery, clean and once you’ve had a bite you’re sworn into some sort of OMG-this-meat-is-incredible society that is difficult, if not impossible, to break free of.  It’s also made from the meat of adorable baby cows and that moist, buttery, clean taste is achieved by never letting them walk or play. Ever. Do you see the quandary I’m faced with?  In any event, I haven’t set tongue on anything containing veal in years, so instead I use beef stock, which is suitable enough substitution.  Now, If you choose to use veal stock then you will receive no judgement from me, only longing gazes and wistful sighs.  Why are ethically dubious dishes always the most delicious, I wonder?  Nobody ever said eating responsibly was easy.

Getting started, you first want to heat up your stock until just simmering and keep it warm and off to the side while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The next thing you will do is you will create a roux out of the butter and flour, which will be used as a thickening agent.  Melt the butter in a 4 qt saucepan (or any pot just large enough to hold all the ingredients), and once the butter turns a light almond brown, add the flour and stir until well mixed.  The roux will at first be white and you will want to continually stir it and cook until it is dark brown.  Roux, while cooking, will go through various stages represented by its color: white, blond, brown, dark brown.  The  darker in color, the heavier the flavor, and though it is not a set rule by any means, the brown and dark brown roux are generally reserved for sauces with red meats while the white and blond roux are used for seafood, chicken, pork and veal.

Stages of Roux

The many faces of roux.

Once the roux is dark and aromatic, take the pot off the burner and heat up the bacon grease in a sauté pan and cook the chopped celery, carrot and onion (by the way, these three chopped vegetables are used for many, many recipes and is called mirepoix) and garlic until soft.  Add the tomato puree and cook on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add contents from sauté to the roux and return to the burner, stirring constantly until the mixture is bubbling lightly.  Continuing to stir, ladle in the hot stock, allowing each spoonful to be fully incorporated into the roux before adding more, until all the stock is mixed in with the vegetables and roux.  Bring stock to a simmer, add the bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour while skimming the top periodically as a film forms.  You will want to do this as often as possible and as much as possible until a film stops forming, thus removing fats that will cause your sauce to separate and preventing both Carême and Escoffier from giving you a postmortem middle finger.

After it’s simmered and reduced and you’ve skimmed the gunk off the top, then let the sauce cool before straining.  If you’re not using the entire batch of sauce immediately, strain into freezer-safe containers and throw away the vegetables and bouquet garni.

Now this is just a base sauce.  If you try and use this sauce alone, may be disappointed by the flavor.  At this point the flavor is very bold and biting, but with minor additions it can be an incredible addition to many dishes.  Some variations include sauce Africaine, sauce bourguignon, demi-glace, or you can experiment and come up with something entirely different!

Me?  Oh, I just reduced it with equal parts additional stock into a demi-glace and drizzled it over a medium rare rib eye with onions caramelized in a white wine reduction.  Is it the most impressive meal I could have made with this sauce?  Probably not, but sometimes the best meals are the simplest.

Rib eye with caramelized onions and a demi-glace.

NEXT POST: Mother Sauces Part III of V: Béchamel.


7 thoughts on “Mother Sauces Part II of V: Espagnole.

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