Auguste Escoffier was an early 20th century chef and restaurateur in Paris, who helped pioneer French cuisine, and cooking as we know it. He was an innovator in organizing kitchen layout, work flow, and probably his best known attribute - classifying the mother sauces. He defined that all sauces can fall into one of five categories; veloute, béchamel, tomato, espagnole and hollandaise. Today I am going to talk a little about espagnole sauce, and some alternative uses that are now available.
Espagnole is a brown stock derived sauce that can be converted to thousands of smaller sauces, depending on flavor profile and ingredients. The most common and known of these derivatives would be demi-glace, which literally means “half-glace” in French, and is most commonly known as just demi. This is a rich brown sauce that is either used by itself or combined with other flavorings to make a sauce. Traditional demi consists of using equal parts brown stock(usually veal) and brown sauce; brown stock that has been simmered with mirepoix, red wine, tomatoes and thickened with roux. This combination is then reduced by half in order to amplify its beautiful flavor.
Demi makes for a full range of options when making considerations of what uses there are; almost any type of meat will blend well to standard demi. One could get creative when making the sauce, and add specific ingredients to allow more of a complimentary note to your meal. For example, a root vegetable demi can be made to accompany a nice steak with roasted red & golden beets by merely adding some of the beets and other root vegetables while simmering the brown sauce. This versatility is what makes the demi such a sought after delicacy for diners.
Food and cooking have grown by leaps and bounds over the last hundred years since Escoffier. Chefs today have tweaked and reworked these classic recipes to meet the needs of today’s diners and their specific needs. Many of these variations have come about in an attempt to make food healthier, with the most common alteration to demi being the removal of the roux. (Instead of thickening, chefs allow the sauce to reduce even more to become and unbound or naturally thickened sauce.) Other chefs have changed the type of stock used to help the sauce fit to a specific dish they are composing.
Stock is defined as a flavorful cooking liquid, and have been made into any flavor imaginable. Some basic things chefs consider while deciding the type of stock to use in a recipe is the color and texture. In most cases, the decision comes down to either using chicken stock or veal stock, or some type of combination. The chicken will be more of a neutral flavor, while the veal stock will have the gelatinous flavor due to the thickness of the bones. More recently chefs have started using vegetable stock, most noticeably in cooking process of rice.
Making sauces from vegetable stock leaves you with endless possibilities, depending on the final use. Some of the more common directions seen are with root vegetables or mushrooms, since both offer rich and powerful flavors. Taking the extra step to transform vegetable stock into a delicate vegetable demi is well worth the additional time. With spring arriving today, many people will be planting this years garden. I wanted to give everyone some nice motivation and something to look forward to as the weather starts getting warmer.