The Art of Gravies and Sauces

Who doesn’t love the meaty, brown, caramelized flavours puddled on a plate, daring every slice of beef, root vegetable or forkful of mashed potato to slither around it?

It’s almost expected these days for a dinner eaten out in a restaurant to include the mother of all sauces, demi glaze. Sweet meaty flavours layer with rustic earthy, spicy hints to peppery and the feather-light, sensual essence dances to heavenly elegance like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

According to, “sauces are liquid or semi-liquid foods devised to make other foods look, smell, and taste better.” According to me, sauces are a pain and in the case of demi glaze, can be pretty scary to attempt. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking simple sauces, pan sauces, classic French style sauces or everyday simple gravies, I don’t know of any home cook that embraces the job of learning the art of sauce making with joy.

The reason professional chefs can serve you an incredibly rich, velvety brown sauce in your favourite restaurant is because they have spent days roasting bones, soaking packets of bouquet-garni and reducing stocks just to make the major and most important ingredient in sauces – the broth.

Most of us home cooks don’t have the time or desire to make the most delicious and classic stock reductions for soups, stews, braises and sauces. Sure, we have no trouble making a batch of chicken stock for homemade chicken soup but how many of us want to spend two to three days making a demi-glace? Not me.

But there is hope. There are a few tricks to sauce making that make it possible for home cooks to create some of the most delicious liquids easily. For me, it’s an easy three-step process that includes perfecting the roux, being stingy with the brown bits on the bottom of every pan and buying the finest, chef-made stock.

It’s logical and simple. Think about the last time you made turkey dinner with gravy. Did you take the turkey juices, drain the fat and use them to flavour your gravy? Of course you did. Once the turkey was cooked (aka, now you’re out of time) you used the pan juices, thickened them, added commercial broth and served it up. Doing it this way, the best you could hope for was an anemic beige coloured liquid that was cloyingly vicious and rather pastily dull.

If that’s ok for you, read no further.

But what if every time you make chicken (or turkey) you saved the brown bits and juices from the bottom of the pan? Do it! Pour them in a jar and put them in your freezer. Do you see where I’m going with this? Now you’re not held hostage until the turkey is done, now you’re free to make really good gravy while the turkey is cooking!

But first you need to start with a silky roux. Roux is equal parts butter and flour and it has four stages that are distinguished by colour and flavour. For turkey gravy, cook the roux over low heat to reach the flavour and colour of a blonde roux.

When you make roux, it doesn’t matter if you use two tablespoons of each butter and flour, three tablespoons or four. What matters is that you calculate the warm broth to be four times the quantity of the roux. This means for two tablespoons of each butter and flour (60 mL total), you will need four times the amount or 1 cup (240 mL) of warm broth. Likewise, if you use four tablespoons (120 mL) of butter and flour, use 2 cups (500 mL) of warm broth.

To your silky roux, add lots of warmed pan juices (from your jar in the freezer) and then the broth. But a word of warning: if you’re not using good broth, it will all have been for nothing. Thankfully there are gourmet food shops that will stock broths that have taken days to perfect. Savoia Gourmet on Martindale Road in St Catharines has house made brown stock in the freezer section and Commisso’s Fresh Foods on Thorold Stone Road in Niagara Falls have fresh, in-house made broth in their fresh-foods-to-go section. That’s right, don’t make it – buy it!

Painless, easy gravy, stirred to perfection under no stress with the best quality ingredients possible. Sauce and gravy making has never been easier.

Five Mother Sauces Designed by Escoffier:


A brown sauce made with brown broth and brown roux.

Add red wine reduction and reduce again to make demi glaze.

Add red wine reduction and poached marrow for Sauce Bordelaise.

Add onions fried in butter for Lyonnaise Sauce.

Add madeira wine for Sauce Madeira.



A white sauce made with white broth and white roux

Add white wine and whipping cream for a white wine sauce.

Add cream and butter for a Sauce Suprême.

Add egg yolks and whipping cream for Sauce Allemande.

Reduce it down for Sauce Bercy.

Add mushrooms and oyster juice for Sauce Normandy.



A white sauce made with white roux and milk

Add butter and cheese and it becomes Mornay

Add diced, hard boiled eggs and nutmeg for Sauce Oeufs à l’anglaise

Add fish stock and cream for Sauce Cardinal

Add cayenne and lobster for sauce Homard à l’anglaise



A yellow sauce made with egg yolks and butter

Add tarragon and chervil and it becomes Béarnaise sauce used for asparagus or steaks

Add a reduction of orange juice and zest for Sauce Maltaise

Fold in whipped cream for Sauce Mousseline

Add Dijon mustard for Sauce Moutarde


Sauce Tomato

A red sauce made with tomatoes and meat reduced

Add cooked meat (meatballs, sausage, etc) for Ragout

Add sliced mushrooms, garlic and parsley for Sauce Provencal

Add mirepoix fried in crayfish butter for Sauce Nantua

Add fried onions, tomato concasse for Sauce Portuguese



Most sauces and gravies are thickened with roux. Roux is cooked in a saucepan over low heat to cook the raw taste of the flour out and to coat the starch in the flour so it doesn’t clump when you add warm broth. The four stages of roux are white, blonde, brown and dark brown.


White Roux:

The flour is added to the melted butter and cooked while stirring continuously until the flour is fully incorporated and evolves its pasty flavour into something a bit more neutral, about 15 minutes. It really doesn’t add any extra flavour to a sauce but it’s a great thickening agent for white sauce (Béchamel), creamed soups and chowders.


Blonde Roux:

 A white roux cooked until it starts to develop colour, about 30 minutes. At this stage it will have a slightly nutty flavour and an aroma similar to popcorn. It’s a better thickener and used in cheese sauces (Mornay) or in chicken and turkey gravy.


Brown Roux:

Is cooked even longer than a blonde roux, about 45 minutes to a deep golden colour, almost the colour of peanut butter. It has a pronounced nutty flavour and is used for all brown sauces and soups.


Dark Brown Roux:

Is cooked to a reddish-brown colour, has a deep nutty flavour and used in robust Cajun dishes such as gumbo. To get to the dark brown roux it could take up to an hour or more.


By Lynn Ogryzlo

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