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Espagnole Sauce -- Basic Brown Sauce



In cooking, espagnole sauce is one of the mother sauces that are the basis of sauce-making in classic French cooking. Auguste Escoffier codified the recipe in the late 19th century, which is still followed today. Even though espagnole is the French word for Spanish, the sauce has little connection with Spanish cuisine. According to Louis Diat, the creator of vichyssoise and the author of the classic Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook: "There is a story that explains why the most important basic brown sauce in French cuisine is called sauce espagnole, or Spanish sauce. According to the story, the Spanish cooks of Louis XIII's bride, Anne, helped to prepare their wedding feast, and insisted upon improving the rich brown sauce of France with Spanish tomotoes. This new sauce was an instant success, and was gratefully named in honor of its creators."

The basic method of making espagnole is to prepare a very dark brown roux, to which are added several gallons of veal stock or water, along with 20 or 30 pounds of browned bones, pieces of beef, many pounds of vegetables, and various seasonings. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce while being frequently skimmed. The classical recipe calls for additional veal stock to be added as the liquid gradually reduces but today water is generally used instead. Tomato sauce is added towards the end of the process, and the sauce is further reduced.

Espagnole has a strong, even somewhat unpleasant taste and is not itself used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it then serves as the starting point for many derivative sauces. Examples are: Sauce Africaine, Sauce Bigarade, Sauce Bouguignonne, Sauce aux Champignons, Sauce Charcutiere, Sauce Chasseur, and Sauce Chevreuil, just to go as far as the "Cs". There are hundreds of others in the classic French repertoire.

A typical espagnole recipe takes many hours or even several days to make, and produces four to five quarts of sauce. In most recipes, however, one cup of espagnole is more than enough, so that the basic recipe will yield enough sauce for 16 to 20 meals. Frozen in small quantities, espagnole will keep practically indefinitely.

The following recipe, taken from The Cook's Decameron: A Study In Taste, apparently dates from the late 19th century and bears no relation whatsoever to the classic espagnole as it is unthickened except for a tiny amount of flour and should only be regarded as a curiosity.


  • Two ounces of butter
  • Slices of veal, ham, bacon, beef or poultry
  • Three peppercorns
  • Mushroom trimmings
  • One Tomato
  • One Carrot
  • One Onion studded with two cloves
  • One diced Turnip
  • Sprig Thyme, Parsley, and Marjoram
  • One Teaspoon flour
  • Quarter pint Stock


  1. Grease the bottom of a stew pan with at least two ounces of butter
  2. Add the slices of lean veal, ham, bacon, beef or poultry, three peppercorns, mushroom trimmings, a tomato, a carrot and a turnip cut up, an onion stuck with two cloves, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, parsley and marjoram
  3. Braise well for 15 minutes with the lid on
  4. Add the stock and boil gently for 15 minutes
  5. Strain through a Tamis, then remove excess grease
  6. Cool in an earthenware vessel, and add glaze if desired
  7. Pass through a sieve before serving.

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