“The whole point of roast turkey is the bread sauce.” –Great-grandma Fraser
In North America bread sauce is virtually unknown, which is unusual because so many of our American and Canadian customs — especially holiday customs — came from Britain. Bread sauce is one of the oldest British sauces, with records of it going back to medieval times, and is the only surviving bread-thickened sauce from that epoch. Its an important part of a traditional British Christmas dinner to accompany roast poultry.
Bread sauce is a savory sauce with a very unique flavor, unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Its excellent with turkey or any fowl, but accompanies well with beef, lamb, or fish. It should be served up similarly to how we traditionally serve cranberry sauce: a dab along side your meat. You can also “butter” your bread with it when making a turkey sandwich from leftovers. Can be served cold, but I prefer it warm.
My family’s recipe came over with them from Scotland more than a century ago and has been served with every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner in living memory. Bread sauce is easy to make and is a crowd-pleasing extra for the holidays or for any special gathering. It also freezes well, so can be made up to a month is advance.
I like what Mrs. Leyel and Miss Hartley have to say about bread sauce from their famous cookbook The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925): “This is one of the sauces we make better in England than in France, for the French don’t make bread sauce at all — a great mistake on their part, for properly made it is excellent, not only with birds but with many kinds of fish.”
Try it this holiday season and let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.
- 1 cup stale hearty white bread cubes (roughly 2-3 slices)
- 1/2 cup diced sweet or yellow onion
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 Tblsp salted butter
- 1 Tblsp Glenlivet scotch whiskey
- Stale your bread prior: A day or two before making, de-crust your bread, cube, then lay out on a cooling rack for a day or so. A pizza cutter works well for de-crusting and cubing. Once stale, keep in baggie until ready.
- Using a double-boiler, simmer milk, onion, and cloves until onions are soft and transparent.
- Add bread. Simmer until all the bread has unconstituted and is thick like custard, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add butter and scotch. Stir well until thoroughly combined. Remove from heat.
- Fish out the cloves using a fork.
- Serve warm or cold.
The quality of bread is important here. Wonderbread or similar sandwich breads are too light and fluffy. Look for a good quality, more dense white, like Pepperidge Farm.
If you don't have a double-boiler you can fashion one by using a smaller saucepan inside a larger pot. The larger pot holds the boiling water; the smaller sauce pan holds the breadsauce.
To stale the bread quickly, de-crust and cube, spread out on a cookie sheet, and put in oven at 250 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until dried, but not browned or toasted.