This is a looooooong article. I don’t want to trim it down, because there is a lot of useful information in it. But, if you just jump down to where the pics start, you will see the recipe and method for sous-glace. Hope ya like it!
To teach, and to teach not.
Sous vide has done a lot to change our collective consciousness. The equipment has become readily available. There has been time for free market competition to bring the prices down. I haven’t seen ads on tv for Anova yet, but Nomiku did show up on Shark Tank. Competition in the IC market is good for consumers, at least for now.
Sous vide is unlike other recent introductions into the home based culinary field. Sous vide has politely encouraged its users to learn a little bit about the science of food preparation. This has never been necessary before. How to operate food processors, microwave ovens, juicers, pasta machines, bread machines, etc., doesn’t require learning anything about the science of food safety.
People who are interested in sous vide eagerly absorb information that helps them achieve the best results possible–which means learning how Time and Temperature determine the outcome of ALL food processing. That is food safety training by default. We are studying food safety without even realizing it. Long before pasteurization was discovered, we learned that applying heat to food made it safer to eat. Once we learned a little bit about sous vide, we stopped leaving the pizza out on the counter overnight. After the Holiday meal is over, we break that turkey down and get it in the fridge ASAP.
Sous vide teaches us what a pathogen is, what the danger zone is, we may even know what autolysis is. This is ironic, because everybody knows what autolysis is. We just don’t call it that. Autolysis is food spoilage. Bacteria are not even necessary–ambient temperature results in the natural decay of organic matter, whether there are bacteria around or not.
Sous vide will not wash your car while you’re driving it home from work.
Now that our proteins are coming out just about perfect every time, people in THE GROUP are asking more and more questions about SAUCES. It was inevitable. As it turns out, people would love to abandon the use of instant sauce and gravy bases, even the expensive ones. I guess this is part of our newfound devotion to going that extra culinary mile. If we’re willing to buy the equipment and improve our skills, we may as well apply that interest to all the other aspects of the field that we never understood.
I’ve been told that the character and word in Chinese for “problem” and “opportunity” are the same. I don’t know if that’s true. My Cantonese is pretty rusty and my Mandarin isn’t much better. But there’s a lot of wisdom in the statement anyway. The fact is, you can’t just combine all the ingredients of a traditional sauce recipe in a Ziploc bag and drop it in the tank. Many have tried, all have failed. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about!
The tension in the kitchen was palpable, but the sauce was not.
Nobody calls it Espagnole any more. That’s the term that Escoffier used to refer to what chefs now reluctantly call “Brown Gravy.” It was one of his five mother sauces. I haven’t heard anybody call it Espagnole since it was taught in school. Even in school, we only used the word in the class room. What is Spanish about brown sauce, rich brown gravy, demi-glace and all the other common names for it? We may never know.
There are a lot of variations. Some are thickened. Some are not. What kills me is that more often than not, they are not even brown. Not even CLOSE to brown. Tan, maybe. Gray, frequently. PURPLE , these days, more on that in a minute. Murky, salty, cloying, overly thick, with an oil slick on top. It’s no wonder that Knorr built an empire.
I have heard every lame excuse in my long life as to why the brown sauce did not come out. I used a few of them too. Lately, otherwise seemingly dull cooks truly astound me when they anxiously explain what happened, or, well, what DIDN’T happen. “We ran out of the brown stuff.” Well, that’s succinct, anyway. The oven wasn’t hot enough. I was in a hurry. The correct pan was dirty. The bones didn’t have enough meat on them. The meat didn’t have enough bones connected to it. I was late. The day shift was supposed to do it.
What it is, what it ain’t.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about brown sauce, and all the French sauces for that matter. On the one hand, French chefs, and ALL chefs, are frequently secretive about their methods and quirks. They paid a high price for their knowledge, and they ain’t just gonna give it away. On the other hand, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. So, even if a recipe is accurate, even if the video is precise, even if the chef is standing right there SHOWING you the right way to do it, we suspect that they are holding back.
Besides, where do you get VEAL KNUCKLES? When Catholic calves misbehave, do the Nuns use a ruler to rap their little calf knuckles? Do calves even HAVE knuckles? Maybe the knuckle cut is right next to the London Broil cut.
People try to make brown gravy from the drippings under a roast, without really expecting it to come out very brown. There just isn’t much brown stuff in there. Brown wasn’t created in a vacuum. A lot of us know that brown sauce is supposed to start with the roasting of beef/veal bones with some meat on them. And that, my friends, is the first problem. It’s not a fallacy. But it’s misleading.
“Here’s what you do.”
Get some beef bones. That’s hard enough as it is. The processing plants unload the bones on companies that make bone meal, pet food, dried brown gravy mix and God knows what else. This way, they can generate revenue without paying to ship the bones to your local market.
