Recipe (click to expand)
~RIDE THE GRAVY TRAIN chicken or a light wine sauce to nap a seared steak, the basis for easy and wonderful enrichments for sauteed, fried or roasted dishes is what’s left sticking to the bottom of the pan. The process of turning a messy-looking skillet into an ethereal, richly flavored liquid in a matter of minutes is called deglazing. That’s because the brown bits are caramelized meat juices that escaped while the food was cooking. They will meld with the liquid, and can then be augmented with anything from salt and pepper to fresh herbs and lemon zest. It not only makes a great sauce, it also renders the pan virtually clean. The only caveat is to brown the food without burning the juices. Even if you start with high heat to sear a piece of meat, reduce the heat to medium high so that the juices don’t burn. This is especially important if you are cooking food in batches. The first round of beef cubes might be fine at high heat, but keeping the heat there will burn the brown bits as quickly as the tropical sun will scorch a fair-skinned person. The first step to deglazing is to degrease the pan. If you were pan- frying, pour the grease into a measuring cup, and see if any meat juices sink to the bottom. If there is a layer, carefully pour off the grease, reserving the liquid at the bottom to add to the sauce later. If the food was sauteed, there won’t be enough juice to worry about, so just dispose of the fat. You now have a choice to make. Do you want to saute a chopped onion, a few shallots, or a clove or two of garlic as part of your sauce? If so, add some fresh butter or oil to the skillet and saute the vegetables over medium heat, stirring frequently. The moisture in the vegetables will start to coax the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Then add whatever liquid you are using, with the pan over medium high heat. Your liquid can be stock, wine, fruit juice, water, cream or some combination. The basic amount for a deglazing sauce is 1/2-to-2/3 cup for a 10- or 12-inch skillet. Raise the heat to high and stir the liquid, scraping it all across the bottom of the pan to dislodge the brown bits. You want to boil the liquid down rapidly until it has reduced in volume by 1/2. It should have an almost syrupy consistency. When it has a syrupy consistency, lower the heat to low and taste the sauce for seasoning. You can stir in some fresh or dried herbs, a bit of salt, if needed, or a few grinds of pepper.