Yield 1 quart/1 liter
Level of difficulty 2–REALLY!
Start with the trim from one beef tenderloin–see HERE to find out how to acquire it. Put the trim in the cold skillet and turn the burner on medium low. We want to slowly brown the meat. We also want to render as much fat out as possible, so as to avoid the necessity of doing so later. The surface of the pan should hover around 225 F/107 C.
Do not stir excessively. Why not? Because it’s not necessary. It actually slows down the caramelization/Maillard processes. Chefs multitask and if you only return to the process once every half hour or so, your espagnole will still come out perfect. If your sauce does NOT come out properly, it will not be because you did not stir it enough. Really.
The only reason you stir is to make sure that all the surfaces of the trim are exposed to the direct heat of the pan at some point. This first step should take at least half an hour. The melted beef fat will accumulate in the pan.
Recipes always say to remove excess fat, but they usually don’t tell you how. Push some meat away from the handle side of the pan. That is usually the lowest spot on the surface because of the weight of that handle. If there is no handle, it does not matter. Fold up a paper towel or two and put it in the opening that you created. In a few seconds it will absorb all the excess oil. Really.
Add the celery and carrots, but not the onions. Why not? Because onions brown faster than celery and carrots. Stir just enough to bring the celery and carrots into contact with the surface of the pan. Find something else to do for a half an hour. Really.
After the half hour has elapsed, add the onions. Stir enough to bring them all into contact with the surface of the pan. Again, not difficult. Easy, after you have done it a few times. Almost boring. “Time to make the brown sauce, sigh.” Come back in half an hour.
Stir once, just to make sure all of the surfaces get browned. Come back in fifteen minutes or so. Really. It’s not hard. Stand up straight.
This is what we want. Everything is quite brown. A few spots might even look almost burnt. That’s okay. That’s what makes it brown.
Add the tomato paste to the pan.
Stir just enough so that the vegetables are coated with the paste and comes in contact with the surface of the pan. Do you see a pattern developing? Really. Come back in half an hour.
Now it starts getting interesting. Add the wine to the pan. Stir to remove the debris from the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the wine to almost nothing–wine provides flavor–not volume.
You can see some crust developing on the bottom of the pan. If you see blue smoke, you have a problem. Otherwise, everything will be fine. Do not worry.
Up close, you have this.
Add the 2 quarts/2 liters of water/stock.
Bring to a simmer, stir down to help the crust dissolve into the liquid.
Bring to a simmer.
Bring just to a boil. Now we have a choice. We can reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for two hours, stirring occasionally. Then we pour the sauce through a colander, and then through a strainer. Transfer to the pitcher and we get this:
As an alternative, turn off the burner. Put a Ziploc gallon freezer bag in to a two quart pitcher. Fold the opening over the edges of the pitcher. Load HALF of the sauce mixture into the bag. Lift the bag out and lower it into a sous vide bath set to
183 F/84 C.
The bag will begin to sink. Use a measuring cup to stage the rest of the sauce mixture into the bag. Drape the opening of the bag over the edge of the container and secure with the lid. Process for at least four hours and strain. You will still get this:
You can see that there is a shallow layer of fat on top of the stock. Let the stock come to 70 F/21 C and refrigerate. The fat on the top will congeal, and then you can remove it in one piece. Then you can use this stock to make espagnole by thickening it with roux, or you can reduce it by half and have 1 quart/1 liter of demi-glace. You would be surprised how many cooks and even chefs have forgotten how to do this, thanks to companies like McCormick and Knorr. I have nothing against pre-fabricated sauces. The tend to have a little too much sodium in them. I think that we should at least make an effort to remember how to make them ourselves. Otherwise, we will just be discarding all that trim. That’s crazy.