A glossy pan sauce turns an everyday chicken breast into a restaurant-worthy plate, and thankfully, pan sauces are simple to master. Not only are they made in the same pan used to pan-roast your centerpiece ingredient, but they can also be quickly made while it rests. You’ll be able to make a lot of different versions of this easy sauce in mere minutes, giving your chicken breasts, steaks, and fish fillets a whole new flavor profile every time.
After pan-roasting the protein and setting it aside to rest follow these steps for making the pan sauce.
Sauté your aromatics: spoon off most of the fat left in the skillet, then return the pan to the burner. Add minced shallots or other finely chopped aromatics (such as garlic, leeks, onions, or scallions) to the pan and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Spoon off most of the fat left in the skillet, then return the pan to the burner. Add minced shallots or other finely chopped aromatics (such as garlic, leeks, onions, or scallions) to the pan and cook until softened, about 1 minute.
Deglaze the pan: add about ¼ cup of red or white wine or another acidic liquid (vermouth and hard cider both work well). It will bubble like crazy. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of those flavorful browned bits in the pan, then cook until the liquid is reduced by half to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
Add some stock: add at least ½ cup of beef or chicken stock and any sturdy herbs, like rosemary or thyme. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half or more; it should be somewhat thick.
Swirl in cold butter: pull the pan off the heat and add at least one tablespoon of cold butter. To make sure your sauce is thick and glossy, you need to create an emulsion. Swirl or whisk in the butter, returning the pan briefly to the heat if necessary to help it melt. If you want to thicken and enrich the sauce even more, add more butter, one tablespoon at a time, letting it melt and emulsify between each addition; this gradual process of adding the butter is called mounting.
Season the sauce: you can strain the shallots and aromatics out of the sauce if you like but you don’t have to. Then add any tender herbs, like basil, parsley, or tarragon, and finally, taste your sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then spoon over your centerpiece ingredient.
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