Sauce Américaine

It is not an American sauce. It is a French sauce created on the fly for an American guest at a Parisian restaurant cheffed by Pierre Fraisse, around 1860. A guest was in a hurry and ordered lobster. Fraisse didn’t have time to make the usual complicated sauce for lobster so he threw together this classic. Maybe. Or it was the sauce served to passengers aboard ships from France headed to America. Or it was named after Amorica, a region of Brittainy. Or it originated in America and Fraisse brought it back.

Nobody knows.

It isn’t too hard to make. Americans can get a decent lobster pretty much anywhere. Hell, you can pick up a live one in Kansas city, far from any ocean. So, you know, no excuse.

The sauce was originally created to go with lobster and usually the meat is steamed then married with the sauce just before it is served. But the Boule d’Or used it for their Quenelles Ambassade, a genius move the Prices loved and brought back to their home dinners in Los Angeles and New Mexico.

The recipe they published, however, is total bullshit as it is missing a key ingredient in Sauce Américaine—the fucking lobster.  I don’t know why the lobster isn’t part of the sauce. Every other ingredient is right. There are other lobster dishes in the book and even instructions for making lobster butter using the shell, so using the shell for Sauce Américaine doesn’t seem like a stretch for their MadMen audience of 1965. I’m baffled.

Below is the classic French sauce. (In the recipe for Quenelles Ambassade, I present the published version with loud reservations.)

Sauce Américaine


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound whole lobster, steamed and shells removed
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup shrimp or fish stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper and pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. When it's hot, add the shells.
  2. Saute the shells for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they turn bright red.
  3. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree.
  5. Flambe the brandy.
  6. Pour in the shrimp stock and white wine.
  7. Season with parsley, salt, and pepper.
  8. Bring the liquid up to a boil.
  9. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and strain into a sauce pot.
  11. Whisk in the cream and bring up to a boil.
  12. Reduce to a simmer.
  13. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  14. Add in the 3 tablespoons butter.
  15. Season with the salt and cayenne.
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Bull Garlington is an award-winning author and columnist from Chicago. His newest book is The Full English, a humorous travel memoir.