If you’ve been reading my blog and columns for a while, you know that I took a class a few years ago on how to make the five Mother Sauces: espagnole (brown stock-based), veloute (clear stock-based), bechamel (cream-based), tomato, and allemande, a veloute enriched with eggs that is very similar to hollandaise sauce.
Never has a cooking class been so useful to me, because each of these sauces is the basis for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other dishes. Many restaurant kitchens have these sauces on hand and use them as an ingredient in a number of dishes on the menu. If you have small containers of them in your freezer, you can use them in just the same way.
I’ve talked about espagnole sauce quite a bit, because I LOVE chicken Marsala and that’s the dish Kroger Chef Steve Alls taught us to make in the class. Espagnole sauce is not typically consumed as a sauce on its own. Rather, it is embellished with other ingredients to make other sauces (somewhat like demi glace). To give you an idea of how versatile Mother Sauces can be, here are some examples from around the web of sauces that can be made starting with espagnole sauce:
Sauce Africaine: Often gets its flavor from African/Creole seasonings. Good on steak, chops, and chicken.
Sauce Bigarade: Made with bitter orange.
Sauce Bourguignonne: A red wine sauce with shallots and herbs.
Sauce aux Champignons: Made with mushrooms and lemon.
Sauce Charcutière: Flavored with white wine, mustard, onion, and sliced cornichons (gherkins).
Sauce Chasseur: A hunter’s sauce with shallots, mushrooms and white wine.
Sauce Chevreuil: Sauce made with pepper, white wine, vinegar.
Demi-glace: A rich brown sauce also often used as a base; made by combining veal stock and espagnole.
Madeira sauce: Espagnole sauce mixed with Madeira wine.
Mushroom sauce: Espagnole sauce and mushrooms.
Bordelaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with red wine, shallots and herbs.
Lyonnaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with chopped onions, parsley and white wine.
If you would like to experiment with sauces, I recommend buying a good cookbook such as “Sauces” by James Peterson. It could make for a great holiday gift for the gourmet cook in your life (or for you!).
I’m still learning myself, but I felt confident enough the other day to invent a chicken Marsala casserole, which turned out pretty darn good. I’ll share the recipe below.
Have you played with the Mother Sauces much lately? What have you learned about their many uses?
Chicken Marsala Casserole
I roasted three chicken leg quarters, then removed the meat for this recipe. It came to about 3 cups of cooked chicken. I used my largest casserole dish, which is 13×9 and has 4-inch high sides.
2 Tbsp. butter
1 package of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups good Marsala wine
4 cups espagnole sauce
1/2 box of thin spaghetti
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
Salt and pepper
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent.
3. Deglaze the pan with Marsala wine. Allow to simmer until reduced by half. Whisk in espagnole sauce until smooth. Simmer for 10 minutes.
4. While sauce is simmering, break pasta in half and cook until al dente. Drain.
5. In casserole dish, combine pasta, chicken, sauce, salt and pepper to taste and one cup of Parmesan cheese until well blended. Smooth out the surface.
6. Combine the rest of the Parmesan cheese with the crackers in a bowl. Sprinkle all over the top of the casserole.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until center is hot and topping has browned nicely.