The Secret Is Out!

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“If you want to raise your culinary skills to the next  level, learn how to make simple pan sauces.”                -Lynnie

With this technique in your cooking bag of tricks, you can turn a simple pan-fried steak into a mouth-watering meal, a plain boneless chicken breast into a delicious feast, or a modest pork chop into a scrumptious banquet. Ok, maybe I’m stretching a bit but check this out.

The Pros Do It

Restaurants chefs use this technique all the time. They cook something, usually a protein like meat or fish, in a sauté pan over pretty high heat until it’s done and leaves a bunch of brown caramelized bits of “stuff” in the pan.

You look at this “stuff” in the pan and say to yourself, “Now how am I going to clean this ‘stuff’ off the pan? What a mess! I wish I used a non stick pan.” Before you reach for your green scrubby pad, keep reading.

Fond, What Is It & What Is It Good For?

The “stuff” has a name, it’s called “fond” and you want that “fond” stuck to your saute pan because it is packed with incredible flavors. It’s also easy to remove by adding a little liquid to the pan and using a wooden spoon to dissolve it. This is called deglazing and can be done with wine, brandy, fortified wines, stock, cider, fruit juices or most typically a combination of two. Just be careful if you use wine, to remove the pan from the heat so the alcohol doesn’t ignite and blow up in your face. I’ve spoken with chefs who have seen this happen.

The next steps are to reduce the liquid in the pan and add several pats of butter to thicken and enhance the flavor of the sauce. If you ever knew how much butter professional chefs use in restaurants to “enhance” flavor, you would be amazed. I sometimes think they make their dishes too rich because I can feel it when I get home, but then again, it’s so good when you’re eating it. It makes sense, though. Fats not only give foods wonderful body, they also carry a lot of flavor.

Now those are just the basics. To create some more complexity to the sauce you’ll want to add some aromatics like garlic or shallots for a subtle but additional layer of flavor. Then you might want to add some additional ingredients such as mushrooms, mustards, chutneys, herbs and/or spices to give even more complexity and flavor.

This is how many of the classic sauces with all the fancy French names are made. By adding different ingredients to stock reductions, you can create the same sauces at home. Depending on the level you want to take it to, it can be quick and easy or a little more time consuming and complex. But no matter which way you decide to go, you will end up with a more incredible, flavorful, delicious result than if you didn’t make the sauce at all.

The Right Pan

As I mentioned above, you want the caramelized brown “stuff” to stick to the pan. So it wouldn’t make any sense to use a pan with a non stick surface. That only defeats the goal of creating that wonderful flavored fond. I have also read that you should stay away from cast iron pans because the iron reacts to food high in acid like red wine and gives off a metallic taste. Although I love cooking foods in my cast iron skillet, stay away if you are planning to make a pan sauce.

The best pan for sautéing and making a pan sauce therefore would be a heavy bottomed, non reactive sauté pan. I happen to like Caphalon pans but there are so many good ones out there these days including All Clad and Viking. Check out How to Choose a Good Saute Pan to learn more about them and what’s available on the market.

What about the size of the pan? Whenever you are sautéing anything you want to make sure you give the meat, chicken, or fish enough room in the pan to allow it to sear and to prevent steaming. Rule of thumb is leave at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch between pieces. On the other hand, you don’t want a pan that’s too big or the ingredients have a tendency to burn. I have a 10 inch, 3 quart Caphalon sauté pan that works great for my family cooking.

Stock Reductions

Another challenge you are going to face as a home cook is finding good stock to make the sauces. The canned beef stock or chicken stock you find in your grocery store doesn’t cut it. Nor do the powdered products that you find all over your supermarket shelves that are nothing more that powdered corn starch and salt. And please don’t even think about using a bouillon cube.

Check out my article called Making Incredible Sauces At Home where I list some ways to obtain good quality stock and stock reductions. Also check out my Stock Reductions where I list the best source for quality stock reductions including demi glace, lobster stock, lamb stock, etc.

