Madeira Sauce is a savoury French sauce used particularly with roasted chicken and beef. In the French sauce lexicon, this is classed as a brown sauce.
Classically it is defined (by Larousse) as a demi-glace sauce with Madeira wine added to it, boiled down. A demi-glace sauce is espagnole sauce, with brown stock, a few tablespoons of Madeira, and optionally some mushroom skins. And espagnole sauce, is in turn, the base first sauce that must be made before the other two — see the entry on Espagnole Sauce.
Consequently, it’s easy to understand why recipes for home preparation have simplified the process: many such sauces presumed they were being made in a restaurant kitchen where there were dedicated sauce people at the beck and call.
Many different shortcuts have now evolved. There are thousands available on the Internet.
Here is an overview of a sample one, to show that even the shortcut versions of Madeira Sauce can be a weekend’s afternoon project.
You make a roux, then add to it minced carrots, celery and scallions, beef stock, and other flavouring ingredients such as mushrooms, herbs and vegetables, and simmer for about two hours, skimming frequently. You then pass this through a sieve, discarding all the solid ingredients. Put the sauce back in a pot, add Madeira, simmer to reduce again, then sieve again. Then you add more Maderia, and season with salt and pepper.
Some recipes have you add a touch of butter at this final stage.
Many recipes have you add tomato purée or chopped tomatoes (strained out at the end), as a nod to the tomato flavouring that would come from the Espagnole Sauce.
One of the shortest recipes for it was actually developed by the British chef Gordon Ramsay.
You can also buy it Madeira Sauce ready-made in bottles.
Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
New Larousse Gastronomique. Paris: Librairie Larousse. English edition 1977.
Ramsay, Gordon. Madeira Sauce. London: The Times. 24 June 2007.