Make a Simple Sauce
No matter what you call it -- au jus, a reduction, or plain old gravy -- you can up the flavor factor of almost any piece of meat or fish with a simple sauce made right in the same pan. With just a few aromatics, a bit of liquid, and a thickening agent (which is often optional), you can easily transform an ordinary dish into an extraordinary dinner.
Step 1: Add Aromatics
After cooking, remove the meat or fish from the pan, leaving a tablespoon of fat behind (add more olive oil or butter if needed). Set the pan over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add finely chopped shallot, onion, garlic, or other aromatic. Saut? until just soft and fragrant.
Step 2: Deglaze and Reduce
Remove from heat, add a splash of stock, wine, or other flavorful liquid to the pan, and loosen the brown bits stuck to the bottom (this is called deglazing). Return to high heat and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half.
Step 3: Add a Thickener
Remove the pan from the heat and add a thickener if you like. Thickeners can be as simple as a tablespoon of butter or cream or slightly more involved, such as a slurry, which is a one-to-one cornstarch-and-water mixture.
Pork Chops with Rosemary Reduction
Mashed potatoes make a perfect side for sopping up the flavorful sauce.
Pan-Seared Beef With Tarragon Sauce
Boost the wow factor of less expensive cuts of meat with this delicate sauce.
Lemony Chicken Cutlets
The fresh flavor of this quick dish will make it a kid and grown-up favorite.
Shrimp With Garlic, Ginger, and Lime
Shrimp release their own sweet juices that make the perfect base for a light, brightly flavored sauce.
Turkey Breast With Sweet Onion Gravy
Turkey breasts are available all year long and much easier to cook than a whole bird, so why wait for Thanksgiving? In fact, cooking this recipe is great practice for the upcoming holiday!
Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Parents magazine.