A Classic French Brown Sauce From Bordeaux
A classic French sauce named for the famous Bordeaux wine region in France from where it was first developed. I have looked high and low on the Internet to find an individual source to give credit for this sauce, but I have yet to find one.
What I learned by researching this sauce is that there are many variations featuring various ingredients. However, what they all have in common is a Bordeaux-style red wine. Therefore, if you truly want to call it Bordelaise, it should be made with a French Bordeaux wine, typically a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot grapes.
Why So Many Variations?
Because this sauce comes from a region and not an individual chef, different families in the Bordeaux region made their family variations, used Bordeaux wine, and called it Bordelaise sauce.
One family used bone marrow; another didn’t. One family finished the sauce with butter and another with cream. So if you make a sauce using an excellent red Bordeaux wine and some demi-glace, you have a Bordelaise.
Bordeaux is one of France’s premier wine regions. Ergo, “Bordelaise,” in its most general form, refers to a wide range of dishes that incorporate wine, most notably Bordeaux wine. Bordelaise sauce is a classic French sauce made from brown sauce infused with shallots, bone marrow, herbs, and wine.
Bordelaise sauce works particularly well with fillet mignon. (The actual cut of meat in its complete form is called the tenderloin. It is called fillet mignon when cut into individual steaks or medallions.)
While being the tenderest cut of meat, there are more flavorful options than tenderloin. Here’s where a Bordelaise can shine. Employ a heartier red such as Cabernet Sauvignon or, ideally, a Bordeaux. You don’t need an expensive one, just one good enough to drink.
Did You Know New Orleans Have Their Own Bordelaise Sauce?
Yes, they do, but their versions are different. For example, their Bordelaise sauce features garlic, parsley, and butter but no red wine or demi glace. I have no idea how they came up with their sauce, but they serve it with steak, chicken, oysters, and their famous escargot bourguignon.
Bordelaise Sauce Recipe
- 1 ounce butter ¼ stick
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
- ½ cup Bordeaux red wine Substitute any claret style red wine
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black peppercorn
- 1 cup demi glace
- 4 ounces diced beef bone marrow
- Prep the ingredients by removing the thyme leaves from the stems. Save the leaves and discard the stems. Crack the black peppercorns.
- To prep, the bone marrow, dice it and simmer it in a small pot of water for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, drain the diced marrow and reserve.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, melt, and then the shallots.
- Sauté the shallots for a couple of minutes until they become translucent but be careful not to let them burn.
- Remove the pan from the heat source, add the red wine, return the pan to the heat and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add the fresh thyme & cracked peppercorns.
- Continue reducing the liquids until most of the wine is cooked off.
- All the cookbooks say, “cook to an essence,” and to me, that means to cook until there is very little liquid left in the pan.
- Add the demi place to the pan and simmer for approximately 6 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Be sure to stir every so often so the sauce does not burn.
- Add and stir the reserved bone marrow to the sauce and continue simmering until the marrow has melted and incorporated well into the sauce.
- Reduce the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- This sauce is good on most cuts of grilled meats, including venison but is especially great on beef tenderloin or juicy sirloin steak.
Some of My Favorite Sauce Recipes
My Top Choices for Demi Glace
Online Sources: Demi Glace
For those of you who do not want to make demi glace at home.Demi glace is the most important ingredient for making classic "restaurant quality" brown sauces. All the great French brown sauces use demi glace. But it can also be used in soups, stews and braises. It's something you can make at home but it takes a long, long time to do it right and if you make one mistake, it can easily be ruined. Lucky for us, there are now some great sources for commercial grade demi glace and I want to share a few with you now. Everyone has their preferences so I suggest you give each a try to find out which product you like best.
Savory Choice's Demi Glace
More Than Gourmet's Demi Glace Gold
Hello, and thankyou for the recipe. I'm interested to see that you don't use butter to emulsify the sauce at the end of cooking. What would the difference in the end result be with the two variations (ie with and without butter)?
Butter and marrow are both high fat substances that will emulsify the sauce. The difference will lie in the flavor each imparts. If you've never tried bone marrow, do. It's delicious, and will intensify the beef flavor of the sauce.
damian m lehman
hello, just thought i would make a few comments. this is a classical sauce. it was originated in the are of bordeux not because of the wine, so any red wine will work. all chefs eventually will change a recipe. however this is a classical sauce. certain things do not ever change. shallots, red wine, lemon juice, demi glace and bone marrow are a must. if not you are making something else. place butter at the end of any demiglace sauce is typical to round it out. heavy cream is not unless your wanting your sauce to look like stroganoff. check books like escoffiers sauce bible or the professional chef for classical sauces
I was trained to leave nice slices of marrow in the sauce. This provides an added texture and surprise goodie, but also proves that you used bone marrow.
G. Stephen Jones
Thanks for that tip Andy.
90% of the recipe is making the demi glacé and you just skimmed over that entire process by saying 1 cup...
The Reluctant Gourmet
Hi Johnathon, I need to link this recipe to https://www.reluctantgourmet.com/demi-glace-recipe/ so you can see how to make it at home.
Question on the marrow. Does it need to be pre roasted in the bone like when I spread it on toast, or can I put it into the sauce raw?
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Jason, if you have roasted bone marrow great, but if not the recipe directs you to "To prep the bone marrow, dice the bone marrow, and simmer in a small pot of water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the diced marrow and reserve." Hope this helps.
This is the closest you'll get to crediting a modern source. Escoffier didn't come up with the brown mother sauce or the daughter bordelaise sauce, but he codified classic French cooking. When Julia Childs started writing cookbooks containing French recipes, she was giving us a more modern version of Escoffier. Have you compared a homemade demi-glace with a quality purchased one side by side? Wondering if you sacrifice a fair amount of taste by skipping the long process of creating it from scratch.
G. Stephen Jones
Hi David, thanks for reaching out. I can see why high end restaurants make their own demi glace from scratch because of the amount needed for their dishes and how often they include it with their recipes. As a home cook, I don't use that much demi glace and now that I'm not eating as much red meat as before, I'm using even less. That's were some of the commercial products come in. They have a great shelf life and I have them when I need them without the hours of work of preparing it from scratch. Is homemade better? I guess that depends on who's preparing it, ingredients available and how much attention you give it when preparing it. If you make a mistake and it burns just a little, it's not going to be very good. You really have to pay attention for a long time when making something like demi glace from scratch.
Where can I purchase bone marrow?
G. Stephen Jones
I have seen it in many specialty food stores and once in a while in my local supermarket. Not sure where you live but ask a local butcher to get you some. I'm sure they would be happy to.