Mimic-Americaine Sauce ⁑

Sauce américaine is a recipe from classic French cuisine, sometimes known by its original name, sauce armoricaine, which derived from Armorica, the ancient name for the region of France between the Seine and Loire rivers. Armorica roughly translates into “Place by the Sea,” and the sauce may have been so named because of the abundance of fish in the diet of the region. It most certainly does not mean “in the American style” or that it was created in the United States. And, although it refers to north-eastern France, some believe that it originated in Provence, as it embodies all the taste distinctions of that region, with its use of tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.

One of the earliest recipes merely states that one pounds lobster meat and shells in the mortar and incorporates an equal quantity of fish velouté, with added butter. The classic sauce additionally contains chopped onions, tomatoes, white wine, brandy, salt, and cayenne pepper. As with many other classic dishes the original recipe has been adapted over time and almost every chef will prepare the sauce in a slightly different way. Modern recipes usually include tarragon, will use lobster stock rather than pounded lobster, and often use paprika in lieu of cayenne.

The recipe given here attempts to mimic the more modern versions using less fat and salt.

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup onion or shallots, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, crushed, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce, no salt added, no sugar added
  • 1 tsp lobster, clam, or fish base
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp liquid <butter>
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 tbsp potato starch

Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, and carrot in a sauce pan until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown. Add the water to the pan.

If you have the shells from the lobster or shrimp that this sauce will be served with, put them into the water and simmer until the juices are extracted. Remove the shells.

Add the tomato sauce, water, lobster (or other) base, wine, and peppercorns, bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced by one-third. Add the herbs and simmer for another 5 minutes.

To strain or not to strain. Ah, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler on the palate to partake of the vegetables puréed into a thicker, full flavored sauce or to discard them, and so by doing retain only their essences for enjoyment?. If you choose the former, remove the shells and peppercorns prior to puréing.

Whatever the choice, reheat the result to a simmer, add in the liquid butter, and stir it in. Then put the brandy in a small mixing bowl or cup, add the potato starch, and blend well. Then drizzle the brandy slurry into the simmering pot, stirring continually. Simmer until the alcohol has subsided.

Makes about 3 cups.