One of the first things you learn in culinary school, or in any professional kitchen worth its salt, is how to make the five classic French “Mother Sauces.” I am a sucker for these sauces, with my favorite being the béchamel. This white sauce is versatile and can be used in various pasta dishes or as a drizzle over roasted vegetables. It also serves as a base for my other favorite sauce, the Mornay, aka the béchamel sauce plus cheese. I love a good vegan fondue. But enough about the white sauces. We are here to talk about the classic brown sauces, and my friends, this is a labor of love.
Sauce Espagnole and demi-glace are both rich brown sauces, but the latter derives from the first. After a Sauce Espagnole has been made, it can easily be used in a 1:1 ratio with brown stock, then reduced by half and finished with wine—resulting in an intensely flavored demi-glace sauce. It can be stirred into soups, stews, and risottos.
A demi-glace is a brown stock reduced by prolonged simmering combined with an Espagnole sauce or one of the five classic mother sauces of French cuisine. A classic demi-glace is made with veal, but beef and poultry is sometimes used. But we are using a combination of hearty vegetables! The “demi,” meaning half, signifies that the reduced stock (glace) is combined with the Espagnole sauce in a half-and-half ratio.
You can use whatever you have on hand—provided you combine sweet vegetables with more savory plants for balance. Use too much of the sweet stuff, and the demi could become way too sweet and syrupy.
- 1 small eggplant, washed and shaved with mandolin
- 1 celery root, thick sliced
- 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (white parts only)
- 1 large stalk celery, sliced in half length-wise
- 2 large carrots, sliced in half length-wise
- 2 medium beets, peeled and sliced root to stem
- 1 cup shitake mushrooms (cut mushrooms in half)
- 1 medium onion, medium slice
- 1 head garlic, sliced in half (don’t worry about peeling)
- 1 lemon, washed and sliced in half width-wise
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (sherry or cabernet is preferred)
- Toss vegetables and peppercorns in a large bowl with tomato paste, coating well. Oil bottom of pan—this step is optional but will prevent sticking. Transfer to a deep hotel pan or other deep (at least 4″ oven safe pan. Place vegetables in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check your veggies every 20 minutes or so, stirring and rotating as needed to prevent edges from burning.
- After roasting remove from oven. Add wine, scraping any brown bits. These caramelized morsels of concentrated juice, called the fond—literally, the foundation—will enrich the stock from the bottom of the pan. Carefully, add 6 cups water to vegetables and return to oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a sieve into another pot, pressing the vegetables with the back of a ladle to extract all the juices.
- Over high heat, combine 1 part Espagnole to 1 part Vegetable stock, boil for 10 minutes or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt and pepper.