Espagnole sauce—aka dark or brown sauce—is a basic brown sauce, and is one of Auguste Escoffier's five mother sauces of classic French cooking. This sauce was already compiled in different Spanish cooking handbooks of the late 19th century and Escoffier popularized the recipe, which is still followed today.
The basic method of making espagnole is to prepare a very dark brown roux, to which veal stock or water is added, along with browned bones, pieces of beef, vegetables, brown sugar and various seasonings. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce while being frequently skimmed. The classic recipe calls for additional veal stock to be added as the liquid gradually reduces, but today, water is generally used instead. Tomato paste or pureed tomatoes are added towards the end of the process, and the sauce is further reduced.
Espagnole has a strong flavor, and is rarely used directly on food. As a mother sauce, it serves as the starting point for the hundreds of other derivatives in the classical French repertoire.
Pic1: a dark sauce
1. What Is Sauce Espagnole?
- Sauce espagnole is a basic brown sauce that originated in Spain in the late nineteenth century. It was later popularized by chef Auguste Escoffier and became one of the five French mother sauces we still use today.
- It is a brown roux, to which veal stock and tomatoes are added and simmered until reduced. It serves as a starting point for rich, beefy sauces, such as a demi-glace, and is often served with red meat in French cuisine.
- 4 cups hot beef stock (or veal stock)
- ¼ cup diced carrots
- ½ cup diced onions
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup canned tomato purée
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup diced celery
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan set over medium heat, cook the carrots and onion in the butter with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and cook the roux, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until golden brown in color, 6 to 10 minutes.
- Using a whisk, add the hot stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
- Add the tomato purée, garlic, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.
- Reduced the liquid by about one-third, until sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Pour sauce through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.
3. What's the Difference Between Sauce Espagnole and a Demi-Glace?
- Sauce espagnole and demi-glace are both rich brown sauces, but the latter is a derivative of the first.
- After a sauce espagnole has been made, it can then easily be used in a 1:1 ratio with brown stock, then reduced by half and finished with sherry wine, resulting in an intensely flavored demi-glace sauce. It can then be stirred into soups, stews, and risottos to boost the taste or simply spooned over a sizzling steak.
4. Five Dishes to Serve With a Sauce Espagnole
Beef tenderloin with sautéed mushrooms
Braised beef short ribs and mashed potatoes
Braised lamb shanks and creamy polenta
Braised pork shoulder and parsnip purée
Steak and a side of crispy French fries
5. Espagnole Derivative Sauces
Pic2: Espagnole and derived sauces
12 Espagnole Derivative Sauces
- Demi-Glace: A rich brown sauce that combines one part espagnole sauce with one part stock, and is finished with sherry wine.
- Chasseur Sauce: Sautéed mushrooms, shallots, and white wine reduction simmered in demi-glace.
- Sauce Africaine: Espagnole sauce flavored with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and herbs.
- Sauce Bigarade: Espagnole sauce with duck drippings, flavored with orange and lemon juice.
- Sauce Bourguignonne: Espagnole sauce with red wine, shallots, and bouquet garni.
- Marchand de Vin Sauce (Red Wine Reduction): Classic French steak sauce with reduced red wine, chopped shallots simmered in demi-glace.
- Charcutière Sauce: Onions, mustard, white wine, and chopped cornichons, simmered in demi-glace.
- Lyonnaise Sauce: Onions and white wine vinegar simmered in demi-glace.
- Bercy Sauce: Reduced white wine with shallots, simmered in demi-glace.
- Mushroom Sauce: A classic sauce made with sautéed mushrooms, shallots, and a splash of sherry, simmered in demi-glace.
- Madeira Sauce: Demi-glace that's enriched with Madeira wine.
- Port Wine Sauce: Port wine added to a demi-glace.
I have never made espagnole 'according to the book.'
I have never roasted bones to make a dark stock, but many roasts have bones in them that I might later use for stock. Usually the dog gets them though. I don't find they are necessary to get a dark sauce.
When I cook for my family at home, I also don't want to spend hours and hours reducing stocks when I already have a sauce that is quite satisfactory..
I have many sauces in my recipes that are plenty dark. They all are side benefits of pot roasts and stews. These are sauces that I like to soak my fries in. They may not be 'by the book' but they taste good. That has always been enough justification for me.
I do have a few 'short-cut' sauces in this website that I did not make an espagnole or demi-glace for first:
dark sauces from my kitchen
Pic6: chicken rooster