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Lady of Spain part II  (Recipes below)  (go to < part I)


In the last edition of “Food for Thought” we discussed the technicalities and history of Brown sauce, a.k.a., Espagnole sauce.  Espagnole, the French term for “Spanish” underscores one theory of the origins of Brown sauce, obviously some form of Spanish connection or provenance.  This is reinforced by its putative relationship with Katherine of Aragon, the Spanish first wife of Henry VIII.  Brown sauce, made from beef or veal stock, is one of the “Grand” or “Mother” sauces of French cuisine.  It is intensely flavored and rich and obviously pairs well with all forms of red meat although it can be used on vegetables as well.  A Grand sauce is a base sauce from which a panoply of derivative sauces are then made.  The primary derivative made from Brown sauce is demi-glace.  Demi-glace is then in turn used to make a host of additional sauces such as Bordelaise, Robert sauce, Chasseur sauce or Madeira sauce.  Or, demi-glace can certainly stand on its own.  If you’re up for the challenge, below are the recipes and procedures for making stock, then a Brown sauce and finally a demi-glace.




    8 lbs. beef or veal bones
    Vegetable oil, as needed
    6 quarts cold water
    8 oz. onion, roughly chopped
    4 oz. carrot, roughly chopped
    4 oz. celery, roughly chopped
    4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
    1 sachet d’epices  (a small bundle of thyme leaves, parsley sprigs, 2-3 bay leaves, and 10 whole peppercorns, give or take, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with kitchen twine to form a bundle.)


Stock is the fluid that results from simmering bones, aromatic vegetables and herbs for a protracted period of time.  Bones, as opposed to meat, are employed because they are rich in the protein collagen.  Veal bones are preferred over beef because they contain more collagen.

Collagen denatures into the viscous protein called gelatin which adds body to the stock.  Meat can be used instead of bones but there’s a catch.  Meat imbibes the stock with more flavor but not viscosity, which is the goal in making stock.  Stocks made from meat and not bones are called broths.

To augment the flavor of a stock and deepen its color, the bones are first roasted in an oven.  They are then placed in a large stockpot with the water, vegetables, and herbs and simmered.  Depending on the particular chef or culinary text, there are three procedural options in terms of the vegetables:


  • 1) The vegetables can also be roasted, along with the bones.  The argument here is that like the bones, roasting the vegetables will enhance their flavor, and hence the resulting stock.
  • 2) Roasting of the vegetables is omitted.  Instead they are simply added raw to the stockpot after the bones have cooked.
  • 3) Roasting of the vegetables is omitted and they, (along with the herbs), are not added to the stockpot at the beginning, (as in step 2), but an hour before the stock is done.  The reasoning here is that extended simmering of the vegetables and herbs causes their flavor to degrade and dissipate.  Adding them an hour before the end of the cooking is sufficient time to extract their essence without rendering them insipid.

Some chefs will fiercely cling to their specific methodology but I have to tell you, I’ve made stock countless times, with all three variations and have never seen a marked difference in the final product.  I favor the third alternative mostly because it is easier to skim the stock without the vegetables and herbs in the way. Skimming must be done periodically throughout the cooking to remove excess fat and the scum which floats to the surface.

There are a few other aspects to be mindful of when making stock.  Begin with cold water, (which will extract the bone’s proteins more efficiently), use a pot that is taller than it is wide, (to ease the rapidity of evaporation), and cook it at a VERY GENTLE simmer.  The bubbles should only be lazily breaking the surface.  OK, with all those permutations and guidelines in mind here are the directions for making stock:


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Add six quarts of water to a stockpot.  Lightly oil a large, heavy gauge steel roasting pan.  Add the bones and roast them until browned, turning them as necessary.  Add the bones to the stockpot.  Drain all the fat from the roasting pan.  Place the pan on top of the stove on high heat.  Add some water, stock, or wine, and deglaze the bottom, scraping off the browned bits.  Add the dissolved solids and fluid to the stockpot.  Bring the stock to a boil.  As soon as it hits a boil reduce the heat until a very gentle simmer is produced.  Skim the surface of the stock as necessary.  Simmer for at least five hours.  Then add the vegetables and sachet d'espice.  Simmer for one more hour.  Strain the stock through a colander into another pot discarding all the solids.  Strain again through cheesecloth.  To de-fat the stock either 1) allow it to cool and skim the surface with a large spoon, use a fat separator, or refrigerate and remove the coagulated fat on the surface a few hours later.


Now that we've made stock, we can make Brown Sauce.  To make Brown sauce, roux, vegetables, herbs, and some form of tomato product, are added to a batch of beef or veal stock and simmered until reduced.  Recipes vary on the use of additional ingredients, the ratio of the ingredients, and the cooking time.


    2 oz. butter
    2 oz. all-purpose flour
    2 quarts stock from above recipe
    4 oz. tomato puree
    1 small carrot, roughly chopped
    1 celery stick, roughly chopped
    1 small onion, roughly chopped
    1 sachet d’epices


Melt the butter over medium heat in a small stockpot.  Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently until a golden color is achieved.  Slowly add the stock, constantly whisking until it is incorporated.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for at least one hour, skimming the surface as necessary.  Strain through cheesecloth when finished.  Some chefs sauté the vegetables in the butter and then add the flour, or cook them separately in oil as opposed to adding them raw.


Demi-glace is a snap.  Simply take equal amounts of stock and brown sauce from the above two recipes and simmer until it’s reduced by at least half.  The sauce should be somewhat syrupy and easily coat a spoon.  If the demi-glace is your final sauce, season it with some salt and pepper.  If not, you can hold off with the seasoning until preparing the final derivative sauce from the demi-glace.


Food for Thought - August 4, 2010 - Mark R. Vogel - [email protected]
 - Mark’s Archive


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