How to Make Incredible Pan Sauces

May 29, 2013 by  
Filed under How To, Meats, Tips

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.”

English: Fond left in a white enamel pot after...

The fond left in the pan after cooking is the flavor for delicious pan sauces. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 deglazing liquid 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. Visit http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/ for more tips, techniques and recipes.

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Discover How To Turn Any Meal Into A Gourmet Treat

May 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Know Your Ingredients, Tips

English: preparation of Puff pastry.

English: preparation of Puff pastry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is your family tired of the same old meals? Are you looking for an easy way to turn your old favorites into something special? Lucky for you there is one secret and easy to use ingredient that can help give some class to almost anything you serve.

You might think this magical secret ingredient would be hard to find or cost a lot of money, but it isn’t. In fact it can be found right in your local grocery store for under $5.00.

So what is this wonderful food that will transform your meals?

Frozen puff pastry. You know, that stuff that you probably never bother to use because it thought it was only reserved for Greek desserts and looks to delicate and difficult. Well it’s not, in fact, puff pastry is quite easy to use and very versatile and it’s a wonder why it is one of the most overlooked foods you can use to cook with.

Frozen puff pastry is easy and economical, it handles beautifully and needs no additional prep. It can be used to give a gourmet flair to a variety of staple meals and it works great every time.

From your Friday night family pizza to that Sunday roast lamb, puff pastry can add a bit of class to any meal and make you look like a gourmet chef.

Of course, you might be most familiar with puff pastry when used for desserts. It can be used with a variety of fillings for a light, delicious dessert. When you server a puff pastry dessert your guests will think you spent hours baking when you can whip up something like this fruit tart in about 20 minutes.

Fruit Tart

1. Thaw 1 sheet of puff pastry and cut into 4 pieces
2. Put 1 tablespoon of fruit into the middle of each of the 4 pieces
3. Fold the opposite corners of the pastry into the center and pinch together with your fingers.
4. Glaze the tart with a milk and beaten egg mixture
5. Sprinkle the top with sugar
6. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes

For variations you can add different fillings or make a while pie using one whole puff pastry sheet for the bottom and another one for the top – either in a pie dish or just flat on a cookie sheet.

There’s no limit to what you can do with puff pastry. Use cookie cutters to cut the pastry into interesting shapes – glaze and bake then use to garnish almost any dish. Put them on top of soups and stews or casseroles. Use them on chops or with eggs. The only limits are your imagination!

One great use for puff pastry that even the kids will love is to make little mini pizzas by cutting the pastry into rounds and cover each round with grated cheese, sauce and veggies. You an also use them to make little appetizers – use different shapes and top them with chili sauce, crab mix or anything you want.

Cooking with puff pastry is quite easy but there are a few things you need to be careful of in order to get them perfect every time. One of these things is to make sure you cook them at the right temperature. You should, of course, follow the directions on the package but most ready made puff pastry “puffs” at around 400 degrees F. Also, you must only give it a light glaze since if you add too much on it will cause the pastry to become soggy and not rise successfully. A light brushing of the egg wash with a pastry brush is all that is needed for perfect puff pastry.

So now that the secret is out, you better rush to the supermarket and stock up on puff pastry before it’s all gone!

Lee Dobbins writes for Online Gourmet Foods where you can read more articles about gourmet foods and fine cooking.

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