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Madeira Sauce is one of T’s favourite sauces – one that his father used to make for special dinners. It’s traditionally made with shallots, browned butter, beef stock, thyme, tomato paste and Madeira*. However, before last November, whenever T suggested having it, I nixed it. Here’s how our conversations would go:
T: I know! Let’s have Madeira Sauce. Dad sent me his recipe.
me: Isn’t that tomato sauce? I thought you hated tomato sauce.
T: I do. But Madeira Sauce has Madeira in it. It’s great. Trust me. You’ll love it.
me: Madeira? That’s sweet wine, isn’t it? Isn’t the sauce really sweet? (flaring nostrils and making that face) Can’t we have a stock reduction instead? Or maybe some sautéed mushrooms?
T: (sigh) mutter mutter... Okay, but next time? Can’t we have Madeira Sauce next time?
And finally, during the reprise of this conversation last November, I could no longer watch a grown man cry and very reluctantly gave in.
WHEN will I learn? All those lost occasions when I could have had Madeira Sauce!! Because, you guessed it, I love Madeira Sauce!
Many recipes call for Madeira sauce to be strained to smooth it out but we like the texture of the sauce unstrained. We also like to use a combination of olive oil and butter just to cut the butter quantity a little. And instead of beef stock, we use chicken stock if we have any in the freezer or chicken stock powder and water.
Yes, that’s right. Chicken stock powder and water. The tomato and Madeira are strong enough that the commercial stock powder doesn’t overwhelm the flavour.
based on my father-in-law’s recipe
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter and olive oil (or just butter)
- 2 shallots (or 1 medium onion)
- 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 c chicken stock (or water and chicken stock powder)
- 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf, optional
- ½ c (125ml) Madeira
- seasalt and pepper, to taste
- Heat butter and olive oil til butter is foaming and begins to turn a nutty golden brown. Watch that it doesn’t burn!
- Remove pan from heat and stir in flour.
- Add shallots or onions and cook until they are soft and coloured gold.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in chicken stock (or water and chicken stock powder).
- Add tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf (if you want) and Madeira.
- Put the pan back on the heat and bring to a low simmer. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper and a little more Madeira if you think it needs it.
Madeira is a sweet fortified wine, one of the few that actually thrives on being stored in a hot environment. Here’s what the Cook’s Thesaurus has to say:
Madeira wines first became popular back in the days of cross-Atlantic sailing ships, because they were able to survive long, hot trips in rolling ships. And they didn’t just survive, they actually improved, so much so that sending them off on long round-trip sea voyages eventually became an integral part of their production, though the practice has since been abandoned.
There was a great episode about Madeira and Port on “Vintage: a history of wine” by Hugh Johnson (1988). After a terrific account of how Madeira and Port are made, a dinner party takes place at the Madeira Club in Savannah, Georgia and the participants open and taste a 19th century bottle of Madeira. It’s wonderful to see these wine experts pretty much at a loss for words as they savour what is clearly still a great wine.
I know the series was available on VHS but do not know if it has been released on DVD. If not, it should be. It’s well worth seeing.