You should be able to find beef shanks, and that’s about the closest you’re going to get. Unless you want to ruin a Porterhouse or a whole Prime Rib by removing the bone. Don’t do that. Those aren’t the right kind of bones anyway. Sadly, markets have determined that beef shanks have some kind of cachet, so they charge an arm and a leg for them now. Like short ribs, beef shanks used to be a give away item. Not any more.
So, we grab a sliced beef shank “osso buco” (oh, brother), and we resist the urge to look at the price. We take it home. We turn the oven on to 350F/176C, put the thing on a sheet pan and roast it. Two hours. Three hours. Ruin it. Brown, browner, browner still. It will curl all up, and look fully caramelized, fully Maillardized. Cool. Take it out of the oven.
Cover it in cold water. Bring it to a boil. Just the meat and the water, nothing else. Simmer for 8 hours. Until it falls apart without even being touched, which it will. Strain the stock. Look at it. Is it brown? Brown like Brown Gravy? I DIDN’T THINK SO.
Well, why the heck not? Because the beef provides the flavor. Not the color. You can reduce that stock to almost nothing, but it still won’t be brown. Ha, nobody told us that, did they?
Here’s what you DON’T do.
Espagnole is not what it sounds like, and “Red Wine Sauce” is not what it sounds like either. Our confusion is compounded by the difference between how sauces are built, and how they are NAMED. Boiling some red wine with some sous-jus and thickening it does not make a red wine sauce. It makes PURPLE GRAY-GRAY. Putting mushrooms in it will not help, either. Then you just have purple MUSHROOM gray-gray.
Red wine is not intended to provide VOLUME to sauces, or even color. If you make your espagnole properly, it will not need the wine to make it brown. There is no such thing as brown wine. At least, I hope not.
Sous-Jus and wine are COMPONENTS in sauces–they are not the substance of sauces themselves.
Back to square Juan.
Forget everything you knew, and forget everything you thought you knew, too. We’ve hit bottom. Not the first time. We get up, dust ourselves off, and start over. Sous vide to the rescue, in a round about way.
Process celery, carrots and onions @
Do not peel.
Shock to 60F/21C, refrigerate @40F/4C until use.
Ziplocs work good for carrots and onions, they will sink. Celery likes to float, so I use a chamber vac, or you can just put Lipavi racks on top of the celery to hold it under. ORRRRRRR, you can put some water in the bag with the celery, and then use it in your stock–it’s delicious.
Take an axe.
Cut into bite size pieces:
- 3 sv carrots
- 2 sv onions
- 6 sv stalks celery
Saute in a pan and try to avoid stacking the vegetables. They need to come in contact with the bottom of the pan, and should be no deeper than in the pic below. Set on medium heat, and listen for sizzle, but not pop. Do not stir excessively, because that cools the pan and causes water to accumulate. Sizzle, not steam. Do something else in the mean time, load the dishwasher, check the score.
Stir occasionally until the vegetables wilt and get really, really, brown. Remember what we’re trying to do. Brown. Not black.
Once the vegetables are brown like in the third slide, add 6 oz. canned tomato SAUCE. You can use paste, too, but it’s kind of dry and is a little more difficult to spread around.
Keep frying, as shown, and you can see that the tomato paste gets brown too. Watch the bottom of the pan to make sure you don’t get a huge smoking crust down there. A little bit more stirring is acceptable.
If you’re going to add wine, this is the time to do it. I don’t, typically. Remember what I said, though. Wine is not supposed to provide volume. That’s how you get Purple gravy. If you add wine, reduce it in the pan until the slurry gets really, really thick. And don’t use much. Really.
Add 2 quarts/2L water.
What brown is gonna do for us…
Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to simmer, and give it at least two hours. You’ll be surprised, even though the vegetables were already processed via sous vide, they will still yield a tremendous amount of flavor over a four or five hour interval. Strain. At this point, you will see that there is still a lot of body clinging to the vegetables, because of the thickness of the tomato. You can put this back in the pan, drown it again, simmer, and use as stock. If you reduce it heavily, you can combine it with the first stock you made.
It’s hard to believe there’s no meat in this sauce. We learned something very important here. It’s not the meat. Who would have thunk it?
Now, you can do what you want. Add some sous-jus to the sauce, which you can make before, during, or after processing. No timing required. Do what works for you. It keeps. For gravy, like we expect gravy to be, make a little roux with 1 part oil and 2 parts flour. Heat the oil, sprinkle in the flour, remove from heat, and let it cool. Add some of the hot sauce to the roux, not the other way around. It will thicken right away. Add sauce till you get the thickness you want. S+P. Take it off the heat. Stir in a pat of butter. You get this:
Now, how cool is that?