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Chef Essentials: Brown Sauce

Chef Essentials: Brown Sauce

The Culinary Institute of America

At one time the term brown sauce was equated exclusively with the classic sauces espagnole and demi-glace. Today it may also indicate jus de veau lié, pan sauces, or reduction style sauces based on a brown or fortified stock.

Espagnole sauce is prepared by bolstering a brown veal stock with additional roasted mirepoix, tomato pinçage, and aromatics and thickening it with roux. Classically, demi-glace is composed of equal parts espagnole and brown stock and reduced by half or to a nappé consistency. These days, it may be made of brown stock that has additional caramelized trim and mirepoix, reduced to a nappé consistency, and optionally thickened with a starch slurry. Jus lies are made by reducing brown stocks or fortified stocks (with added flavorings if desired) and thickening them with a pure starch slurry. Pan sauces and reduction sauces are produced as part of the roasting or sautéing cooking process; thickening can be accomplished by reduction, roux, or pure starch slurries. Regardless of the approach taken, though, the end goal is the same—to make a basic brown sauce that is flavorful enough to be served as is but can also be used as the foundation for other sauces.

The ultimate success of the brown sauce depends directly on the base stock, usually Brown Veal Stock. The stock must be of excellent quality, with a rich and well-balanced flavor and aroma, and without any strong notes of mirepoix, herbs, or spices that might overwhelm the finished sauce.

Bones and trim, cut in small pieces for faster extraction, that are added to the sauce improve the flavor of the base stock. Mirepoix, cut into large dice, may also be added to the sauce base. If the stock is extremely flavorful, additional bones, trim, and mirepoix may not be necessary. Mushroom trim, herbs, garlic, or shallots may also be added to the sauce as it develops.

Roux is one thickening option and it may be prepared ahead of time, or it may be prepared as part of the sauce-making process. The thickener of choice for jus lié is arrowroot, though another pure starch, such as potato starch or cornstarch, may be used. Arrowroot is preferable because it results in a translucent, glossy sauce.

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