By Joel Schaefer, CCC, and Mary Schaefer, CEPC
The French say espagnole sauce, Americans say please pass the brown gravy.
Espagnole has been around since the late 1500s. The sauce was introduced in England by Katherine of Aragon during her marriage to King Henry Vlll. Her team of chefs introduced this sauce, which was very complicated, time consuming and expensive.
The sauce was refined and simplified by Auguste Escoffier. He was called “The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs,” and is considered by many to be the father of modern day cuisine. It is a classic sauce that has stood the test of time and is still a driving force in today’s culinary cuisine.
Espagnole sauce is one of Escoffier’s five mother sauces that are the basis of sauce-making in classical French cooking. As a mother sauce, it serves as the starting point for demi-glace and many small sauces, such as bordelaise, Robert, chasseur, Lyonnaise, piquante, mushroom and Bercy. These are just a few, as there are hundreds of other derivatives in the classical French repertoire.
To begin our journey with the mother sauces, we find it appropriate to start with a quote from Escoffier dated back to February 1, 1907:
“Cookery will evolve – as society itself does – without ever ceasing to be an art.
It has to be admitted that customs and the way we live have changed since 1850 so cookery too must change. The great works of Dubois and Bernard met the needs of their time but even if they last forever as documents and as a basis for our methods of working, the pattern which they made so respected no longer meets the requirements of our day.
We must respect, love and study these great works—they together with the works of Carême must be the basis of our methods of working. But instead of copying them servilely, we ourselves should seek new approaches so that we too may leave behind us methods of working that have been adapted to the customs and needs of our time.”
Changing With the Times
His words ring so true. During my years as a culinary instructor at Kapi’olani Community College in Hawaii, I remember the wonderful sensation I experienced on espagnole sauce day. As I entered the kitchen I was welcomed with the rich and savory aroma of simmering brown stock. I had to pause and take a deep breath. It made me think of what it must have been like entering Escoffier’s kitchen with caldrons of simmering stocks and sauces that had been cooking for hours and even days.
Instructing students on making this wonderfully rich sauce was also exciting as I saw how each student learned the technique and watched the sauce slowly emerge.
Now after many years working with food allergies and special diets, redefining these sauces into a dish that people with food allergies can enjoy has brought both personal satisfaction and awareness of what Escoffier meant by changing with the times.
Look at how the needs of our times have changed from just 20 years ago. How many people did you know with food allergies in the 90’s? What about now?
Food allergies are on the rise.
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.
- Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in U.S. children, according to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education).
There is no cure for food allergy. The food(s) must be completely avoided. How do we prepare delicious meals for the growing number of people with food allergies?
We know Escoffier would want us to use his ideas as a starting point for new directions, much as he did with Carême’s.
Our journey through making the mother sauces free from the top eight allergens begins with espagnole.
Here’s a look at Escoffier’s “guide” or recipe for a gallon of Espagnole:
1 pound brown roux
6 quarts brown stock or estouffade
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly cut (or equivalent quantity of tomato puree)
1 pound mirepoix
Springboarding from the Master’s mother sauce, we have taken out the top allergens, wheat and dairy and have created an Espagnole sauce, or call it brown gravy, that’s sure to be a hit on your holiday table or any time of the year.
Brown gravy is the basis for endless culinary treasures, from mashed potatoes to stroganoff.
How about loco moco? This classic Hawaiian comfort food consists of a mound of white rice topped with a hamburger patty and a sunnyside-up egg, and then smothered in gravy. How about making it vegan with a mound of brown rice topped with a plant-based patty, steamed asparagus or seasonal vegetables, and then smothered in gravy?
Check out this amazing allergy-friendly chicken cutlet with gravy and our tips for the standard breading procedure.
The list goes on with shepherd’s pie, soups, stews, hot sandwiches, Salisbury steak, biscuits and gravy, meatloaf, chicken fried steak, pot pies, and fries and gravy, a.k.a. poutine.
Regardless of how you use it, this gravy is for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are vegan, have food allergies or you are a carnivore.
Espagnole (brown sauce)
Makes: 1 quart
Free of: gluten and all top allergens
4 ounces allergen-free margarine, such as Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks (8 tbsp)
2 cups yellow onions, small dice (approximately 8 ounces)
1 cup carrots, small dice (approximately 4 ounces)
1 cup celery, small dice (approximately 4 ounces)
1 cup chickpea flour
½ cup tomato paste
2-1/2 quarts vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
10 black peppercorns
- In a large saucepan, melt the margarine over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring often.
- When the vegetables begin to brown, add the flour and tomato paste. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Gradually add 2 cups of stock and whisk to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining stock, whisking until incorporated. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Skim as needed.
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve into another saucepan, pressing the vegetables gently to extract their juices.
- Discard the vegetables and herbs.
You can catch Joel and Mary at ChefConnect: Newport Beach March 25-27 in Newport Beach, California. Their presentation on Redefining the Mother Sauces will show you how to create classical food without common allergens to accommodate guests with food allergies.
Your Allergy Chefs Vision
Our focus in developing recipes centers around eliminating gluten and the top eight food allergens, plus a focus on many other special diets. We respect the food choices of all people. If we do have a recipe containing animal product we will share our love for plants with a delicious vegan option. We know there is no one diet that fits all.
For recipes, questions or help, visit our website and contact us at www.yourallergychefs.com.