½cupdry white white(if you have no white, use red)
2tbspMadeira or brandy
1½cups(12 ounces) beef gravy[1 12-oz jar]
114-oz candiced tomatoes
1tspfines herbs blend
For the rustic chunky sauce shown in the photo, chop the onions into 1/4 inch dice, and the mushrooms in thicker chunks. If you wish a more refined sauce, substitute a shallot instead of the onion, and mince it finely; slice the mushrooms as thinly as you can, and substitute 8 oz tomato sauce for the diced tomatoes. We prefer the rustic style.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a non-reactive skillet. Cook the onions (or shallots) gently until they are just translucent. Raise the heat, and add the mushrooms. Cook until they are delicately browned. Add the wine and Madeira, reduce the heat, and cook until the volume of liquid is reduced by half.
By the way, we are dead on the classical preparation so far (well, except for the rustic part, using onions and thickly chunked mushrooms.) Now for the amazing shortcut that makes this so cool. I have in my kitchen notes that I learned this trick from a Jacques Pepin book sometime in the 70s or early 80s – blame my unscholarly habits that I didn’t include the specific source! If anyone can track it down, by all means comment below.
Add in one 12-ounce can or jar of commercial beef gravy. If you happen to have leftover homemade beef gravy, that’s even better. If you have taken the time to make classic Sauce Espagnole, veal bones and all, by all means, use that. It’s the texture that’s important here. Over the years, I’ve used Franco-American, Heinz, and others – use what you have on hand that has the most reasonable ingredients, and stir well.
Also add whatever you’re using for tomato flavor – for a rustic texture, you can’t beat diced tomatoes, but tomato sauce will also work. Add dried herbs of your choice; I’m partial to a dried Fines Herbes blend from the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine; you might use a bouquet garni blend, or simply thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. Stir well, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Now what can you use this sauce for? Oh my, what not? This is a sauce that might make cardboard taste great. It’s wonderful slathered on sliced meatloaf. Slice or chunk leftovers (poultry, roast, steak, chops) and heat in the sauce, or use as a filling for crepes. Or just sop it up with crusty bread!
The sauce will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and at least 6 months in the freezer, if well packaged. I like to make a pot full of the sauce – a bit more than a quart – and freeze what I’m not using immediately in 1 to 2 cup portions. It will thaw with no loss in texture.