Want to turn up your home cooking? Turn to pan sauces.

This pan seared sirloin steak is taken to another level for taste and visual appeal with a mushroom brandy and thyme pan sauce. A pan sauce a simple way to enhance your cooking and requires only a few ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.

These ingredients are set to become a mushroom brandy and thyme pan sauce that will go with a pan seared sirloin steak.

Begin by pan searing the protein for your meal. A sirloin steak is shown here.

Resist the temptation to clean out the pan after searing your protein. You’ll need these bit called fond to create a pan sauce.

Over medium heat add shallots or garlic to the pan and cook for about 30 seconds while stirring with the fond.

Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of liquid. In this case brandy was used to create a mushroom brandy and thyme pan sauce. Then add 3/4 to 1 cup broth and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce for about 5 minutes.

Whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter or cream then fresh herbs as desired.


Want to turn up your home cooking? Turn to pan sauces.

Often, I am asked what is one culinary secret that can improve a home chef’s success when looking to enhance their home cooking. My answer is always pan sauces.

Here’s the reason: A simple, well-balanced, pan sauce can transform your average meal into a delightful feast. Not only does a pan sauce highlight the protein from which it was based, it complements the other components of an entrée while bringing balance to the entire dish.

A well-executed pan sauce will transform an ordinary pan seared chicken breast, pork chop or steak into an elegant complete dish with minimal effort and huge rewards.

Years back, I told my husband we were having rib-eye steaks for dinner. Being the meat eater he is, he immediately got excited and offered to light the grill.

I said not to worry as I would be preparing the steaks on the stove top. I got a glare of concern as he was clearly skeptical that my stovetop steaks would compare to his beautifully cross hatch-patterned grilling.

Long story short, now whenever I prepare steaks, chicken or chops my husband expects a pan sauce. I am sure if I could make it in large enough quantities, my husband would swim in the creamy mushroom variety.

Pan sauces require a few ingredients, most of which you may already have in your pantry. They are simple to prep, quick to execute and wonderful to savor.

The process of executing a pan sauce is routine, though I must confess that the final outcome of my pan sauces rarely is the same as they vary depending on my mood, the season, what protein I am serving and what I have on hand in the kitchen.

So what exactly is a pan sauce? Simply stated, a pan sauce is built upon the wonderful caramelized bits of flavor left behind after pan searing or roasting proteins such as chicken, beef, pork or even fish.

That flavor-packed residue is called fond. Pronounced “fahn,” fond in French refers to bottom, base or foundation. Fond is worth more than its weight in gold as its concentrated flavors cannot be matched or purchased.

Your pan sauce will be dictated by whatever protein you are serving and the flavors you want to highlight. But don’t let this deter you from getting creative. After a few trial runs, experiment with different flavor combinations to keep it exciting.

With just a few ingredients and a little patience, your pan sauce will come together effortlessly.

You will need shallots or garlic (optional, but I always have these on hand), wine and or broth, cold butter or cream, salt and pepper, fresh herbs (optional) and a thickener such as cornstarch or flour, if so desired. In the time that your protein gets its needed rest, your pan sauce will be complete.

Here are my simple steps to making a pan sauce:

No. 1: After pan searing or roasting, remove the protein from the pan. Return the pan to the stove with the fond still remaining inside. (Resist the temptation to clean out the pan!)

No. 2: Heat the pan over medium heat and add minced shallots or garlic to the pan. Cook the shallots or garlic for about 30 seconds while stirring with the fond. (Optional step)

No. 3: Deglaze the pan by adding approximately 1/4 cup of your liquid of choice; wine (red, white or fortified like Marsala or Brandy) or chicken or beef broth. Use a flat wooden spoon to scrape up all the flavorful bits of fond while the added liquid comes to a simmer. Reduce the deglazing liquid by half to concentrate all the flavors.

No. 4: Add in about 3/4 to 1 cup of broth. Bring sauce to a simmer and reduce for about 5 minutes.

No. 5: Remove the pan from the heat, and gradually whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter or cream. Whisk well and taste for salt and pepper.

No. 6: Add in fresh herbs if desired.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

If you choose to deglaze with alcohol, be careful to remove the pan from the heat before doing so as the alcohol can ignite. Also, if using wine or brandy, be sure to cook off the alcohol before moving to the next step. Cooking out the alcohol will prevent your sauce from becoming too boozy.

I typically use chicken broth for chicken and pork dishes and beef broth for beef dishes so the sauce does not overpower the protein but rather enhances it. The addition of cold butter or heavy cream at the end of preparing the sauce will thicken it slightly and give it that restaurant quality sheen we all flip over.

Don’t salt the sauce until the end and be sure to taste it before doing so. Often I find I do not need to add salt as the fond retained enough from cooking the proteins.

Mushrooms or other ingredients such as dried fruits can be added after the addition of shallots and can bring a burst of flavor.

If you want a thicker sauce, you can add in a small amount of corn starch slurry or sprinkle in some flour when moving from step 2 to 3. If you opt to use a thickener be sure to simmer the sauce a few minutes to activate the thickening agents.

If you have never made a pan sauce, start out with minimal ingredients and celebrate your success.

As you gain confidence, experiment with other ingredients and think about what sides you are preparing and their flavor profiles.

When a pan sauce is served, I find that each bite I take gets a small dunk in the sauce.

Suzanne Hanzl is a personal chef, culinary instructor and owner of Tourné Cooking School, tournecooking.com. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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