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leek vermouth and tarragon pan sauce on lamb chops with asparagus with caper dill vinaigrette

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PAN SAUCE

Want a fast way to elevate your weeknight meals without tons of effort? Learn how to make the perfect pan sauce! 

Suddenly you’re not simply serving a lowly chicken breast. You’re having a juicy piece of chicken blanketed in a White Wine Rosemary Pan Sauce!  It’s a fast and fancy dish that sounds like its ready for a dinner party, but it’s just an ordinary Tuesday evening.  Until you take your first bite, that’s the magical powers of the perfect pan sauce.

Throwing together a delicious pan sauce recipe is incredibly simple. Simply cook up something tasty in a skillet, either steak, red wine and mushroom pan sauce on steak with risottopork, chicken, or lamb. 

Then use the secret weapon left behind to start your perfect pan sauce.  Those little browned bits, or “fond” are a chef’s best friend when it comes to providing a flavor-packed base to your pan sauce.

Just whisk in a few aromatic and herbal ingredients and voila, you’ve just made a delicious pan sauce to drape your favorite piece of protein.

Once you’ve mastered the technique, it’s a skill to keep in your back pocket for every day of the week!

Here’s the recipes I’ll be sharing with you once you’ve learned how to make the perfect pan sauce:

 

Now, let’s get started learning how to make the perfect pan sauce! 

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS A PAN SAUCE? 

After you’ve cooked a lovely hunk of beefsteak in your cast-iron skillet, what’s left behind might just look like a how to make the perfect pan saucemess to be cleaned up.  There’ll be some browned bits, rendered fat, and some juices left from the meat. 

And that’s exactly what we need to begin making the perfect pan sauceA really good pan sauce starts with “fond”, fat and juices left after you’ve removed your cooked meat.  

 

HERE’S THE BASIC TECHNIQUE:

  • After removing your cooked meat from the skillet, aromatics like shallots and herbs are added and sautéed until soft and fragrant. Then liquids, like wine, broth or both, are poured in, scraping up all the “good stuff” left in the pan.  It’s all cooked down and reduced to a flavorful sauce. Next, you remove the sauce from the heat and swirl in a big hunk of cold butter to add richness and sheen.

 

And that’s all there is to it!  You’ve assembled a fast, fabulously rich, silky pan sauce ready to be spooned over your entree.  It’s a fabulous way to “gild the lily”, any night of the week!

 

WHEN CAN YOU MAKE A PAN SAUCE?

Answer:  You can make a pan sauce any time you’ve cooked anything that leaves some caramelized, browned bits behind. A pan sauce is most used on meats like steak, chicken, and pork.  But I also have a fabulous pan sauce recipe that works for lamb too!   It’s my Leek, Vermouth and Tarragon Pan Sauce, wait till you see the recipe!  It’s simply fabulous!

 

WHAT TOOLS YOU NEED TO MAKE THE PERFECT PAN SAUCEhow to cure a cast iron pan

  • Cast iron or stainless steel skillet  (non-stick won’t produce the “fond” necessary for a great pan sauce)
  • Wooden spoon, for scraping up the browned bit and stirring during cooking
  • Metal whisk for creating the final silky texture when adding the cold butter to thicken and add a sheen to the sauce

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU ADD TO YOUR PAN SAUCE?

Once you’ve cooked your meat, you’ve got plenty of yumminess waiting in your skillet.  It just needs to be combined with some fabulous ingredients to create a lovely balance of flavors.

 

AROMATICS, HERB & SPICES –

  • Aromatics enhance the flavor of any pan sauce. The classic ingredient is some minced shallots, but onion or garlic cloves are quite lovely too. 
  • Try adding a fresh herb or two like, thyme, sage, rosemary or tarragon.  They can really add some punch to your finished pan sauce.
  • Spices wouldn’t be out of order either.  Try cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cayenne pepper, or even smoked paprika.

 

LIQUIDS – 

  • Now you need some kind of liquid added to the pan to make what you’ve got sauce-like. Adding just enough to coat the bottom of storing and organizing your spicesthe pan will help start to lift up the stuck stuff — a step that’s called deglazing. While you could technically use water, using a more flavorful liquid will boost your final sauce. White or red wine is the classic addition.  But broth, juicesbeer, or even vermouth, as I used in my Leek, Vermouth and Tarragon pan sauce recipe for lamb chops can also be used.

 

ADDING AN ACID –

  • With all the caramelized “fond” in the pan, it helps to add some acid to keep your sauce balanced. Deglazing with wine or juice will add some acidity to the pan, but it’s nice to finish it off with a touch more. A bit of Dijon or grainy mustard can give some tang to the sauce (and is another way to help thicken it).  But you could also use a splash of vinegar like balsamic, red wine, or sherry. Or simply finish with a nice squeeze of  citrus to the pan after you’ve added the butter and are just about to serve it.

 

FATS – 

  • There’s already some fat in the pan from cooking, but in order to achieve a velvety, luscious sauce, you’ll want to add a bit more!  Just a pat or two of chilled butter, whisked in at the end, instantly thickens up the pan sauce and gives it a nice sheen.

 

ASPARAGUS WITH CAPER-DILL VINAGRETTE

asparagus with caper dill vinaigrette on platter

 

Since I needed a side dish to serve with my pan sauce recipes, I decided to share one of my favorite vegetable dishes!  

It’s a modern spin on the traditional Asparagus Mimosa, but this version adds a spike of dill to the vinaigrette and sliced, instead of grated eggs.  It’s deliciously dilly and different!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE FOR:  ASPARAGUS WITH CAPER-DILL VINAIGRETTE

 

WHITE WINE ROSEMARY PAN SAUCE

 

White Wine Rosemary Pan Sauce is the perfect way to dress up your weeknight chicken dinners!  It takes just a few minutes to make this fabulous sauce that’s silky and redolent of fresh chopped rosemary.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE FOR:  WHITE WINE ROSEMARY PAN SAUCE

 

RED WINE AND MUSHROOM PAN SAUCE

 

A savory red wine pan sauce with mushrooms and shallots that’s got just the right amount of zip from a dollop of Dijon mustard.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE FOR:  RED WINE AND MUSHROOM PAN SAUCE

 

LEEK, VERMOUTH AND TARRAGON PAN SAUCE

 

A perfect fast and easy pan sauce laced with vermouth and tarragon that’s great on lamb or chicken!   No leeks in the house?  Substitute shallots or green onions!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE FOR:  LEEK, VERMOUTH AND TARRAGON PAN SAUCE

 

BLACK PEPPERCORN AND RED WINE PAN SAUCE

 

Silky, rich and with just the right amount of black pepper, this incredible sauce is delicious on beef, lamb or pork.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE FOR:  BLACK PEPPERCORN AND RED WINE PAN SAUCE

 

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PAN SAUCE

I’ve given you all the information you need to start preparing pan sauces.  Plus 4 fabulous pan sauce recipes!  So now, whenever you feel like your chicken or steak could use a little lift, you’re all ready to take action.

Go forth and “gild the lily” and start mastering the art of how to make the perfect pan sauce!

 

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