La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #27
Brown Stock, Espagnole Sauce, and Demi-Glace
By Ray Zara, La Lama Mountain Ovens
are a myriad of uses in the kitchen for brown stock. From
soups to stews, gravies, braised entrees, pan sauces,
classic mother sauces, all the way to the formidable
demi-glace, an ample supply of brown stock is a necessity
to the serious home chef.
I can remember accompanying my mother to the local grocery store where Leo the butcher would wrap up a few veal or beef bones and say to her, "Bertina, take these home for the dog". She was frightened to death of dogs. Instead, she threw them in a pot and made a simple brown stock from which she made an occasional soup. Oh to have those days back. On a recent shopping trip to Albuquerque, my sister and I found an Italian specialty store that had veal bones neatly packaged in five pound packs in the freezer section. Although I cant remember exactly what I paid for them, I do know that I had to reach for my Visa card. Beef bones and knuckles are more readily available (and much cheaper) and make a wonderful stock.
Mama and Papa, 1923
|Mom never went much
beyond the beef stock. When she roasted a piece of beef
or veal she would save the pan drippings and use this
very concentrated liquid as an enhancement later for a
stew. In this way she had made a rather primitive version
of a classic brown sauce. This method worked for her in
some very specific dishes. It was not until later in
life, after working under some very talented chefs, that
I come to realize how important a true brown stock was to
a number of different dishes.
When making this stock if you use all veal bones you will produce a "veal brown stock". Likewise if you use all beef bones you will produce "beef brown stock." The key word here is "brown". A critical step in making a brown stock is to create a "pan bourbon". The pan bourbon is what gives the stock its color and its distinct aroma and flavor. There is a slight difference in taste and properties between an all veal and an all beef brown stock. You will find the veal stock to be slightly more delicate and contain a little less gelée than the beef stock. It is quite acceptable to use a combination of beef and veal bones to produce a brown stock. No matter which of the combinations you choose to use all are vastly superior to powdered mixes, cubes or canned stocks. I dont want to pontificate about never using canned stocks because I have, but only when my own negligence has found my supply of brown stock depleted. While canned beef broth has its occasional use in the kitchen, it will not work in place of homemade if you are making an Espagnole sauce or a demi-glace.
While we are on the subject of making this stock we will continue with additional reduction steps for the classic mother sauce, Espagnole, and finally to the demi-glace. The beginning recipe for stock will require a 20 quart stock pot - like its cousin, chicken stock, it is more efficient to make a large quantity once than to frequently produce smaller batches. You may of course choose to make smaller batches by halving the recipe if this volume is too much for you. I would not recommend a batch that is smaller than half of the large batch.
Total Ingredients to yield 8-10 quarts:
Step One: Roast bones and some vegetable pieces
Step Two: Make pan bourbon
Step Three: Cook the stock
Step Four: Strain and de-fat the stock
Now that we have an adequate supply of brown stock we can turn our attention to using some of the stock to produce an Espagnole sauce. This French classic is one of the five recognized mother sauces and its uses are far reaching. It is also a key step in the production of demi-glace, which is the last stop on this step ladder of reduction. Even though the name "Espagnole" seems at first glance to be Spanish by origin, it is a fundamental building block of French cuisine. Hundreds of years ago France and Spain were at war with each other. During this time some culinary fusion occurred and the French sauce named Espagnole was one of the results. By adding wines, herbs, spices and cream to this mother sauce many specialized sauces are easily be made - such as a Robert sauce, Bordelaise sauce, Chateau sauce, Mushroom sauce, and even a Cider sauce, just to name a few. Another advantage is that you can quickly produce a rich pan sauce with no additional thickeners or added fat.
Total Ingredients to yield approximately two quarts:
|Over medium/low heat
melt butter in sauce pan. Add onions, celery and carrots.
Cook until onions soften, then add flour and mix into a
roux. Cook the roux for about five minutes or until it
begins to brown. Begin adding hot stock, 1 cup at a time.
Stir thoroughly until each cup of stock is absorbed by
the roux and becomes smooth. When all the stock has been
incorporated, add the remaining ingredients and adjust to
taste for salt and pepper. Cook at a medium simmer for 1
½ hours. Remove from heat and pour immediately through a
The Espagnole sauce is complete and ready for use. It will keep for about a week under refrigeration and it also freezes quite well. When defrosting frozen Espagnole, or after several days under refrigeration, you may have to thin it with a little stock to reach the consistency you desire.
We are now ready to do a final reduction and produce the classic demi-glace. You can choose to make a plain demi-glace, or you may infuse an herb or combination of herbs to make a flavored demi-glace. This decision must be made while assembling the ingredients in the sauce pot, before the reduction process begins. I find the plain version is more useful as you can always infuse the herb flavors later when you use the demi-glace to make a pan sauce.
Total Ingredients to yield approximately two cups:
|Over medium/low heat
combine the Espagnole sauce and the brown stock. If you
choose to infuse a flavor into the demi-glaze, add the
herb or herbs at this time. Bring to a medium simmer and
cook until reduced by about half, add the Madiera wine
and continue reducing until you have reached 1/3 of the
original volume. Stir mixture frequently through entire
reduction. When finished, pour through a fine strainer.
When making a demi-glace, the amount of reduction is more critical than the time of cooking. You can slightly speed up the process by bringing the mixture to a faster simmer or slow it down by reducing the simmer. The 2/3 reduction is the important thing to accomplish. Bear in mind that the faster the simmer the more attention you will have to pay to avoid burning the sauce. When using herbs to infuse a flavor into the demi-glace use fresh herbs that are not cut up. This will permit you to remove them from the finished sauce with a pair of tongs rather than passing the finished sauce through a fine strainer.
Altitude Adjustment: At 8,000 feet add one hour to the stock recipe and 15 minutes to the Espagnole sauce.