The Chef-Approved Trick For Better Bordelaise Sauce Dishes

One of the best sauces to pair with steak, bordelaise sauce is an elegant blend of two French mother sauces — espagnole and demi-glace — in a simmering pot with red wine, bone marrow, and aromatics. While modern recipes streamline bordelaise sauce by swapping demi-glace for beef stock or using store-bought demi-glace, an aromatic wine reduction remains its defining method of execution.

Bordelaise can be made even better when you think outside the pan a little. That's why Chef Kieron Hales recommends straying from the classic preparation of the sauce. As chef and co-owner of the Michigan wedding venue, Zingerman's Cornman Farms, Hales is no stranger to special occasion steak dinners and offers clever tricks for better bordelaise sauce.

He told Tasting Table, "I love to use the wine to marinade my meat first before using it in the sauce." Using red wine as a beef marinade likewise infuses it with the umami-rich beef flavor, which makes for an even richer, more complex wine reduction for bordelaise sauce.

While classical recipes tend to throw all of the ingredients into a pot to simmer together, Hales recommends developing the flavor of the aromatic ingredients and layering the liquid ingredients for more depth. He recommends that you "sweat shallots first in butter, then add the wine and reduce by half." Sweating means letting the aromatics sizzle briefly in fat to release their fragrance. It's a quick trick that, coupled with the beefy wine, will seriously upgrade your bordelaise sauce.

Bordelaise ingredient upgrades

Along with sweating the shallots and employing red wine as both the steak marinade and foundation for bordelaise sauce, Hale continues to gradually layer more tasty ingredients into the wine reduction. After the wine has reduced, he proceeds to add beef stock and, finally, the remaining vegetables and aromatics.

This last step suggests that you can elaborate your ingredients list with herbs like thyme and bay leaf or other aromatics like garlic and black peppercorns for an extra spicy bite. Roasted vegetables will bring more depth of texture and flavor to bordelaise sauce. Common roasted additions include carrots, garlic, and mushrooms. If you're using broth instead of demi-glace, stirring smashed, roasted garlic into bordelaise will help thicken it while also adding a caramelized flavor to complement the umami-rich beef and enhance the sweetness of the red wine.

If you find that your bordelaise sauce doesn't reduce to the desired thickness, you could stir Dijon mustard, flour, or more butter into the sauce as it simmers over the stove. However you decide to elaborate bordelaise sauce, a reduction takes time and patience.