Espagnole Sauce (Brown Sauce)

Hopefully I didn’t bore you too much with all that chatter about Béchamel Sauce, the first of our five Mother Sauces up for discussion. We are now ready to move on to Espagnole Sauce. Like her sister, Espagnole Sauce also has a more common name, Brown Sauce.

This sauce is slightly more complex than other Mother Sauces. At its most basic form, Espagnole is made by thickening a brown stock with a roux. Like our basic Béchamel sauce, Espagnole is also similar to a Velouté Sauce in that both rely on a roux. One could argue that Espagnole is not a Mother Sauce at all but rather a daughter the Velouté since a basic Velouté sauce is at the root of the Espagnole. Unlike a Velouté, a true Espagnole contains tomato purée, with depth of color from a mirepoix and richness from a stock that is made from the bones that have first been roasted for intense color and flavor.

Before we get into all of that, let’s take a moment to talk about the roux. In a nutshell, in order for a liquid to become a sauce, it needs to be thickened. This transforms a flavorful liquid into something far more magical that coats and clings to foods rather that running off into the corner of your plate to hide. Some sauces need a little more help in the thickening department than others. Take a tomato base sauce such as a classical tomato-based pasta sauce. The longer the sauce is allowed to simmer, the more it reduces as the moisture evaporates, leaving behind a thick tomato sauce that clings to the pasta. Other sauces, such as a white sauce, needs help order to thicken. And that is where a roux comes in. A roux is basically a blend of cooking fat (butter) combined with a thickening agent (flour) that is first cooked before adding to a liquid to do its magic. Roux are cooked in different increments of time, depending upon the color of the finished sauce and the desired flavor. The longer a roux is cooked, the deeper the color and the more nutty-toasty the flavor it imparts. Four out of the five Mother Sauces rely on a roux as its thickening agent.

Earlier I mentioned that our Espagnole Sauce is made with a mirepoix. Scary word for those of us (like me) who were not trained in a fancy culinary academy. While the word sounds complicated, the meaning is simple. Two parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery. Everything is chopped and sautéed together. The longer the sauté, the deeper the color and flavor. A Mirepoix is very forgiving in that the measurements need not be exact. You can eyeball the ingredients and throw them into your sauté pan. Simple.

Espagnole Sauce
4 Cups Brown Beef Stock
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped (no leaves)
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
½ cup Tomato Purée
1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat

Note: Brown Beef Stock is made from bones that are roasted first, giving the stock its rich, intense flavor. You can make a roasted bone beef stock from scratch or purchase a beef stock. Just be sure to select a stock that says it is made from roasted beef bones. If your neighborhood grocery store doesn’t care Bone Stocks, they can be bought online from places like William-Sonoma.

In a stock pot, heat the beef stock. Keep warm.

Chop all the vegetables and set aside in a bowl until ready to use. It is not necessary to keep the vegetables separate as they will all be cooked together.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan and add the flour. Stir until smooth to make a roux, then cook over low heat until a light chocolate-brown color is reached, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Take the pan off heat just as the desired color is reached. The roux will continue to cook and deepen in the pan. Continue to stir as the color deepens.

Allow the roux to cool slightly, then add warm stock in batches, stirring with each addition until smooth. When the sauce has cooked, you have made a base nearly identical in technique to a Velouté.

In a medium saucepan, heat the bacon fat. Sauté vegetables until softened. Add the tomato purée and sauce. Stir well.

Allow the sauce to simmer gently uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes or until it is reduced by half the volume. Stir sauce occasionally to prevent sticking. Skim off any fat or foam as it builds up to keep the sauce as pure as possible.

Once the sauce has reduced, strain through a sieve. Your Espagnole sauce is now ready for use. It can be used as is, or modified into one of its daughter sauces. If you like, the Espagnole Sauce can be frozen for future use.

Note: If the sauce in its strained state should be allowed to continue to reduce down into a glaze, you would have a demi-glaze sauce, that magical ingredient in so many awesome dishes.

While the variations of Espagnole sauce are as countless as the stars in the sky, below are two of my favorites for your consideration.


Sauce Chasseur aka Hunter’s Sauce
1 Shallot, chopped
3 Mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon Butter
3 oz White Wine
Basic Espagnole Sauce (above)

Sauté chopped shallots and mushrooms in a little butter until the mushrooms have released their liquids and the pan is dry. Deglaze with the wine.

Add to the Espagnole Sauce. It is now ready to serve.

This is an excellent sauce to spoon over baked chicken filets, or to dress pork medallions.


Sauce Bourguignonne
1 Shallot, chopped
3 oz Red Wine
Basic Espagnole Sauce (above)
1 tablespoon Butter
Cayenne Pepper, optional

Note: This sauce is served with pan-seared meats such as Filet Mignon since the browned bits of residue left in the pan is a key ingredient to the sauce.

The shallots are gently sautéed in the pan with the meat fats. Red wine is added to deglaze the pan. Once the shallots are tender and the pan has been deglazed, add the Espagnole Sauce. To further enrich the sauce, whisk in just a little pat of butter. If desired, a little heat can be added with a sprinkling of Cayenne Pepper.


Next upHollandaise Sauce!

hollandaise sauce2

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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