How to Make Incredible Pan Sauces
By: The Reluctant Gourmet
If you want to elevate your cooking skills to a new level and add a whole lot more to your gastronomy repertoire, learn how to make a simple pan sauce. With this technique in your cooking bag of tricks, you can turn a simple pan-fried steak into a mouth-watering meal, a plain boneless chicken breast into a delicious feast, or a modest pork chop into a scrumptious banquet. Ok, maybe I’m stretching a bit but check this out.
Restaurants chefs use this technique all the time. Basically, they cook something in a sauté pan over pretty high heat until it’s done and leaves a bunch of brown caramelize bits of “stuff”in the pan. You look at this “stuff” in the pan and say to yourself, “Now how am I going to clean this ‘stuff’ off the pan? What a mess! I wish I had used a non stick pan.”
The “stuff” has a name, it’s called “fond” and you want that “fond” stuck to your pan because it is packed with incredible flavors. It’s also easy to remove by adding a little liquid to the pan and using a wooden spoon to dissolve it. This is called deglazing and can be done with wine, brandy, fortified wines, stock, cider, fruit juices or most typically a combination of two. Just be careful if you use wine to remove the pan from the heat so the alcohol doesn’t ignite and blow up in your face. I’ve spoken with chefs who have seen this happen.
The next steps are to continue to cook the liquid in the pan until it is reduced by half and finish by adding several pats of butter to thicken and enhance the flavor of the sauce. If you ever knew how much butter professional chefs use in restaurants to “enhance” flavor, you would be amazed. I sometimes think they make their dishes too rich because I get that uncomfortable “too full” feeling later on, but then again, it’s so good while you’re dining. Now those are just the basics.
To create more complexity to the sauce you’ll want to add some aromatics like garlic or shallots for a subtle but additional layer of flavor. Then you might want to add some additional ingredients such as mushrooms, mustards, chutneys, herbs and/or spices to give even more complexity and flavor.
For more information on making classic and quick pan sauces at home including what kind of pan to use, how much deglazingliquid to use and two example recipes for the same sauce, one classic and the other quick, go to http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/pan_sauces.htm
About the author: G. Stephen Jones, The Reluctant Gourmet, created a web site back in 1997 as a hobby to assist other novice cooks who may find the art of cooking a little daunting. As an ex-Wall Street broker and Stay-at-Home Dad, I try to explore cooking from a different perspective. Visithttp://www.reluctantgourmet.com/ for more tips, techniques and recipes.
This is an elegantly delicious recipe that requires minimum work, perfect for a romantic holiday meal for 2. You can roast the hens whole if you prefer, but I halve them first to save on roasting time. These hens are too small to carve properly anyway.
You could add an orange slice or two if you’d like an additional garnish, but the colors of the orange cranberry sauce are great just poured over the hens. Simmer the sauce for only long enough to cook the cranberries. Too long will reduce them to a thick sauce that, while tasty, isn’t as pretty.
Two hens will serve 4. If there are two of you, you can easily halve the recipe. I complete this meal with a wild rice pilaf and crisp peas in the pod, but you could serve it with traditional holiday sides for an intimate Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Rock Cornish Game Hens with Cranberry-Orange Glaze
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 rock Cornish game hens, completely thawed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan or thick baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
- Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer until the berries have popped, about 5 minutes. You will hear a popping sound if you are nearby, otherwise you will see that they have broken open.
- Cook 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Halve the rock Cornish game hens. Using a sharp knife, cut through the hen at the center of the breast, continuing to cut through the soft breast bone. Grab each side of the breast and pull apart and backwards to crack the backbone. Then, cut through the hen at the cracked bone. You will have two halves, one slightly larger than the other. If you prefer, you can remove the backbone by cutting it from the larger half, leaving you with two equal halves. Repeat with the other hen.
- Rinse the hen halves and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the cavity side.
- Place the hens onto the prepared baking sheet, skin side up.
- Brush the sauce evenly over the hens. Leave the cranberries in the pan, just brush with the juices of the cranberry sauce, coating generously.