Sautéing

A really important technique for making quick and delicious pan sauces is sautéing. In my opinion, it all starts there. Please check my How to Sauté page to explore how to sauté properly. Once you learn how to sauté, you will not only be able to cook meat, fish, and chicken to perfection, but also make delicious pan sauces to go with them.

Depending on how much time you have on your hands or how involved you want to get, you can make a quick simple pan sauce or a classic pan sauce with all the additional layers of flavor.

How Much Liquid?

Most of the time I start with a half a cup of wine and half a cup of stock and reduce them both by half. That’s just a general rule of thumb because what I’m really looking for is a certain desired thickness when the sauce is done. A better gauge to tell when the sauce is thick enough is when it coats a metal spoon. Yes, I love cooking with wooden spoons, but in this case you want to use a metal spoon.

Depending on the other ingredients you add to the sauce including butter, mushrooms, cream, etc., the reduction ratio will differ. As always in cooking, it just takes a little practice and you will get comfortable with your amounts. It also pays to remember that, if you are cooking for your family, you need to cook to their taste. Since nobody knows your family’s taste better than you, you are in control of how much you reduce your sauce. The more you reduce a sauce, the more intense it will be. You are in the driver’s seat.

Classic Pan Sauces Vs Quick Pan Sauces

The difference is simple. A simple pan sauce gets its flavor from deglazing the pan with your liquid(s) once the meat has been removed, reducing the liquids by a least half and adding butter to thicken and add flavor. A classic pan sauce will follow the same steps but will add more complexity by adding other ingredients throughout the process.

I prefer taking the longer route because the added step to add some shallots or garlic doesn’t take that much time maybe another 3 – 4 minutes. To add some mushrooms while the sauce is reducing isn’t going to increase the total cooking time that much either. If you really need to speed up the process, you can always decrease the amount of deglazing liquid but this will also decrease the richness of the sauce.

Then there are the nights when I just don’t have the time or energy to go the extra distance so I take some shortcuts and make a quick pan sauce. It still tastes great and is better than no sauce at all.

For two example recipes for the same sauce, one classic and the other quick check out Red Wine Pan Sauce

Making a Simple Pan Sauce, Step by Step

  1. Sauté your protein of choice until done. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  2. Turn the heat to medium high, and deglaze with a flavorful liquid, scraping the pan with a spoon to dissolve all the fond. Reduce by at least 1/3, to taste.
  3. When the reduction is a bit syrupy, remove from the heat.
  4. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
  5. Swirl in a pat of butter or a splash of cream to finish the sauce, round out the flavors and give it some added body.

Since pan sauces can be intensely flavored, you really only need one or two tablespoons per serving. So, to make a pan sauce for a family of four, you will only need about 1/2 cup of sauce.

Variations

  • In Step 2, add a little fat and sauté some minced shallot or garlic until softened and just starting to brown before deglazing.
  • In Step 2, add minced, sliced or diced mushrooms along with the shallot or garlic.
  • In Step 2, stir in some mustard, chutney or other flavor accent
  • In Step 4, stir in some fresh minced herbs.

Of course, the trick is to use complementary flavors. To make an Italian-inspired pan sauce, you might use a mixture of stock and Chianti, perhaps stir in some tomato paste along with some garlic, flavor it with basil and/or oregano and finish the sauce with some olive oil.

For a French twist, consider adding minced shallot, stirring in some Dijon mustard, using stock and white wine for the deglazing liquid and flavoring with some tarragon, lavender or Herbes de Provence.

You can even make a great sauce with Asian flavors by sautéing some fresh ginger and stirring in some peanut butter in Step 2, flavoring with some five spice powder and deglazing with a lemony chicken stock. Finish the sauce with some toasted sesame oil.

Remember, a quick pan sauce is about using a series of techniques—sauteing, deglazing, reducing and enriching—and not so much about following a strict recipe.

