Bordelaise just refers to something that comes from Bordeaux, and this sauce is great for profiling wine from the region, if you decide to use it. An interesting fact about French cuisine is that the are actually only two red wine-based derivative brown sauces (sauces that use demi-glace and red wine), whereas there are several that use white wine exclusively. The second, Meurette Sauce, comes from Burgundy. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the two most notable regions in France for red wine are the ones that have a sauce that uses it.
According to the 1961 edition of the French food encyclopedia Larousse Gastronomique, Sauce Bordelaise simply refers to white, and then later red wine, as well as marrowbone fat. This differs somewhat to more modern definitions, which generally define the sauce as sautéed shallots with a red wine and then once the wine has been sufficiently reduced, finishing it with some butter for taste and thickening. You can see versions here and here. (Note: if you clicked on those links, notice in the video the chef added sugar to counterbalance the acidity of the wine, and in the second link, the Wikepedia page, calls for adding demi-glace to the sauce).
Although the above video is probably a more traditional version of the sauce, I much prefer sauce Bordelaise as it appears in James Peterson’s Sauces, 3rd edition. I don’t much like sauces that are too thin when poured over a protein such as steak, and I prefer sauces to be smooth over having chunks of shallots in them (most of the time). Just a preference though, not claiming that the below recipe is the proper or the best one.
A couple notes on the ingredients. You can buy demi-glace at most upscale grocery stores, and many butchers will make and sell it. If you don’t mind paying 7 bucks for a cup of it, you can purchase it at Cumbrae’s in Toronto. If you’re keen to use marrow instead of butter, you’ll want to call ahead to make sure the place you’re going to look for it has it. I buy bags of bones from places like Sanagan’s Meat Locker (same location as the old European Meats on Baldwin in Kensington), and will cook with them. I like butter in sauces just as much though.
- red wine, 1 cup
- demi-glace (can be veal, beef or chicken), 3/4 cup
- minced shallots, 2 tbsp
- black pepper, crushed, 1 tsp
- dried thyme, 1 pinch
- bay leaf, 1/2 leaf
- red wine vinegar, 2 tsp
- cognac (if you have it), 2 tsp
- beef marrow cubes or cold butter, 1 1/2 ounce
- Combine the red wine and demi, along with the shallots, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf and simmer gently until reduced by about half.
- Strain the mixure into a clean saucepan with a fine mesh strainer (or whatever you normally use).
- whisk in the vinegar (and Cognac if you have it), simmer for 30 seconds, then add the marrow or butter. Season with salt to taste.