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Pan Sauces

January 18, 2012

I love pan sauces.  The possibilities are endless, they’re quick and simple, and they can turn a boring piece of meat into a really nice dish.  It’s a great way to use some creativity and try things out.  Plus, take a look at the menu the next time you go to a restaurant – notice all the flowery language they use to describe a dish.  Then stop and ask yourself if this sounds like a pan sauce.  You’d be amazed.  A simple saute dressed out with a pan sauce.  You could fill a menu with that alone.

Just saute a piece of meat in a little butter or oil.  It could be a thin steak, a chicken cutlet, a fish filet…just about any protein will lend itself.  Heat the oil on medium high until it begins to smoke (be careful using butter, it has a very low smoke point and will scorch) then add your seasoned protein.  Make sure that your pieces are sliced thin enough to cook quickly.  When they are done remove from the pan.  At this point it depends on what you are adding to your sauce.  If you are adding aromatics that need to sweat or brown, like onions or carrots, add them and saute them in the leftover oil.  Then add your deglazing liquid to the pan.  This could be wine, lemon juice, chicken broth, tomato juice or even water.  Slightly acidic liquids work best.  Reduce the liquid, scraping up the bits and pieces of pure flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan.  At this point I must mention something I heard Alton Brown say the other day:  “You can’t make a pan sauce in a non-stick pan”.  Something I obviously don’t have to worry about.

When your liquid is reduced add whatever additional flavorings or spices you would like and cook to the desired doneness.  To finish, add a little butter or cream to smooth out the sauce and bring everything together, and be sure to adjust your seasonings to taste.  It’s that simple.  Serve the sauce over your protein and put some fancy descriptive name on it.  Voila!

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