Originally posted on Reluctant Gourmet by Stephen Jones

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Five French Mother Sauces – Sauce Hollandaise

Our fifth Mother Sauce is Hollandaise sauce, and is an emulsion of egg yolk and liquid butter, usually seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and a little white pepper or cayenne pepper. In appearance, it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy. The flavor is rich and buttery, with a mild tang added by an acidic component such as lemon juice, yet not so strong as to overpower mildly-flavored foods.

ImageHollandaise is one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. It is so named because it was believed to have mimicked a Dutch sauce for the state visit to France of the King of the Netherlands.

Hollandaise sauce is well known as a key ingredient of eggs Benedict, and is often paired with vegetables such as steamed asparagus.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
Pinch cayenne
Pinch salt

Preparation:

Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

Five French Mother Sauces – Sauce Espagnole

Our fourth Mother Sauce is Sauce Epsagnole , and is the classical precursor to modern day sauces such as Demi-Glace. It goes great with any sort of roasted red meat, and is the base for many popular classic French Sauces including Sauce Robert and Sauce Bordelaise.

Before we get into how to make Sauce Espagnole, first, a little clarification about Demi-Glace.

ImageClassical demi glace is one part Brown Sauce (Espagnole) and one part Brown Stock (Such as Roasted Veal Stock), combined in a pot and reduced by half. However, modern day menus that list a “Demi-Glace” as their sauce are usually referring to a stock that has been reduced by at least half, or until it coats the back of a spoon. The gelatin contained in the stock itself is what thickens the sauce. No other thickening agent such as roux is used.

Modern chefs prefer “full reduction” sauces over a classical demi-glace because they have a much more intense flavor, and the classical thickening agent of a roux makes the sauce heavy and effects its taste.

Ingredients:

  • Mirepoix: 4 oz/112g onions, 2 oz/56g celery, 2 oz/56g carrots
  • 2 oz/56g butter
  • 2  oz/56g flour
  • 2 oz/56g Tomato Puree
  • Sachet Containing: 1/2 Bay Leaf, 2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme, 2-3 Sprigs Parsley
  • 1.5-2 qts/1.5-2L  Roasted Veal Stock

Preparation:

  1. Start by roasting your mirepoix over medium heat, in the bottom of a heavy bottom sauce pot with the butter, until the mirepoix turns a nice golden brown.
  2. Once your mirepoix has browned, add in your tomato puree and continue roasting for 2-3 more minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in your flour, and cook until the flour is well incorporated into the other ingredients (about 5 more minutes).
  4. Add your roasted veal stock and sachet.
  5. Bring to a simmer, and gently simmer for about 2 hours, reducing the entire sauce down to 1qt/L. If necessary, add more stock if too much evaporates during the cooking process. Skim sauce as needed.
  6. Tip: While simmering your sauce, pull it half way off the burner, so that all the scum will collect on one side of the pot, making it easier to skim.
  7. Once your sauce is finished cooking, pass it through a fine chinois a couple of times to insure a smooth, consistent texture.

 

Five French Mother Sauces – Sauce Tomat

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Our third mother sauce is the classic Sauce Tomat. This sauce resembles the traditional tomato sauce that we might use on pasta and pizza, but it’s got much more flavor and requires a few more steps to make.

First we render salt pork and then sauté aromatic vegetables. Then we add tomatoes, stock and a ham bone, and simmer it in the oven for a couple of hours. Cooking the sauce in the oven helps heat it evenly and without scorching.

Traditionally, the sauce tomat was thickened with roux, and some chefs still prepare it this way. But in reality, the tomatoes themselves are enough to thicken the sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 oz (56-84 g) Salt Pork. Salt pork comes from the belly portion of the pig, just like bacon. However, unlike bacon, salt pork is never smoked, and the fattier (more white), the better.
  • 3 oz (84 g) Carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 3 oz (84 g) White or Yellow onion, medium diced
  • 2 oz (56 g) whole butter
  • 2-3 oz (56-84 g) Flour, All Purpose
  • 5 lbs (2.25 Kilos) Raw, Good quality tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 qt (1 lt) White Veal Stock
  • 1 clove freshly crushed garlic
  • Salt and Pepper To taste
  • Pinch of Sugar

