Friday, January 11, 2013

A Series of Sauces, Venison with Sauce Chevreuil

Do you remember your first fancy French Restaurant?  I do.  I remember being awed by the menu and having no idea what to order while at the same time not wanting to display my teen-aged ignorance and ask the waiter what was what.  The waiter was terribly kind and recommended things to me in such a way that I didn’t feel condescended to ––  he was so adept that in fact I felt rather special.  But that isn’t always the case.  When you are blowing hundreds of dollars on a dinner, waiters with attitudes are indefensible and such bad form –– don't get me started.

I know many times I wished I’d had my fits-in-my-bag copy of Le Repertoire De La Cuisine –– the professional chef’s secret book of sauces and preparations with me on those occasions. It’s one of my favorite tools –– indispensable whether you are deciphering 19th century menus and cookbooks or dining out in the high French style. I recommend it to anyone who eats or cooks, really.  

It's good for:

Many of you who go to a classic French restaurant and are confused as to what you are ordering because the names are a blur (what the heck is Veal Romanoff or Eggs Metternich?).

Many of you who have written to me expressing surprise at finding how great the “old sauces” are – not the gloppy floury messes they were expecting to get for their efforts and want to try more of them.

Many people who are afraid to make the sauces because they think they are too difficult to prepare or are too rich or because they just never heard of many of them –– they’re missing a great resource.

Inspired by Repertoire de la Cuisine and the confusion I hear over and over from my readers, I decided to do a little series on sauces to inspire YOU to get the book and experiment –– beginning with one of the  “Mother” Sauces, Sauce Espagnole and what can be made with it (like about 50 variations!).  I enlisted my pals at D’Artagnan on the project since their wonderful products are perfect for the sauces that make something ‘scary’ like cooking a squab feel easy –– because it really is!

Sauces Mères or Mother Sauces are the basis of all classic French sauces codified by the great Carême   in the 19th Century and finessed by Escoffier in the 20th. 

Believe it or not most are a breeze to do if you know a few little tricks.  Suddenly a battery of sauces (made with a few base sauces like demi-glace and Espagnole and good stock safely stashed in your freezer), are at your fingertips, often in 15 minutes. 

Jessup Whitehead said in 1896 that, “The great authority Dubois - Bernard, speaking of this branch of his art, says: "The gourmet would not think much of an elegant and sumptuously served dinner of which the sauces are wanting in that fineness of taste, that succulency, and that purity which are indispensable. A man is never a great cook if he does not possess a perfect knowledge of sauces, and if he has not made a special study of the methodical principles on which their perfection depends.”  A bit flowery but the sense is right.

You can cook classic French like a master and turn whatever meat, fish, poultry or game into an occasion meal in a snap.  How cool is that?  It’s like have the world’s best accessory closet.

Sauce Robert, one of the very oldest of the French sauces,  is even mentioned in the 16th century Rabelaisian masterpiece, Pantagruel.  It’s a mustardy ancestor to sauce Espagnole and one of the earliest compound sauces  (tomatoes were yet to be discovered) with onions and reduced stock (I'll be making some in the series).  The technique of making a roux was not yet part of French cuisine–– breadcrumbs were used as a thickener until the mid-17th century when La Varenne came along and changed the game.

La Varenne was quite an innovator.  He changed the flavors of French food by cutting out most of the exotic spices that had been the style for centuries in favor of local herbs and began using roux (cooked buttered or larded flour) to thicken sauces.  He was the first to write about a béchamel sauce using a white roux (made with lard). He had a proto-hollandaise made with vinegar (not lemon). 

Dark, stock based sauces like the medieval Sauce Madame (a fruit stuffing for goose that was used with stock to make a sauce for the bird) were also ancestors of Espagnole and our own ketchup and barbeque sauces (yup, going to make Sauce Madame for you too!). 

During the reign of Carême sauces really came into their own with new and extravagant variety.

Carême’s original 4 mother sauces are Bechamel (white) Veloute (blonde), Brown (demi-glace or Espagnole) and Allemande (stock with egg yolk).   Escoffier traded out Hollandaise/mayonnaise type sauces (with butter or oil) for the Allemande and added tomato sauce (red) to his list, making it 5 mother sauces.  The sauces were mostly thickened with roux (flour and butter) a liaison (egg and cream) or an emulsion (most famously egg and butter in hollandaise and egg and oil in mayonnaise). 

