Updated: May 19, 2020
"This is the ultimate lobster sauce, which never fails to lift the simplest grilled or poached fish to ethereal heights."
Gordon Ramsay (1999)
There has clearly been a long-standing debate as to whether the correct name for this sauce is "Armoricaine" or "Américaine" but according to "Larousse Gastronomique" it is now widely accepted that the former is a corruption of the latter. The justification for the name "Armoricaine" is that, and this part is non-debatable, Brittany, whose Roman name was "Armorica" (Asterix fans would know that!), has claimed the regional origin for the lobster dish for which this sauce was designed (even though that took place in Paris!). One counterargument to this is that tomatoes, upon which the sauce is heavily reliant, are not associated with such a northern part of France. A more persuasive counterargument is that Pierre Fraisse ("Peters"), originally from Sète in the south of France and the recognised inventer of this now classic sauce, had been working as a chef in Chicago until his return to France in around 1860 to open the restaurant in Paris in which he first created this sauce. As a side note, it is interesting to observe that in her article "Fine Bouche", Elizabeth David makes mention of the term "à l'Américaine", and that article was published in the Sunday Times in 1956.
It's a true classic that nowadays accompanies fish prepared in a wide variety of ways and is, of course, essential in the preparation of Homard a l'Américaine, the sauce's original assignment. However, I have, and I apologise to the classicists for this, taken inspiration from a recipe in "Ripailles" by Stéphane Reynaud and come up with a heavily simplified method of preparing this sauce, with every effort spent on preserving the influence of all the key flavours but rendering it very achievable in a domestic kitchen in a short period of time. A truly refined method can be found in Michel Roux's "Sauces: Savoury & Sweet" or in "Gordon Ramsay's Passion for Seafood".
Shells, as a waste product from the process of filling the tubs of picked lobster meat that are available on the market stall, are sometimes brought to the market as a free offering to customers. These are a superb resource for making stock for this sauce.
As mentioned above you can use this sauce to accompany fish as well as lobster and, as a suggestion, perhaps try a grilled gurnard or, at this time of year, a sea bass fillet on crushed Jersey Royals and watercress and served with Sauce Américaine?
Ingredients (Makes enough sauce for 2-3 servings)
35g shallot, roughly chopped
1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped
1½ tbsp brandy
200g plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
150ml dry white wine
100ml lobster stock (or fish stock)
2 tbsp double cream (or to taste)
Sweat the shallot and garlic in a little olive oil in a sauté pan or small, deep frying pan. Before they take on any colour add the brandy, allow it to heat up then ignite it. When the flames die down add the tomatoes and let them stew for a couple of minutes then pour in the white wine. Bring back to the boil and after bubbling away for a minute or so, add the stock. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and blitz until smooth then pass through a sieve into a clean saucepan.
Bring the sauce to the boil and then, over a medium-high heat allow it to reduce by about a third to leave around 150-175ml of sauce remaining.
Stir in the cream, cook for a few more minutes then adjust the seasoning with the salt and cayenne pepper.
If you wish to use this sauce with already-cooked food, for example, some cooked lobster, proceed until the end of step 3. Gently reheat the pre-cooked food in the tomato sauce and transfer it to warmed serving plates. Then add the cream and follow step 4 to complete the sauce.
If you wish to make a batch of this sauce and freeze it, perhaps in portions, make the recipe up until the end of step 3, i.e. without adding the cream. Freeze this tomato base, which can happily be defrosted in the microwave. All that is then required is gentle reheating on the hob, the addition of the cream and some seasoning.
"Larousse Gastronomique", Joël Robuchon et. al. (2001), pp. 17 & 40: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Larousse-Gastronomique-Hamlyn/dp/0600620425
"An Omelette and a Glass of Wine", Elizabeth David (1984), pp. 143: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Omelette-Glass-Wine-Elizabeth-David/dp/0670807699
"Ripailles", Stéphane Renaud (2008), pp. 312: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ripailles-Stephane-Reynaud/dp/1743366337
"Sauces: Savoury & Sweet", Michel Roux (2009), pp. 192: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sauces-Savoury-Sweet-Michel-Roux/dp/1844006972
"Gordon Ramsay's Passion for Seafood", Gordon Ramsay (1999), pp. 68: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gordon-Ramsays-Passion-Seafood-Ramsay/dp/1850299935
Homard a l'Américaine, Bute St Seafoodie