- Roast the hens at 400 degrees until they are done and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork in the thick part of the thigh. It will take about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your hens, but check them after 25 minutes and brush again with more sauce.
- Reheat the sauce again if needed and spoon over the hen halves on the serving plate. Garnish with an orange slice if desired.
Begin the giblet gravy while the turkey is roasting and finish it off with the pan juices while the turkey is resting. This recipe is a classic in my family and produces enough gravy for your holiday meal and leftovers.
Turkey Giblet Gravy Recipe
Giblets from turkey
8 cups cold water
4 stalks celery, plus tops, leaves and trimmings
handful of fresh parsley or 1 Tablespoon dried
2 boiled eggs, optional
drippings from turkey
additional chicken broth may be needed
1. While the turkey is cooking, cover the giblets and neck bone with 8 cups cold water.
2. Add onion, celery and parsley and simmer for 2 hours.
3. Strain, and set aside until turkey is done and you’re ready to make gravy.
4. Pick the meat off the turkey neck and chop the giblets, if desired.
5. When the turkey is done, remove it to serving platter and drain all juices from the roasting pan into a cup or bowl to separate fat from broth.
6. Skim the fat from the pan, measure and place into the roasting pan with an equal measure of flour.
7. Put the roasting pan on the burner, cook and stir to brown the flour.
8. Measure 1 cup of broth for each tablespoon of flour used. Add chicken broth if needed to make full amount. Add the turkey drippings and measured broth to the flour in the roasting pan. Cook, stirring to loosten any browned bits in the bottom of the roasting pan.
9. Add salt and pepper and a pinch of oregano. Simmer gravy until thickened.
10. Add the meat and giblets back to the gravy. My mother always adds 2 chopped boiled eggs as well.
By: Amanda Jade
Deep fried turkeys have become all the rage in recent years for a delightful Thanksgiving bird, and for good reason! The skin is left crispy and full of flavor and the meat is moist and delicious without tasting greasy or oily. Unfortunately, deep frying a turkey safely can present a challenge to the new cook. With a bit of preparation and planning and a few key tools, these safety concerns can be left by the wayside on your journey toward a wonderfully tasty turkey.
Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey
Here are a few key things to remember about deep frying a turkey:
- Always keep gloves and a fire extinguisher nearby. Not needing them is great, but not having them can lead to disaster.
- If you purchase a kit to deep fry your turkey in, always read and follow the directions. Most will be designed for a specific weight range of turkey and may have special instructions.
- The optimal weight for a turkey to be deep fried is between 10 and 20 pounds. At 10 pounds, it should take 3 minutes per pound and at 20, it should take 3.5 minutes per pound to cook through.
- Always ensure that your turkey is completely thawed. If there is any doubt, do not fry the turkey. Hot oil tends to explode violently when exposed to cold water or ice, which can cause severe burns and even burn your house down. A 20 pound turkey takes about 4 full days to thaw in the refrigerator.
- Set up your turkey frying station outside on the pavement, never on a deck or in a garage. You want to be free of overhangs and on a level surface.
- Never leave your frying station unattended once the oil has begun heating. Make sure to keep small children and pets away from the frying station. The turkey could take up to an hour or more to cook and at least 3 hours for the oil to cool.
- Use an oil with a high smoking point, 450 degrees F if possible. The best options are canola or peanut oil.
- Always lower the turkey into the oil carefully and slowly. This is best achieved with a small pulley attached to a board, supported by a ladder. Use gloves. Hot oil will burn skin instantly if it splashes. Using a pulley also means that you can allow the turkey to drain when finished without straining your arms or dripping scalding oil.
- Once fried and drained, allow the turkey to sit for 10 to 20 minutes before carving. This oil can be strained and used up to three times.
- To avoid staining caused by oil splatters, place a flattened, broken down piece of cardboard under the fryer. You can also use a large plastic drop cloth with sand or kitty litter to soak up the oil.
