Don’t it make my brown eyes Espagnole?

This is week three of our journey through the five mother sauces, as decreed by Auguste Escoffier.

Today we turn our attention to Espagnole sauce, a rich beefy sauce, made thick and silky with the addition of roux (50/50 mixture of fat and flour, slowly cooked to a range of colors; from the beige of mature dry wheat, to the dark reddish brown of old bricks after a hard rain).The sauces were named by the French.  Espagnole is the French word for Spanish, or pertaining to Spain.  It’s more from a facile preconception.  The sauce is brown, the eyes of a Spaniard are brown—voila!  The French have a sauce that has a base of velouté into which eggs and cream has been mixed.  This sauce is blond.  The French associate blonds with Germans, so around its neck was hung a sign which read, “Allemande”, or German.Not unlike velouté, Espagnole is more a base than a standalone sauce.  But truthfully, this sauce has plenty of pizazz all by itself.  And despite what you may have been told, there are no roving bands of marauding sauce enforcers knocking down doors to punish those who break any kitchen commandments.

Espagnole sauce



1 small carrot, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

¼ cup butter

¼ cup A.P. flour

4 cups hot beef stock

¼ cup canned tomato purée

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2-3 bay leaves

Cook carrot and onion in butter in heavy saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7-8 minutes. Add flour and cook roux over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until medium brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly, then add tomato purée, garlic, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaves and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 cups, about 45 minutes.

Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.When I worked at a country club as a bartender, I had my first exposure to a professional kitchen.  And one trait I have found in every single person who cooks for a living, is the pathological compulsion to feed people.  And the crew at the country club was no different, so I, the wait staff, and my fellow booze slingers ate well.

One of the sauces they always had on hand and used in many dishes on the menu was something they called bordelaise.  There are different versions, but their sauce began life as an Espagnole.

Country club bordelaisebordelais

1 batch Espagnole sauce

4 large shallots, sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 ½ cups decent quality red wine

Salt and pepper

Warm Espagnole sauce in large heavy pot to a bare simmer.  Keep warm.

Melt butter in saucepan.  Place in shallots and season.  Cook until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).

When shallots are amber-colored, pour in wine and cook on medium-high, stirring frequently.  Let cook until the wine has reduces and there is about ½ cup left, and it has gotten thick and syrupy.

Strain wine and discard solids.  Stir syrup into Espagnole. 

Next week our sauce will be classic French tomato.  This fancy pants sauce was codified by one of the most revered culinary heroes in history.  But the flavor will be more familiar to American school kids than to big city food snobs.

Believe it or not, Mr. Ripley.Thanks for your time.

That velouté’s one mother

Last week I talked about mother sauces.  Back in the 18-somethings, the man-made-culinary god Auguste Escoffier declared the existence of the five root sauces from which all sauces come.

This week’s special guest is velouté; a simple sauce made from broth and roux, which is flour and fat, cooked to a range of shades, from the blond of Jean Harlow’s tresses, to the burnt sienna of a Crayola crayon. Classic velouté

3 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoon flour

2 cups warm chicken stock

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and continue to cook until it’s light blond.Whisking continuously, slowly pour in stock and cook until it thickens and just comes to a boil.  Season, taste, and season again, if needed.  Makes about two cups.

To make a simple, very tasty chicken gravy, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to the sauce.  You can then serve it on chicken, mashed potatoes, or rice.

In the mood for the easiest chicken pot pie ever?chicken-pot-pieMix the chicken gravy with a couple handfuls of shredded rotisserie chicken.  Stir in a couple cups of frozen mixed vegetables.  Either pour it into a frozen pie crust and cover with another piece of store-bought pie crust, or pour it into 4-6 mugs or crocks and cover with a piece of puff pastry.  Cut a few vents into top crust and brush with an egg wash.  Sprinkle the tops with some kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper and bake at 375 until it is golden brown and bubbly.

Our friend velouté is the base for cream soups.  For a deceptively simple cream of mushroom, heat 2 batches of velouté and some freshly grated nutmeg in a saucepan until barely simmering.  Keep warm.  In a separate skillet, caramelize 24 ounces of cleaned, sliced ‘shrooms, a big shallot that you’ve diced, and a teaspoon of dry thyme.  When the veg are golden amber, add a tablespoon of tomato paste.  Let the paste cook until the color darkens, and then pour in a cup of white wine, and let reduce until the liquid’s almost fully absorbed.Stir your caramelized veg into the velouté.  Pour in about ½ cup of heavy cream.  Check for seasoning and serve.  Serves 4-6.  You can also put this on pasta, and meat, or pour it over a baked potato (a sweet potato is really delicious this way).

