Flash in the Pan: Making Restaurant-Style Pan Sauces

“This post is from Instawares restaurant supplies company, a B2B ecommerce site that specializes in commercial kitchen equipment for home and business.”

Sauce pan

One of the most skillful cooks in a good restaurant is the “saucier,” a specialist in making sauces. He – or increasingly, she – is often the highest-paid member of the kitchen staff, after the chef. The saucier’s skill makes the difference between a good dish and an outstanding dish.

 Some of these sauces are prepared right in the pan after the entree is cooked. Chefs describe them as “a la minute,” a French phrase meaning they’re made to order each time. Informally they’re called pan sauces because they use the bits and juices left on the pan. Pan sauces taste impressive and they’re easy to make with a bit of practice. Here’s how to make a pan sauce with lamb chops. The same basic technique works for any other pan-seared entree.

 You need to prepare a few useful ingredients in advance. The most important is some broth to provide the body of the sauce. Make lamb broth if you have the chance or use commercial beef broth. Try to find a brand with low salt. Simmer the broth until about 1/3 of it has evaporated, then freeze it in quarter-cup portions for later use. Another useful ingredient is red wine or dry sherry, simmered down to a thick and syrupy consistency. It adds a lot of flavor without diluting the sauce.

 Sear the chops in the hot pan to brown and crisp the surfaces. Then reduce the heat slightly and cook the chops medium-rare. Browning is important because that’s where the sauce gets most of its flavor. Take the chops out of your skillet and set them aside to keep warm under a loose cover of aluminum foil. Pour a splash of red wine into the pan and swirl it around. Let it reduce down to about a spoonful, then add a quarter-cup of broth.

 Stir the pan vigorously with a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula, scraping the bottom to lift up and dissolve the browned-on juices from your lamb chop. Bring it to a quick boil and let the sauce reduce to concentrate the flavors. Taste the sauce as is simmers. If it needs more flavor add a few drops of the concentrated wine.

 The natural gelatin from the broth will thicken the sauce as it simmers. Test it periodically by dipping a spoon into it. As long as the sauce drips from the spoon it’s too thin. You’ll know it’s thickened enough when it coats the back of the spoon and slides off in a wide sheet, rather than individual drops. Finish

the sauce by dropping a half-teaspoon of cold butter into the pan and swirling or whisking it in. Butter gives the sauces added richness and an attractive sheen.

 For a restaurant-style presentation spoon the sauce over your chops and drizzle a small pool of it in a semicircle around the plate.

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