Espagnole

Let’s get a little technical for our Foodie Friday fun this week. No, not technical in the technology sense. It’s our food day, after all. I’ve written before about the Mother Sauces (there will be a quiz!) and for some reason one of them – Espagnole – popped back into my head yesterday while I was out doing an errand. Kind of weird, I know, but stay with me.

The other four mother sauces are ones I suspect any of you who cook use on a fairly regular basis. It’s hard to cook Italian food without a tomato sauce being involved. Bechamel is the basis for so many things, from mac and cheese to Moussaka. Hollandaise is used as is (mmm…eggs Benedict…).  I’d argue that Veloute is more widely used as well even if people don’t know what it is.

Espagnole, which is a brown sauce generally reduced several times and is meat based, is sort of the quiet fifth wheel.  It’s not glamorous.  It’s not easy to make and is generally not used as a sauce by itself.  It’s the basis for other sauces (hence a mother sauce) and its deep flavor, brought on by hours of cooking, is part of what distinguishes a professional kitchen from what the rest of us do in the home.  It needs a lot of attention – frequent skimming of fat, for example – to get it right.  Once you have it, however, many other wonderful things are possible.  Which, of course, is how I got on the subject and the business point.

I was thinking about a friend who is having some trouble in his job.   He’s quietly efficient and the firm is much better off with him there.  The word that popped into my head was…well you can guess.  We all know people who are the Espagnoles (is that a word?) of our businesses.  They are there in the background and they’re easy to overlook.  Without them, a lot of other things are impossible, or least don’t turn out as well (try a mushroom sauce made with a great Espagnole – you’ll know!).  Just as Espagnole is given equal billing as a mother sauce, we need to recognize the contributions of the quiet ones or the ones in the less glamorous jobs.   It’s their Umami that gives our businesses depth even if we have to build on their solid foundation to form the ultimate product.

Do you know someone like that – an Espagnole?

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