Espagnole sauce is a revelation as is the technique to create it. The end result is silky and lovely.  Although some of the older recipes call for 8 hours of cooking –– reducing, adding more stock and then reducing again then finishing it the following day, I did it in a few hours and froze it in 1 cup baggies so I could have it any time I wanted. If you flatten the baggie when you freeze it, you can break off tablespoon-size pieces as you need them. I also did a quick hour version that turned out rather well.

Its root is stock, reduced to a rich essence and made velvety by the use of a brown roux –– slowly cooked butter and flour.

When I did the post on Lincoln’s Inaugural Menu (you can read more about it HERE), one of the dishes was Venison with a Sauce Chevreuil. I found an English version augmented with port and currant jelly. It sounded terribly delicious, and it was.  I was most surprised by the velvety texture when I added my Espagnole sauce.

Larousse Gastronomique told me Poivrade sauce was the intermediate step on the way to Chevreuil.  Onions, carrots, parsley and ham cooked in butter with game trimmings and then wine vinegar, white wine and Espagnole is added, then the sauce is strained.  The English version of Chevreuil sounds like one from Charles Elmé Francatelli' s 1861 volume, The cook's guide and housekeeper's & butler's assistant with currant jelly added (his Reform Sauce used port and not the traditional red wine).  D’Artagnan has a few great choices for venison for the dish… as well as fabulous demi-glace to make doing the Espagnole easier. You can use their delicious Venison medallions, tenderloins, even venison in NY strips and chops (available HERE).  I used leftover sauce on beef filets and it was excellent too.

You can add a bit of venison (or beef) cuttings to the sauce for extra flavor if you want.  The Espagnole is straight out of Escoffier with a few of my changes and a quicker version if you would like.

I decided to finish this with Stilton mashed potatoes and steamed sprouts –– port and Stilton are fabulous together.  After making the Espagnole, the whole thing took around 45 minutes to put together  –– if you made the Chevreuil earlier you could have it in 20!

Espagnole Sauce (long version)

2 Q stock (beef veal or even chicken)
5 ¼ oz of brown roux*  (made with equal measures of flour and butter, cooked slowly till brown)
1 small carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 slice bacon, diced
sprig of thyme
½ bay leaf
¼ c white wine
1 cup stock
1 c tomato purée

Boil 2 quarts of stock and add to the roux slowly, stirring all the while.  Reduce heat and add the vegetables and bacon.  Cook for a few minutes and remove any fat from the surface.  Add the white wine and cook for 2 hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally.  Strain, pressing on solids and return to the pot with 1cup stock and 1 container demi-glace.  Cook another hour.  Strain and stir for a few minutes to cool.  Add the tomato puree.

Chevreuil Sauce (an amalgam of many recipes)

1 T butter
2 T chopped shallot
2 T ham
any venison trimmings you may have (optional)
2 chopped mushrooms
bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay and sage tied up)
¼ c wine vinegar
1 c Espagnole
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 mashed anchovy
1 c   demi-glace or stock
3 oz port
1 T red currant jelly
pinch of cayenne

Sauté the shallot, ham, venison trimmings and mushrooms in the butter till softened.  Toss in the bouquet garni and add the vinegar.  Reduce till syrupy and add the Espagnole, stock, Worcestershire, and anchovy.  Cook for ½ an hour at low heat or till thickened. Strain, pressing on the solids and add the red currant jelly, port and cayenne.

Boneless Venison Steak for 2

2 venison steaks or tenderloin  (4 – 6 oz each serving) available HERE
salt and pepper
2 T butter
3-4 chanterelle and/or shitake mushrooms, sliced

Heat oven 400º

Heat a cast iron skillet till hot. Salt and pepper the steak. Put in the butter to melt and add the mushrooms and steak.  Sear on one side and then the other, stirring the mushrooms as you do.

Flip and put in a 400º oven for 5 minutes for rare.

Remove from oven and put the meat on a plate and tent for 5 minutes.  Take the mushrooms and add the Chevreuil Sauce to warm.  Pour over the meat and serve.

*if you use beef filet, the technique is the same

Quick Version of Espagnole Sauce

4 T butter
4 T Flour
3 T diced carrot
3 T diced onion
3 T bacon
2 c stock
1 t thyme
piece of bay leaf
2 T white wine
1/4 c demi-glace
2 T tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the flour and butter till it is a medium brown on a medium flame –– stirring all the time.
Add the vegetables, ham and bacon and stir.  Slowly add the stock, wine and demi-glace.  Cook over
a low flame for 45 minutes and add the tomato sauce.  Cook for another 10 minutes and strain, pressing hard on the solids.  Add salt and pepper to taste

Stilton Mashed potatoes for 2

6 blue potatoes peeled or unpeeled
2 T butter
½ c milk
¼ cup crumbled stilton or to taste
pinch of mace
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender and drain.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mash.

