How to Make a Reduction Sauce
Don't waste those yummy bits of seared meat, poultry or fish - make an easy reduction sauce with them in just minutes! The sauce can be used to top the meat, or can be used later to dress up vegetables, sandwiches or grains.
The base for your sauce is the fond - all those yummy browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan after searing. After removing the meat from the skillet, aromatics such as minced shallots, garlic and herbs can be sauteed in the same pan. Cook these until they are softened slightly, no more than a couple minutes. Watch the fond, making sure it does not scorch, or the finished sauce will taste burned and bitter. You can also add flour in now for a thicker sauce later.
From here begins the deglazing - a process where a liquid (usually wine or stock or both) is added and the fond is scraped up from the bottom of the pan. The liquid will sizzle and steam on contact. The liquid is then simmered until it reduces. Most recipes will call for reducing the liquid by 1/2 or 2/3 of its original quantity. Reducing concentrates the flavors, making for a rich, potent sauce to top your meat or veggies.
Final steps: 1) return the meat juices (if any) to the skillet for a richer flavor, and then whisk in butter, olive oil or herb-infused oil for flavor and added thickness, and 2) add salt and pepper. Always taste before salting; salt can bring up the flavors, but if the stock you've used is salted, adding too much more can ruin the sauce.
Make sure you use a nice, heavy bottom saute pan or skillet for the best pan sauces. A non-stick skillet won't be able to develop the fond to the same degree as a traditional skillet, and will make a less flavorful sauce. See my September 24 entry, Virtues of a Good Pan, to learn more about good quality multi-ply pans and why they are the most touted pans by professional and home chefs.
A simple sauce like this is easy to make, and by using your creativity along with your favorite herbs, wines and vinegars, the possibilities are endless! Any creative ideas?
Red Wine Reduction with Rosemary [print recipe]
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Remove the meat from the pan, leaving a few teaspoons of the fat for sauteeing. Add the shallot and saute 1-2 minutes until just tender. Watch the fond (bits of meat), being careful not to let them scorch. Add in the flour, stirring constantly for one minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar, wine and stock, scraping the fond from the bottom, stirring constantly to keep the flour from clumping. Place the sauce back on the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until it has reduced by 1/2.
Whisk in the rosemary and olive oil. Taste for seasoning before spooning over meat, tofu or vegetables.
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