Brining yields a much more moist and tender Turkey. Make sure you have room in your refrigerator before you start this. Brining your turkey results in a moist and juicy, not “watery” bird. This method can be used on chicken as well, but you don’t need to brine as long.
How to Brine a Turkey
Make the Brine:
1 1/2 cups, Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups, brown sugar
10 whole cloves
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) apple Juice or cider (non-alcoholic)
18oz hard apple cider beer
The peel from one orange or one tangerine (colored part only – not white pith)
optional: 3 teaspoons, dried thyme and/or 3 teaspoons, dried sage
- Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pot, Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes (partly covered). Allow Brine to cool completely.
- Rinse turkey under cool running water, inside and out and remove the giblets from body cavity. Pat turkey dry with paper towels, then immerse turkey in cooled brine. The turkey should be completely submerged in liquid. Place a plate on top of the bird if necessary to keep it covered with the liquid.
- Cover the pot and refrigerate for 8-10 hours. Remove turkey, rinse, pat dry, and roast as usual.
*Be sure container for turkey in brine is non-reactive: use enamel, glass or crockery or stainless steel – never cast iron or aluminum. The pot should be just large enough to just contain the turkey.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp lemon peel
6 oz hard apple cider
optional fresh herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary)
Combine Butter, sugar, marjoram & lemon peel in a small mixing bowl. Place towel dried turkey breast side up on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Separate the skin from breast meat. Spread half the glaze over the breast meat just under the skin. Melt the remaining glaze & cool slightly, stir in the cider beer. Brush mixture over outside of turkey. Season with salt & pepper. Lace up the turkey, tuck in the wings and neck skin. Insert the type of thermometer that can stay in the oven the whole time during roasting process OR buy yourself a very nice instant read thermometer to use towards the end of your cooking time. Tent loosely with foil. Roast at 325 for 3 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours or at LEAST until the thigh meat reads 180 degrees F. Remove foil during final 30 min of roasting to allow browning process. Besides the temp test, turkey is done with drumsticks move easily and juices run clear. Remove turkey from oven and recover with foil and allow to stand for 15-20 min before carving. This is essential to allow juices to be reabsorbed from outside back into fibers of meat. Garnish with fresh herbs for presentation if desired.
Brined Turkey Breast with Lemon-Parsley Gravy
Soaking a turkey in a salt-and-sugar solution adds moisture to the meat. This is an especially good technique to use with all-white meat, which can become dry when roasted. Soaking the breasts after brining in fresh water prevents the meat from being overly salty, although it will be somewhat saltier than turkey that has not been brined. Keep this in mind when salting the gravy to keep the flavors of the dish in balance.
For the brine:
4 quarts water
1 cups kosher salt
1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 bone-in fresh whole turkey breasts, about 11 lb. total
9 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 yellow onion, unpeeled, quartered
2 large carrots, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
For the gravy:
7 cups turkey stock
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. minced lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
To make the brine, in a stockpot, combine the water, salt and brown sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool to room temperature. Rinse the turkey breasts and pat dry. In 1 very large or 2 large glass bowls or other non-aluminum containers, cover the turkey breasts with the brine. Add ice as needed to cool the brine and cover the breasts with brine when melted. Refrigerate, turning the breasts occasionally in the brine, for 24 hours.
Drain and pat dry. Trim excess skin from the turkey breasts. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Spread 1 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over each turkey breast. Place the breasts on a rack in a flameproof roasting pan. Scatter the onion and carrots in the pan around the turkey. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken stock, the remaining 6 Tbs. butter, the white wine, oil and lemon juice. Warm over low heat until the butter melts. After 30 minutes of roasting, baste the breasts with some of the stock mixture. Continue to roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes with the remaining stock mixture and then with the accumulated pan juices, stirring the vegetables in the pan occasionally, until the breasts are well browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, about 2 hours. Transfer the breasts to a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy, place the roasting pan with the vegetables across 2 burners and turn the heat to medium-high. Add 6 3/4 cups of the turkey stock to the pan and bring to a brisk simmer. Stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, about 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pan through a sieve set over a large bowl, pressing hard on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to extract all the liquid; discard the solids. Spoon off as much of the fat as possible from the liquid, or pour the liquid into a fat separator and pour off the liquid. Transfer the liquid to a wide saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and simmer briskly until reduced by one-fourth, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup stock into the cornstarch to make a slurry. Gradually stir the slurry into the saucepan. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook until the gravy clears and thickens, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the turkey breast against the grain, on a slight diagonal, and serve with the gravy. Serves 8 to 10.