You can make velouté vegan by using vegetable stock and replacing butter with coconut oil.  Some of this drenching tofu or tempeh, would be virtuous, but taste luxurious.

Another variation is the addition of lemon zest and a whole head of roasted garlic, which you’ve mashed into a paste.  I’m pretty sure, left to your own devises, you could come up with a few uses.  To my thinking, bathing in it, while possibly alluring, is not an acceptable use.

You can switch out the stock, too.

Get yourself some seafood stock (like shrimp), add the juice and zest of one lemon before you add the roux.  Ladled onto a piece of stuffed flounder, it would gladden Chef Escoffier’s little French heart.

For one of Petey’s favorite foods, make a tetrazzini.

Sautee two pounds of mushrooms.  Then combine the chicken gravy, shredded precooked chicken, the mushrooms, and one pound of cooked egg noodles.  Stir in a bag of frozen peas, and cover with buttered breadcrumbs.  Bake at 375 until hot, browned, and bubbly.

Next week is espagnole.  It’s a velvety beefy sauce.  It’s another sauce which isn’t eaten much in its original form.  Think if it as Spanxx.  It’s the foundation of numerous saucy edifices.Thanks for your time.

Obey your mother


They still make them.  Who knew?

When I was a kid, there was a clothing line called Garanimals.  For fashion challenged folks, all you had to do was make sure the same animal was on the tags for both tops and bottoms.


Voila!  You had a matching outfit.  That’s flexibility.

Growing up in military families, every three years or so, Petey and I would be dropped into a new town and a new school, where with very infrequent exceptions, we knew nobody but our own families.

Within a few months or so, somehow, we made these places our home.  I honestly don’t know how we were able to keep doing it, over and over.  That’s adaptability.

Last week, talking about cream sauce, I mentioned a term; mother sauces.In classic French cooking, there are five mother sauces.  These are the Garanimals, the army brats of food.  With a familiarity of them, you can make just about any sauce for any dish you’d like.  They are the base for all that follows.

For each of the next five weeks, we’ll look at one sauce and talk about all the things you can do with them.

Since we’ve already started with cream sauce, we’ll just continue.

Known as béchamel, this is the one mother that most people, regardless of culinary ability, can make.  My Aunt Polly, who possesses something less than enthusiasm in the kitchen, actually makes a pretty delicious dish of creamed cauliflower (literally just béchamel over frozen cauliflower which has been microwaved).Just in case, here is the recipe again.

Classic White sauce (béchamel)

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups 2% milk

Salt & pepper

Put a saucepan on medium.  Melt butter and whisk in flour; this is a roux.  Let cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in milk.  Whisk constantly until it thickens and comes to a boil.  Season, taste, and season again.

Most of the time, I grate a bit of fresh nutmeg into the sauce.  It’s easy to go overboard, so I suggest no more than 15 gratings on a nutmeg grater or microplane.  I always use nutmeg in dark greens, and it’s wonderful with scalloped potatoes. For some really cozy, comforting scalloped potatoes, pour ½ cup of béchamel into greased casserole dish.  Thinly slice 5 cups of potatoes and layer them in the dish alternating with another cup of cream sauce.  Spread out the final half cup of béchamel on top and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes, uncover, and bake for thirty more, or until browned and bubbly.

Mix some parmesan into some hot cream sauce, and stir into some spinach that you’ve wilted in the microwave and drained of liquid.  Either serve as is, or put under the broiler with another couple tablespoons of parmesan.  It’s as good as you’d get at the best of steak houses.

Our creamy white friend is also the base for cheese sauce.When making the white sauce, whisk in a teaspoon or so of mustard powder.  After it comes to a simmer, stir in a couple cups of your favorite melt-able cheese.  My mom, who makes the best baked macaroni and cheese, always uses Velveeta for about a third of the cheese.  This gives you creaminess that won’t separate while baking.  I’d use at least 2 batches for each pound of pasta.

Next week we’ll take a look at another pale sauce, Velouté, which is more a jumping off place than a stand-alone sauce.

Oh, but the places it jumps to.Thanks for your time.