To quote the lovely Julia Child “there is nothing secret or mysterious about making sauces.”
There are always a few simple things that can make a good meal great. Things like proper seasoning, excellent ingredients, and…. Sauces! One of my favorite things. I have always loved a good sauce, especially when accompanied by something wonderful and carb-y to soak it up with! If you’ve ever been to a fancy restaurant (or seen one only on the Food Network) you may have noticed that they often plate their meals with a flourish of sauces, drizzled over the top or streaked on the side of the plate.
What makes a sauce the perfect thing to elevate a meal into the realm of mouth-watering heaven, is the concentration of flavour. The best sauces are almost always simmered for hours, reducing and strengthening the flavors by evaporating all that taste-less water, or their base is made from drippings or left-behind bits of something that has already been cooked, like meat (juices, sometimes the tastiest part!) or vegetables (all the sugars release and caramelize on the bottom of that pan!)
Now, certainly sauces can be made completely from scratch with no prior cooking on the agenda (like hollandaise and béchamel – I will definitely be addressing those at some point!), but what I’m talking about this time is when your dish just needs a little something extra – a flavorful sauce is often not that far away.
Take a look at the previous post, Chicken in a Cream + Shallot sauce, to see first hand the technique for making a sauce post-cooking. I will also outline it below:
If you’re cooking meat or veggies and they've left little 'burnt' or caramelized bits on the pan, take the meat/veggies out along with any existing liquids/juices. Deglaze* the pan with a little liquid (it can even be water, but something already flavored will obviously be better). If you’re planning on cooking any aromatics like garlic or onions, you want just enough liquid to make them soft. Add any other herbs or liquids (cream, butter, wine, beer, previous pan juices) at this point and simmer until it has sufficiently reduced to meet your saucy needs!
*Deglaze: pouring liquid into a hot pan causes it to boil, lifting all the flavorful coagulated cooking juices and bits off the bottom (you may have to do some scraping) and kind of dissolving them into the liquid. This incorporates the flavor of the meat or vegetables into the sauce that is being served with them, tying the flavors of the meal together.