Make-Ahead Tips: The turkey must be put into the brine 24 hours before roasting. The stock may be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, or up to 3 months before and frozen. Or, it may be made while the breasts soak in fresh water before roasting.
Fried Catfish Recipe
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups self-rising corn meal
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper catfish. Drop fish into corn meal and coat completely. Deep fry in hot oil (350 -365 degrees) until cat fish floats to top and is golden brown. Drain well on paper towel. Serves 6.
Optional: Many cooks soak the catfish either in milk, buttermilk, or salt water before cooking.
Optional: Cooks season their cornmeal with any of the following according to preference:
Onion salt, Garlic salt, and Parsley flakes
Thyme, chili powder, and paprika
This recipe comes from the Mississippi – Louisiana area, but is not spicy hot like you might expect from the Cajun area. Try it! [Read the rest of this entry…]
Chicken with Mango Salsa
Spring Greens with Cherry Tomatoes
Start the rice pilaf first, unless you are using instant it will take longer than the chicken.
4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
Skin and bone chicken, trim off all visible fat.
Lay one chicken breast half on a flat surface lined with plastic wrap.
Place another piece of plastic wrap onto chicken breast.
Pound chicken thin with the flat side of a mallet or the bottom of a bottle by hitting downward onto the chicken then sliding the bottle or mallet outward to the edge. The next blow goes outward in the opposite direction, until the chicken is evenly thin all around. Not a lot of force is needed, most of the thinning is done by the outward slide. This should not take but a minute per chicken breast. If you don’t want to pound the breasts, then just cook them a little longer until done.
Season the chicken breasts with garlic salt.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a sauté pan. Saute the chicken in the butter and oil until cooked. Remove to a warm plate or platter.
Top with mango salsa and serve. I place the chicken on a bed of rice pilaf, then top with the mango salsa.
2 cups diced fresh or canned mango pulp
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper (green is ok, but red looks nicer)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Combine all ingredients, blend well. Allow flavors to blend while chicken cooks.
Serve with a salad of spring greens, cherry tomatoes, and your favorite dressing along side a rice pilaf.
Allow time for soaking overnight.
1 whole country ham
½ cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
Wash the ham well under running water. Put into a large pot and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.
Next day: Drain the water, rinse the ham, and cover again with fresh hot water.
Add the molasses and 1 cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 3 hours, adding more water as needed.
Remove the ham, let it cool slightly, then trim off the skin and fat.
Mix together equal parts of honey, prepared mustard and brown sugar to make a glaze. Brush over ham.
Put ham in a large baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees.
At the end of 1 hour, turn the oven off and let ham cool sit in oven for another hour, cooling.
Slice thin to serve.
The gravy in this Country Fried Steaks recipe is South Carolina Style. In Texas this same dish is called Chicken Fried Steak and is served with white gravy made with milk instead of water.
6 top round cube steaks
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 onion, diced small
Oil for frying
1 cup water for gravy
- Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Roll the steaks in the flour mixture until coated.
- Put about ¼ to ½ inch of oil into the bottom of a heavy frying pan. Heat oil until hot. Then add steaks. You may have to fry them in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan. Remove the steaks to drain on paper towels when done.
- Pour off most of the oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Add the onions and 1 T of the leftover flour mixture to the pan. Stir and fry over medium heat until the flour is golden brown and the onions are translucent.
- Add 1 cup of water and the steaks. Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes until tender.
NOTE: I prefer to serve my steaks crispy with the gravy on the side. When done this way more gravy may be desired. I double the flour and water and add a boullion cube for extra flavor.