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What Exactly Is Bordelaise Sauce?

steak and mushrooms with bordelaise sauce
steak and mushrooms with bordelaise sauce - Nightanddayimages/Getty Images

There's a reason French cuisine is so internationally influential. French cooking techniques and flavor profiles form the basis of numerous global dishes, inspiring and fusing with other cuisines to create dishes that wouldn't be possible without their influences. And of all the things French cuisine is known for, only butter and cream are more prevalent than the French love of sauces. A whole list of Mother sauces (bechamel, veloute, espagnole, hollandaise, and tomato) form the basis of French cooking -- but they're only the start of the sauce extravaganza.

Mother sauces are the base, but they're not the endpoint, as numerous other French sauces start from there and expand into something deliciously unique. One of these is bordelaise sauce, a hearty, dark sauce that works wonders with steak and potatoes. And the key to bordelaise sauce lies hidden in plain sight in its name: red wine.

Read more: French Cooking Tricks You Need In Your Life

Where Does Bordelaise Sauce Come From?

Vineyard in Bordeaux region of France
Vineyard in Bordeaux region of France - laraslk/Shutterstock

Bordelaise doesn't just come from any old region in France: Its origin is right there in its name. The Bordeaux region of France is legendary for its wine, with a wine culture dating back to the Roman Empire. In modern times, there are 36 wine-producing districts within Bordeaux, and it's an area that takes its wine very seriously.

It makes sense that if you base a sauce around wine, you'd name it after that area. But while Bordeaux wine is traditional for bordelaise, it's not mandatory -- which is good because it's some of the priciest wine on the planet.

Meanwhile, the sauce itself appears to have made its first recorded appearance in French cookbooks of the 18th century. Initially, it was based on white wine (with the other ingredients remaining consistent), but transitioned to red wine over time (though it isn't clear why that happened).

What Does Bordelaise Sauce Consist Of And How Do You Use It?

bordelaise sauce cooking down
bordelaise sauce cooking down - Arousa/Getty Images

The mother sauce of bordelaise is espagnole, a brown sauce made from a roux as well as stock (most commonly beef or veal), mirepoix, and tomatoes that form the basis of all demi-glace. From there, the bordelaise adds a few more ingredients, some of which are familiar, like butter and shallots, and some of which are a bit more esoteric, like bone marrow and demi-glace. But most important is the red wine that gives it its name.

You can use any dry red wine for it, and you can make it without using the more difficult-to-source components like bone marrow and demi-glace. Maybe you won't get the same richness and depth of flavor from using more beef or veal stock instead of those two, but it also heavily simplifies the process.

As far as how to use it, you will want to pair it with heartier flavors like steak and potatoes. The rule here is just like with red wine: The tannins break down the fats in beef, meaning they bring out the most savory possible flavor. Meanwhile, the steak mellows the taste of the wine itself on your palate. Scientifically, drinking red wine with red meat does actually make both taste better.

There's Another Type Of Bordelaise Sauce In New Orleans

New Orleans French quarter
New Orleans French quarter - Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

France isn't the only country with a cuisine that sports a bordelaise sauce. New Orleans cuisine -- which was inspired by a fusion of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences -- has its own version that differs from the original French style in a few key ways. New Orleans bordelaise stands alone like remoulade, which has distinct French and Louisiana forms. It starts the same, with an espagnole, but from there, it goes in a totally different direction, eschewing the red wine and bone marrow in favor of garlic, garlic, and more garlic. You're also likely to see butter and parsley in there for good measure.

Whichever version of bordelaise you're eating, though, there's no questioning its deliciousness. Making one may be a lot of work, but the result is more than worth it.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.