Preparation:

  1. Fry the salt pork in the butter until the pork is nearly melted.  The term frying can be misleading, we’re really calling for you to do is to render the fat.
  2. To render out the salt pork properly, place the salt pork in a heavy bottom saucepan with a tablespoon of water, cover with a lid, and place over medium heat. Check in about 5 minutes. The steam from the water will allow the fat to render out of the salt pork before it starts to brown or burn.
  3. After the salt pork is nice and rendered out, add in your butter, carrots and onions, and sweat over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until they become nice and tender and start to release their aromatic aromas.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the carrots and onions and continue to cook for another few minutes. You’re essentially using the residual fat from the butter and salt pork to make a blond roux.
  5. Add in your raw tomatoes.  Roast with other ingredients until they start to soften and release some of their liquid.
  6. Add in your white veal stock and a clove of crushed garlic.
  7. Cover the pot with a lid, and  put it in a moderate oven, which is about 350 degrees F or 175 C. If your sauce pot won’t fit, you can always just simmer it on your stove top. Bake in oven or simmer for 1.5-2 hours.
  8.  I would instead recommend that you first blend it in a blender, and then press it through a chinois.
  9. Once you have passed your sauce through the chinois, finish by seasoning it with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.
  10. Note on Sugar: The addition of sugar is used to balance the natural acidity of the tomatoes. Your tomato sauce should not taste sweet, unless you enjoy putting ketchup on your pasta.

Use this special tomato sauce to accent pasta, beef, and eggplant dishes.

5 French Mother Sauces – Sauce Veloute’

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Our second of the Mother Sauces is Sauce Veloute

Velouté sauce is one of the original “mother sauces” of classic French cuisine as defined by Antonin Careme in his 19th century text The Art of French Cooking in the 19th Century. The term “mother sauce” means that many French sauces are created from using derivatives of these basic ones.

Despite the fancy sounding name, velouté sauce is actually just a white sauce that is stock-based and thickened with a white roux. It is a form of the French adjective velour, which means “velvet.” As its name implies, a correctly made sauce will have a smooth and velvety texture.

The ingredients for this sauce are butter, flour, and a light stock, which means the bones used to make it have not been roasted. The type of stock used will depend on the dish being created. Although chefs usually make velouté with chicken, veal, or fish, some cooks also use beef, ham, or bouillon. This sauce is commonly referred to by the type of stock that was used in the recipe, such as a chicken or a fish velouté.

Velouté sauces aren’t generally used on their own, though. As a “mother sauce,” they are instead supposed to be adapted into other sauces as needed. Some of the daughter sauces include sauce allemande, sauce aurora, sauce Andalouse, sauce Hungarian, sauce Poulette, sauce Normandy, sauce Venetian, and sauce supreme.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp clarified butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preparation:

Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.

Meanwhile, in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the clarified butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy. Take care not to let the butter turn brown, though — that’ll affect the flavor.

With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter, giving you a pale-yellow-colored paste. This paste is called a roux. Heat the roux for another few minutes or so, until it has turned a light blond color. Don’t let it get too dark.

Using a wire whisk, slowly add the hot chicken stock to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it’s free of lumps.

Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t scorch at the bottom of the pan. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.

The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If it’s too thick, whisk in a bit more hot stock until it’s just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the sauce from the heat. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Keep the velouté covered until you’re ready to use it.

Makes about 1 quart of chicken velouté sauce.

The Five French Mother Sauces

ImageA Brief History of The Mother Sauces

The French mother sauces were originally four base sauces set forth by Antonin Careme in the 19th century. Careme’s four original mother sauces were Sauce TomatBechamelVeloute and Espagnole. Then in the 20th century, Chef Auguste Escoffier added the fifth and final mother saucehollandaise, with its derivatives covering almost all forms of classical emulsion sauces including mayonnaise.

Our first sauce is:  Sauce Bechamel

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preparation:

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.

Chef’s Note:  Classically served with Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas, Veal