Getting back to sauces –Before I close on white sauces, I wanted to add that I came across another recipe for Béchamel Sauce that I copied from a magazine. THIS béchamel contains some thinly sliced onion and a bay leaf – plus a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. It also calls for a dash of ground white pepper; I like the idea of the freshly grated nutmeg – and I use white pepper almost exclusively in my cooking. AND I want to mention one more thing – both my sister Becky and I would tell you that anytime we ever made a white sauce (often for creamed peas) – we used evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk. I buy evaporated milk by the case at Sam’s Club because I like it so much in creamed peas and mashed potatoes.
Brown sauce or Sauce Espagnole is the basis for many other sauces and dishes. Curious about the name, I learned this on Google: “In cooking, espagnole sauce is one of the mother sauces that are the basis of sauce-making in classic French cooking. In the late 19th century, Auguste Escoffier codified the recipe, which is still followed today. Espagnole has a strong taste and is rarely used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it serves as the starting point for many derivatives, such as Sauce Africaine, Sauce Bigarade, Sauce Bourguignon, Sauce aux Champignons, Sauce Charcutière,Sauce Chasseur, Sauce Chevreuil and Demi-glace. There are hundreds of other derivatives in the classical French repertoire….”

Irma Rombauer advises us to always stir, never whip, a brown sauce and to use good, strong, clear beef stock. “The flavor,” writes Rombauer, “comes from the gradual ‘reduction’ of the sauce by a very slow simmering which, if you are a perfectionist, can be 8 to 12 hours”. (I don’t think most people would be willing to invest that much time in making a stock –personally, I don’t mind but have to confess, I have taken to cooking scraps of beef and the bones, such as those from a 7-bone roast, in my pressure cooker for an hour. Then I strain and chill the stock in gallon jars—next I cook it down after removing any solidified fats. Maybe Irma didn’t have a pressure cooker! Here is her short-cut recipe for making Sauce Espagnole:

To make Sauce Espagnole, you will need:

½ cup beef or veal drippings
1 cup Mirepoix*
½ cup flour
10 black peppercorns
2 cups drained peeled tomatoes or 2 cups tomato puree
½ cup coarsely chopped parsley
8 cups good beef stock
In a heavy saucepan, melt the beef or veal drippings. Add 1 cup Mirepoix (recipe follows). When this begins to brown, add ½ cup flour and stir until the flour is a good brown. Then added the peppercorns, tomatoes, and parsley. Stir well, and then add the 8 cups of good beef stock. Simmer on the stove for about 2 to 2 ½ hours or until reduced by half. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat as it rises to the top. Strain the sauce and stir occasionally as it cools to prevent a skin forming. The sauce should be the consistency of whipping cream, no thicker.

Before I continue, I want to explain Mirepoix – what it is and how it’s used:

Mirepoix is one of the simplest food preparations in the world – a combination of celery, carrot and onion. That’s all. However, this “holy trinity” is an essential ingredient in dozens, if not hundreds, of traditional French dishes, and knowing what it is and how to make it is essential.

Basic Mirepoix Recipe

1 c. diced white onion
1/2 c. diced carrot
1/2 c. diced celery

When dicing the separate ingredients, try to make the dices as small and uniform as possible, because it looks nicer but also because the small pieces will cook more uniformly. (A Vidalia onion dicer is ideal for making uniform diced vegetables. Although it’s used primarily with onions, I have found it works well dicing carrots and celery as well).

So what’s the deal? If it’s that simple, why is it so important? Well, these three basic ingredients, in this perfect ratio, provide a deep, earthy flavor that gives so many French dishes the recognizable flavor that sets them apart from, say, Italian or Spanish cooking. **

Back to brown sauces! Your basic brown sauce, or Sauce Espagnole, can be used to make Bordelaise Sauce, a quick brown sauce or gravy, Madeira Sauce, Mushroom sauce or Marchand De Vin Sauce—or many other sauces. For now, let me share with you a favorite of mine, Mushroom sauce. And it’s so easy!
To make Mushroom sauce you will need

1 cup brown sauce
¼ lb fresh sliced mushrooms
2 TBSP butter
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Set aside. Remove the beef or chicken when it is finished cooking, and add flour to the drippings to make a thin paste. If necessary add a little water to get all the bits of meat or poultry loosened. Then add your brown sauce and when it is hot, add the mushrooms.
Or, just cook your mushrooms in butter and add them to a cup of brown sauce. Heat until hot and serve. Sometimes I cook fresh sliced mushrooms in about 2 cups of beef stock (no butter) – and just serve it on the side as a gravy to go with any kind of beef roast or steak. We love mushrooms!

I really like a good sauce that has wine in it (and also like to make beef gravy with some Burgundy wine added to it). The following is called Marchand De Vin Sauce and some dry red wine goes into the recipe. The Marchand de Vin (French for “wine merchant”) is a classic red wine reduction sauce.

