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Jane Grigson’s mushroom & Madeira sauce

Mrs. Grigson confides in The Mushroom Feast (New York 1975), that this recipe was given to her by the best cook she ever met; a lucky acquaintance indeed. The sauce is nearly as simple as it is possible to get. It is good with beef, grilled chicken, ham, kidneys….

Madeira-toasting.jpg-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-4 oz coarsely chopped mushrooms
-2½ Tablespoons of flour
-a chopped small onion
-1¼ cups boiling water
-2/3 cup Sercial or Verdelho Madeira (Rainwater in a pinch)
-salt and pepper
-about ½ Tablespoon more unsalted butter

  1. Melt the butter over medium low heat and cook the mushrooms and onion in it until they soften.
  2. Stir the flour into the vegetables, increase the heat and stir until the flour takes on the color of peanut butter.
  3. Stir the water into the mixture until it marries with the vegetables in a uniform consistency.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the Madeira to the sauce and continue simmering it for another 10 minutes or so.
  6. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, turn off the heat and stir the remaining butter into the sauce to give it a silken sheen.

- You will want to get the color of the roux just right, second nature to cooks in Louisiana but sometimes a bit of a challenge for the rest of us. If it gets too dark, the flour loses its ability to thicken the sauce; molecular issues are in play. You do, however, want it to take on some color to impart the distinctly nutty flavor of cooked roux to the sauce.

- If you find black flecks in the roux it has burnt and tastes acrid: You will need to throw away your sauce, so be vigilant.

- Do not be tempted by embellishment, not even stock: You want the earth of mushroom and tang of Madeira to blow you away.

- Sheepish disclosure: This sauce apparently originated in France.