Quick Brown Sauce

James Beard

Author and Educator

This versatile sauce is a version of the classic French brown sauce, which forms the basis for many of the classic French dishes. Making a traditional beef stock is time-consuming, however, and requires several procedures, including the long simmering of beef bones, vegetables, and herbs. James Beard worked out this recipe over a number of years, and felt that it combined the taste of the classic with the ease of the modern. Use it as a base for his Sauce Diable.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • One 10 1/2-ounce can beef broth
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 1 1/2-quart saucepan. Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat until limp and golden. Stir in the wine and beef broth and bring to a boil. Season with thyme and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by almost half.

While the liquid is reducing, work the butter and flour together to a paste with your fingers and then roll it into tiny balls, called beurre manié. Drop the balls, one or two at a time, into the boiling liquid, and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Don’t add all the beurre manié at once as it will take a little time to break up and thicken the liquid.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce through a strainer to eliminate the bits of cooked shallot.


1 1/2 cups