*To make a brown roux, melt your butter and add the flour on a low to medium flame.  Stir regularly until the mixture turns a medium brown... kind of a  medium caramel color.  Remove from the stove and use.  Don't let it get too dark.  This takes 5-10 minutes.

Faith Gorsky over at Edible Mosaic has written a marvelous book with recipes gleaned from her  her husband's culture (and her mother-in-law's kitchen).  Her passion for the food and the culture comes through in the recipes and gorgeous photography.  The recipes are easy to make and terribly delicious.  The book is available on  Amazon, click An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair to get the book.

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Mary Bergfeld said...

What a terrific post! I love to visit here. I always leave knowing something new and I appreciate your meticulous research. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Sarah said...

Great inspiration for making sauces. I remember my mother, who at the time did not seem to be a great cook, often made a brown sauce. As time passes, I realize how much she really did know about cooking.

Daniel Shigo said...

Wonderful to see that you are back: I was not able to read your posts for awhile. I really enjoy your diverse and well-seasoned posts!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Deana:
A well made and balanced sauce can really 'set off' a meal or finish it off completely. It is so important not to overwhelm the 'main event' but yet also manage to add a little extra interest. You give some marvellously intriguing and clever ideas here for doing just that.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

H O L Y C O W!

The blue potatoes were the "icing on the cake"as far as the recipe for me, but the text is rich with information that piques my imagination. SAUCES...oh dear, don't even get me started on my many failures. A class alone on sauces taught by the masters - THE FRENCH - is necessary to understand the history and methods. I do remember by first French meal, in France, and it was unreal. The velvety texture of everything from the soup to the way the scallops were prepared left me puzzled as to how they do this...

Deana, thank you for coming to visit me! It is always a delight to see you my dear! Anita

Frank said...

I love sauces and couldn't agree more than they're fundamental (also in Italian cookery, btw)—but I've never attempted a sauce Espagnole. Those 8 hours and multiple steps really intimiated me, and it seemed like a 'restaurant' thing. But after reading this post, I may have to reconsider.

By the way, I take it you've read Jean-François Revel's Culture and Cuisine? It talks about the transition from reliance on verjuice and heavy spices to more 'natural' flavors in European cuisine. And he makes out the case that, contrary to popular opinion, it happened first in France, not in Tuscany. Fans of Catherine de' Medici would be disappointed...

Faith said...

This is an absolute gem of a post. I too have such fond memories of my first time dining at a fancy French restaurant. I love playing with the French mother sauces in my own kitchen, but Espagnole sauce is something I've never tried my hands at. It sounds wonderful and this is truly a gorgeous meal.

And thank you so much for your kind mention of my cookbook!

Barbara said...

This is going to be so much fun...learning sauces from you! I too remember my first French restaurant experience; I only muddled through the same way: with the help of a kindly waiter.

I also remember making a sauce for wild duck with port and currant jelly. Wouldn't I just have loved to add your espagnole sauce?

Super post, Deana.

Diane said...

Great post and I love sauces, these look fantastic. Next weekend we are off to the Repas pour Le chassse. Starts at 12h00 and I doubt if we will be home much before 17h00. Venison and wild boar on the menu :))) Keep well Diane

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

All these talk of sauces really has my taste buds salivating. I would love to master some of the more complicated and time-consuming sauces such as making my own demi-glace from scratch.

What a beautiful dinner. I love the colors on the plate!

La Table De Nana said...

I am not a great saucier:-)
This is an inspiring post:-)
I would love also to always have on hand my own..fond de veau..demi-glace etc..

Ken Albala said...

Hey Deana, I think La Varenne's roux is actually made with lard. I'll check if you like. I think he calls it farine frite, or something like that.

Deana Sidney said...

Ken, this was a very frustrating post to do... just as soon as I thought something was right, I'd realize it was just someone repeating something wrong. I think I got most of them but it was a pain. Let me know!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Sauces do require a dexterity that I find intimidating. Although I've had some that truly made the dish. The espagnole sauce looks and sounds amazing!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh those delightful French sauces! And there are so many of them, many that I'm yet to try! Thank you for sharing your recipes for them, the easy version sounds very doable!

Claudia said...

I was going to chastise you for interesting me in so many books (thus spending money) but then you gave me this array of sauces - such a bouquet! I may forego the meal and just have sauce.

El said...

Okay, you have my attention with Stilton mashed potatoes. I'm a stilton addict. Lovely sauces too!