There’s nothing like brown sauce

Michael Ruhlman was right when he said a brown sauce (better known as Espagnole) tastes, well, brown.

Part of yesterday’s activities included making a brown sauce using a brown roux (which Ruhlman goes into great length in his masterpiece, The Making of a Chef).  I believe he was taught to use a blonde roux which caused some sort of upheavel at the CIA).  I asked Chef Olivier if he would ever make a brown sauce using anything other than a brown roux and his response was “Why would you?  But you could”.  So there you are, the officially nondefinitive answer.

It’s nearly hard to imagine that something so, well, brown, could be nearly the backbone of an entire cuisine.  The sauce itself really tastes like nothing and took forever to season properly.  But using the Espagnole as the starting point, you can end up in so many wonderful places – demi-glace, the well known Bordelaise, the lesser known Robert, what sounds like an elegant Perigueux, and what sound even more elegant – Perigourdine (foie gras puree and truffle slices).  The list pretty much goes on forever.

We used it in place of demi-glace yesterday when we made the Marchand de Vin that accompanied beef tenderloin and jardiniere (batonneted carrot, turnip and haricot verts).  I painstakingly cut my batonnets, as the photograph sort of reveals.

In addition to the sauce Espagnole, we made French onion soup sans crocks.  Mine came out pretty well I have to say.  There’s not really too much to say about this soup, it’s either good or it isn’t.  However, I was surprised by the amount of people in class who had never tasted it in their lives.  Where have they been living?

Today we turned our attention to beef bourgignon – probably my favorite dish of all time – as well as grilled flank steak and consomme brunoise.  The beef bourgignon came out wonderful, possibly the best I have ever had, and I’ve tried many different recipes.  The trick no doubt is marinating the beef in red wine overnight with the mirepoix and bouqet garni.  The flank steak was there for us to make a compound butter, of which I tasted none.

As for the consomme, I actually had a dream last night about making this, which is of some mild concern.  I find the whole process so fascinating that I don’t think I could make consomme enough.  My partner J & I achieved perfect clarity this time with no scorching.  The only problem was that we ran out of time at the end of class and had to end up handing over our beautiful clarification to the Chef who combined it with everyone elses for tomorrow, when we’ll serve it garnished with brunoise of what really is just mirepoix.  I’m eager to taste this as the only consomme we’ve made has been for aspic.

On we march.  Skills 2 is very much a “Best of French Cuisine”.  Tomorrow we’re making blanquette de veau among other things.

Let’s hope that the consomme dream isn’t recurring tonight.

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