Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mushroom Espagnole Sauce

I could have named this post "What Anthony Bourdain taught me about cooking." Not that Anthony Bourdain knows me, or that he would tolerate my amateur skills. But still, it would be true.

I've been reading his book, Kitchen Confidential, at nearly every moment that I can spare. Which, as a law student, is not many moments. But still, I've stolen enough time to be two-thirds of the way through it.

It's not a cookbook. It's more of a memoir about the ups and downs of his career as a chef, full of heavy drug use, hirings, firings, and punk rocker attitude. It's pretty spectacular if you like that sort of thing. And I might.

Anyway, aside from being thoroughly entertaining, the book has a lot to teach an amateur chef about cooking. For instance, this is probably pretty basic information to a trained professional, but did you know that French cooking divides sauces into five "mother sauces" out of which most other sauces are made? The basic mother sauces are made out either a white roux or a brown roux and mixed with light broth or milk or a darker broth. There is also the tomato based mother sauce, which is a more recent addition to the mother sauces.

I'm probably not the best source for this, but it's worth reading up on. I didn't even know that anything like that exists. Here is a link explaining what the mother sauces are, how they are made, and what sauces are derived from them.

It's been a fairly important concept for me to understand since it has the potential to formalize my approach to cooking sauces. Usually I just mix and match the flavors in my head. But by actually learning what a million people before me have already figured out, I should be able to mix and match a little more easily. Anyway, I never claimed to be the best cook. I'm just the cook whose blog you are reading right now.

Tonight I made what I would call an Espagnole Sauce, although truth be told I used chicken broth instead of beef or veal. I've give you the recipe for the sauce, and you worry about how you want to cook the meat. I just baked some chicken breast, but since this sauce could go with almost anything, I don't see the point in telling you how to bake a chicken breast.

Mushroom Espagnole Sauce

2 tsbp of unsalted butter
2 tsbp of flour
1 quart of broth
1/4 cup of white wine
2 cups or so of baby bella mushrooms
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves

Pour broth into a small pot and bring to a simmer uncovered. Add bay leaves and thyme. Let simmer while making the roux and sauteing the mushrooms (see below).

In a small saute pan, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour. Using a spoon or spatula, mix flour with the butter to create a paste. Crush lumps while stirring almost continuously. Cook until the paste starts to thicken and brown. Do not burn. Remove from heat.

In a separate and larger pan, saute the mushrooms in olive oil or butter. Stir mushrooms about 10 minutes on medium-high heat until water is released and mostly cooked off.

Add broth to mushrooms through a strainer to remove bay leaves and thyme. Add wine to the mixture. Bring to a simmer. Using a whisk, stir the roux into the sauce. Stir vigorously until the roux is fully dissolved. Let simmer briefly and remove from heat. Pour the sauce on chicken, beef, veal, tofu, toast, or just about anything that needs sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.


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