Easy Espagnole and Demi-Glace

Joined Feb 13, 2008

Starting off with Espagnole:

Espagnole is a classic mother sauce. Since Escoffier revolutionized “French Cuisine” at the beginning of the twentieth century, espagnole has been an intermediate step in making other sauces (called compound sauces). With the exception of a few individuals, most people don’t like it on its own; and it is (almost) never served as is. Since nouvelle and California cuisine, demi-glace is the most common compound destination.

Even though this espagnole recipe has a lot of steps, it’s a quick and dirty version of the classic.

(Yield: About 4 cups)

1 carrot
1 onion
1 stick, celery
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs butter
6 cups veal or beef stock (or 3 cups each), divided
1 bay leaf
1 handful parsley
1/2 tsp dried, or 1 sprig fresh thyme

Cut the carrot, onion and celery into medium dice. Put them in a bowl and mix with your hand so they’re evenly distributed. This mixture is called mirepoix.

Preheat a a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil and butter. The butter will foam. When the foam has subsided add 1 cup of mirepoix (reserve the rest for another time). Saute the mirepoix until it begins to show some color.

Push the mirepoix to one side of the pan, and add your tbs of tomato paste to the center. Spread it around with your spoon and let it cook for a minute or so, so the paste forms a “fond.” Move the mirepoix back to the center of the pan and mix it into the paste. Keep the contents moving until the paste begins to darken – another couple of minutes at most. This combination of cooked mirepoix and tomato paste is called a “pincage” and is extremely useful in saucing. Remember it. It will be on the test. .

Stir the 2 tbs of flour into the pincage. Continue stirring until “the raw” is off the flour. You’ll smell the difference; it takes about two minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking another five minutes to toast the flour and further brown the tomato. Now you’ve got a roux-pincage.

Add about 1/2 cup of the stock, raise the heat to medium-high and deglaze the pan. Add the remaining stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Make a sachet of the bay leaf, parsley and thyme, or you may add them loose. Reduce by about one third (to 1 qt liquiid) at the simmer – never the boil.

When the sauce is fully reduced, strain it through a very fine sieve, a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a fine tami. Don’t forget to press the essence out of the mirepoix with the back of a spoon.

Note: It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of sieving in sauce making. When in doubt – sieve.

Moving on to Demi-Glace:

Back in the day, demi-glace was used as an intermediate step for more sophisticated compound sauces. Escoffier would roll over in his grave if he thought you were using it as a stand-alone sauce, but modernly it is considered a compound sauce, and is mostly commonly used “as is” to sauce for meat, poultry and/or vegetables.

Anticipating that it will be used alone, I add a butter “finish” to this version.

(Yield: 2 cups)

2 cups espagnole (recipe above)
2 cups stock
1-1/2 oz Madeira (or dry Marsala, or a medium-dry sherry such as an Amontillado)
1-1/2 tbs butter, chilled

Mix two cups of espagnole with two cups of veal, beef, brown or chicken stock in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce, by one half.

Add the Madeira (if you can’t find an inexpensive Madeira go with the Marsala or sherry – don’t waste your money), and simmer an additional five minutes.

When the raw wine taste has cooked off, sieve the sauce and the classic demi is complete.

We might as well keep going though. Mount the butter as follows. Cut the butter into four pieces. Add two pieces to the sauce, and whisk until they’re halfway melted. Then remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the remaining two pieces until they’re fully melted. The sieving and the butter both add a glossy visual appeal, while the butter enhances the already considerable “lick your lips,” protein sheen.


PS. As always, this recipe is my own. If you care to copy or share it, you have my permission providing you attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze. I would consider it a kindness if you would also mention my eventually to be finished book, COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Thank you for enlightening your students on the french definitions , such as




I always enjoy the reference of "Escoffier", who simplified the techniques of Le grand Chef Antoine Careme.
Your detailed explanations and step by step approach are perfectly refined.

Joined Sep 2, 2009
WOW BDL! Concise, perfectly informative, and a definite addition to the "technique" portion of my knowledge base. Thank you!!

Joined Feb 13, 2008
Some things which should have been in the original:

Both sauces store well frozen. If you're a caterer with a large repertoire of classic sauces and a large freezer, you may want to keep a stock of espagnole on hand. Otherwise, demi-glace tends to be a more useful staple of your frozen pantry.

There's no salt or pepper in either recipe. Adjust the seasoning just before serving. Try to think of tasting and seasoning as a basic technique, and cucial part of every recipe. Imagine Tom Colicchio sitting at YOUR judge's table. "Did you taste this?"

Joined Jan 30, 2012

wish i'd seen this earlier

This is a great method and a really great thing to have in the freezer.

Thanks (much belated)

- i've actually got the chef thinking i'm nuts as I have two line cooks working on 10x batches... that i'll freeze and send home with Owner/Chef/Lead and favourite waitress ;)

(and maybe some for me...)

edit - and yes the cooks will get some too!
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