We all have recipe boxes, stuffed to overflowing, with recipes that have been passed down through the family, given to us by friends, or simply plucked from various sources for future experimentation, but I wonder just how many of these recipes, if any, are for sauces or gravies? A basic knowledge of how to make a good Béchamel, vanilla custard, perfect hollandaise, and well-seasoned gravy are worth their weight in gold. Each one of these sauces can turn something ordinary into something extraordinary.
Take, for example, Béchamel. It can be infused with flavor and used to top an already prepared dish, as I have done here with crepes, or spiced up a bit to enhance the flavor of a delicate vegetable as done here. Simpler yet, stir in a variety of cheeses, fold in cooked pasta, and you have a delicious macaroni and cheese.
My grandmother's vanilla custard sauce (recipe to come) has turned a handful of fresh strawberries and many a biscuit into a decadently delicious strawberry shortcake dessert, and saved many a slice of pound cake from being mundane.
Today I'm going to talk about gravy. While much of the gravy we make comes from pan drippings, there are those occasions when we find ourselves, well, dripless. When all of the gravy from Sunday's pot roast has been used up on the mounds of creamy whipped potatoes served as a side, what are you to do with the slices of gravy-less beef that remain? You make your own, of course!
This recipe is based on one by Emeril, but I have to say that mine is better. I always find that a pinch of espresso powder enhances anything having to do with beef, and a bit of cognac (or brandy) adds incredible richness. Give this a try and let me know what you think. It freezes beautifully, so feel free to double the recipe. It is excellent on slices of roast beef, meatloaf, hamburgers (even cheeseburgers, I kid you not!), stirred into soup for an added burst of flavor, and is always so good to have on hand when a hot sandwich in front of a crackling fire sounds so satisfying.
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of espresso powder
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon cognac or brandy
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Add flour and espresso powder to pan and stir to incorporate and form a roux. Continue to stir until roux becomes medium brown in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme and continue to cook, stirring often, until shallots and garlic are fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour Worcestershire sauce into pan and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add beef broth, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue to cook until sauce has reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in brandy. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat when ready to use.
Yields about 2 cups
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