To make Marchand De Vin Sauce you will need:

1 cup finely sliced fresh mushrooms
2 TBSP butter
½ cup hot beef stock
1 cup brown sauce
½ cup dry red wine
Sauté the mushrooms in the two tablespoons of butter. Add ½ cup hot beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup brown sauce and ½ cup dry red wine. Continue simmering another 20 minutes. Then taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

There’s a rosemary wine sauce in Joy of Cooking – and I do love rosemary. But the instructions start with “Serve with Calf’s head or turtle meat…” and I don’t know which is the greater turn-off – the thought of eating calf’s head or an endangered species such as turtle. It brings to mind instructions in a very old 1800s cookbook for making use of a calf’s head. I recall it starts out with “hold the calf by one ear to dip the head into boiling water….” Ew, ew! And I will readily admit, I grew up in Cincinnati where mock turtle soup is still a regional favorite (mind you—it’s MOCK turtle soup; it was made with ground beef).
Well, what the heck – maybe you will find another interesting use for rosemary wine sauce.

To make rosemary wine sauce you will need:

½ cup good Madeira or dry sherry
1 tsp mixed dried marjoram, rosemary, sage, bay leaf and basil
1 cup hot brown sauce
Heat to boiling the Madeira or dry sherry and the mixed dried herbs (which is known as a tortue in France). Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Strain off the herb-flavored wine and add it to one cup of hot brown sauce. ***


Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk and butter, usually seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and a little white pepper or cayenne pepper. In appearance it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy. The flavor is rich and buttery, with a mild tang added by the seasonings, yet not so strong as to overpower mildly-flavored foods. Hollandaise is one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine sauce repertoire. It is so named because it was believed to have mimicked a Dutch sauce for the state visit to France of the King of the Netherlands. Hollandaise sauce is well known as a key ingredient of Eggs Benedict, and is often paired with vegetables such as steamed asparagus.
Irma Rombauer offers several hollandaise sauces, including a never-fail Hollandaise and a mock Hollandaise. She also suggests few tricks to make sure your Hollandaise doesn’t fail; for one, she says, don’t make Hollandaise on a very humid day unless you use clarified butter (I am reminded that it’s important not to make divinity on a humid day, either). She also advises that it’s best to use a wooden spoon or whisk when making Hollandaise.

To make never-fail Hollandaise sauce you will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ TBSP lemon juice, dry sherry or tarragon vinegar
3 egg yolks
1 TBSP boiling water
3 more TBSP water
¼ tsp salt
A few grains cayenne
Melt slowly and keep warm the ½ cup butter. Barely heat 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice, dry sherry or tarragon vinegar. Have ready a small saucepan of boiling water and a tablespoon with which to measure the water when you are ready for it. Place in top of double boiler over hot but not boiling water 3 egg yolks. Beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk until they begin to thicken. ADD one tablespoon of boiling water. Beat again until the egg begins to thicken. Repeat this process until you have added 3 more tablespoons boiling water; then beat in the warm lemon juice. Remove the double boiler from the heat; beat the sauce well with the wire whisk. Beat constantly while adding the melted butter slowly and add ¼ tsp salt and a few grains cayenne. Beat until the sauce is thick. Serve immediately. Makes 1 cup.


1 cup sour cream
Juice of one lemon
2 egg yolks
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika

Mix the above ingredients in top of a double boiler. Stir over hot water until thick. Makes 1 ¼ cups.
After searching through a stack of my cookbooks, it occurred to me to find a recipe box that contains all sauce recipes. My penpal Betsy sent this box to me years ago—it was a promotion from French’s and designed to hang on a kitchen wall. So, the following are sauce recipes from my personal collection—the following are divided into two categories – sweet and savory! First are some of my sweet sauces:


To make brandied butterscotch sauce you will need:
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Dash of salt
½ cup water
1 can (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 TBSP instant coffee powder
¼ cup brandy
1 tsp vanilla
Combine sugar, salt and water in a small heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Empty sweetened condensed milk into a medium size bowl; stir in hot syrup and mix until well blended. Stir in instant coffee, then brandy and vanilla. Pour into hot sterilized containers for gift giving. Serve warm or cold over ice cream, pudding or sherbet.


To make Vanilla sauce you will need:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Scald the cream and milk. Beat the egg yolks until light and add the sugar. Combine egg sugar mixture with the hot milk and cream and cook over boiling water stirring until it is the consistency of custard; strain and cool.


happy cooking!

–Sandra Lee Smith


2 responses to “GETTING SAUCED – PART 2

  1. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Spending some time and actual effort
    to produce a good article… but what can I say… I
    hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

    • the trick is to have a plan, start writing – or working on whatever project you do–and then set a goal to complete it. I have dozens if not hundreds of possible articles for my blog – just finding enough time to write everything keeps me on my toes. Thanks for writing. That was a favorite blog post of mine. – Sandy

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