Merchant Divine Sauce ‡

Sauce Marchand de Vin (almost pronounced mar-shawn duh van) literally means “wine merchant’s sauce.” The recipe supposedly traces back to the Bordeau region of France, which is famous for its wine, but I couldn’t find one recipe online for a French version. I did read, among my searches, however, that it is the only brown sauce variation to be created in America.

Whatever its origin, its appearance is rife in New Orleans cookery, especially in the old line Creole-style restaurants. A signature dish of Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans is Eggs Hussarde, which incorporates it. There would appear perhaps to be as many variations as places that prepare it, but the basis is butter, flour, ham, onion, garlic, and rich brown sauce. My attempts to reduce the calory count, salt, and preparation complexity appears below. I think it is still extremely delicious, and is a complement to any grilled meat dish, as well as other targets of opportunity.

There are two variations: strained and unstrained. The strained version is, perhaps, a little more elegant and what you find in restaurants, but the unstrained sauce has more body. I like both, but probably use the unstrained a little more.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup scallion tops, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup white onion, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • ¾ cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • ¼ cup lean turkey ham, minced finely
  • ½ tsp dried leaf thyme, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 (10½-oz) can condensed beef or 10½ oz homemade consommé
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp yeast extract (e.g. Marmite® or Vegemite®)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup red wine
  • <salt>, to taste
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, minced

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion, scallion, garlic, and mushrooms until the onion is limp and just turning a golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the ham and cook, still stirring, another minute. Add the pepper, bay leaf, thyme, and cayenne and blend thoroughly. Gradually add the beef consomme and red wine, stirring to keep the sauce as smooth as possible. Add the yeast extract and blend it in well. Raise the heat and reduce the volume by half, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add <salt> if you must.

At this point you have a choice: to strain or not to strain the solids out and leave a smooth, clear brown sauce. If you do not strain, use a stick blender or regular blender to incorporate all the solids into a smooth, rich purée. If you do strain, save the residue for another day, to add to the pâté in a Beef Wellington or to enhance another deserving dish. After this step, whichever is taken, mix the cornstarch with a little red wine, add it to the mixture, and cook until the sauce thickens. Fold in the parsley just before serving.

The amount of cornstarch required may vary, depending on the amount the liquid has been reduced.

Makes about 2 cups.

A simpler version

A quicker and simpler version of the sauce, and almost as good, can be made as follows:

  • 1 (10½-oz) can beef consomme
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp yeast extract, as above
  • 1 tsp ham base
  • 1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in ¼ cup red wine

Assemble all ingredients except the corn starch in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce by one-half, stirring occasionally. Add the cornstarch, bring back to a simmer, and let cook until thickened and starchy taste is gone.