Classic Sauce Américaine


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: 3 cups sauce; about



Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About


wine vinegar 1 tsp 5 ml
cognac 9 tbsp 140 ml
lobsters, 2 female and 2 male 6 lb 2.5 kg
olive or vegetable oil ¼ cup 60 ml
shallots, finely chopped 5 5
garlic cloves, crushed 2 2
white wine 1 cup 250 ml
large bouquet garni 1 1
tomato purée 1 cup 250 ml
chicken or good-quality fish stock (optional) up to ½ cup up to 125 ml
heavy cream ½ cup 125 ml
lobster or other crustacean butter 1 oz 30 g
parsley butter 1 oz 30 g
tarragon butter 1 tbsp 15 g
chervil butter 1 oz 30 g


  1. Put the vinegar and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Cognac into the bottom of a bowl that will be used to catch the lobster juices and place a strainer over the bowl. Kill the lobsters and extract the coral and tomalley as described on. Press the coral and tomalley from all the lobsters through the strainer, working it through using a small ladle or, better yet, your fingers. (A)

  2. When all the tomalley and coral have been strained, put the bowl immediately over ice. Do not try to keep them for more than a few hours. (The mixture will probably have an ugly blue-green color, but it will turn bright orange once heated.)
  3. Cut the lobster tails into sections about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. (B)

    Cut the heads in half lengthwise and remove the stomach sacs. (C)

    Crack the claws with a chef’s knife.

  4. Heat the olive oil in a flat sauté pan that will hold all the pieces of lobster in one layer. Sauté the lobster sections, including the cracked claws, the pieces of tail, and the halved heads, until the shells turn red (usually about 5 minutes). (D)

  5. Take the meat out of the lobster pieces and reserve. Return the shells to the pan. Break them up with a rolling pin (the European kind without handles) or the handle of a cleaver held up on end. (E)

    Sprinkle the shells with the shallots and the garlic and stir over the heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Place the remaining Cognac in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Tilt the pan slightly over the flame to ignite it. (Cognac should always be flamed before adding it; if flamed with the shells, it can cause the tiny hairs on the lobster shells to burn and give a bitter taste to the sauce. It can also flare up dangerously.) (F)

  7. Add the flamed Cognac, white wine, bouquet garni, and tomato purée to the lobster shells. (G)

    Cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes. (H)

  8. Strain the liquid through a coarse chinois, pushing down on the solids with a rolling pin, (I)

    and then through a fine chinois into a small saucepan; there should be about 2 cups (500 milliliters) liquid. If there is less, add stock. Reduce the sauce by half, until 1 cup (250 milliliters) remains. Sample it to see whether further reduction is necessary; the sauce should be full flavored and have a silky consistency. (It is better to overreduce the sauce slightly at this point rather than to underreduce it, because once the butters and lobster coral are added, further reduction will be impossible.)

  9. Whisk in the cream and reduce slightly. (J)

  10. Whisk in the crustacean butter and the herb butters. (K)

  11. Carefully ladle the hot sauce into the strained coral (off the ice) while whisking. Notice that the blue-green purée will first discolor the sauce, but once the purée is heated by the hot sauce, the sauce will turn orange. If this color change does not occur, it means that there was not enough coral, as only the coral—not the tomalley—changes color. Although the color of the sauce will be a pale green instead of orange, its flavor will still be excellent. It is unlikely that the sauce will require the addition of salt.
  12. Serve the sauce with the barely warmed lobster in hot soup plates.