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The Wonders of the Pan Sauce

October 12, 2010

One of the best things I’ve ever learned as a cook is how to make pan sauces. Seriously. They’re easy, not terribly labor intensive, and they elevate a simple slab o’ protein to an entree.

No one ever got excited to see a plain grilled pork chop on their plate. Sure, they’ll eat it. They’ll probably enjoy it. But they’ll forget about it by the time the dishes are off the table.

Drizzle a tablespoon or two of a sauce on that same pork chop, and everyone thinks you’re a chef. And that you slaved all day to bring them a fine dinner. Don’t dissuade them of this notion. Let’s keep the secret of the pan sauce to ourselves, shall we?

And there’s one more real advantage to the pan sauce: It gives you freedom with your leftovers. Marinate a piece of meat in something Asian-inspired, and you’re pretty much stuck doing something equally Asian with the leftovers.  But, if you go for a pan sauce, you can get away with just lightly seasoning that piece of meat (even just s&p it). Top it with an Asian pan sauce tonight, if you’re so inclined. Then shred the leftover meat (without the sauce) and turn it in tacos. Or pasta sauce. Or make a different pan sauce.

Convinced? Good. Let’s get started.

Apple Cider Pan Sauce

2 tbsp finely minced shallots

2 cups apple cider (go for the real, unsweetened, healthy stuff)

3 tbsp Calvados (you can sub another brandy, or leave it out, if you’d rather)

1-2 tsp honey (how much will depend on how sweet your cider is)

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground allspice

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

S & P, to taste

1 tbsp country Dijon mustard (plain Dijon would work, too)



  1. Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan in just a tiny bit of olive oil. Saute the minced shallots until translucent.
  2. Add the apple cider to the pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until its reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Add the Calvados, spices, honey, Worcestershire, and balsamic vinegar. Bring back up to a boil, and keep it there until reduced by half again.
  4. Whisk in country Dijon mustard until smooth. Continue reducing until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Turn off the heat, and let the sauce cool down a bit. It will thicken further as it cools, leaving you with about 1/2 cup of sauce. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
  6. Serve over pork chops (I rubbed them with olive oil, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice); pork tenderloin; or even chicken.
  7. Wait until no one is looking to lick your plate clean.

*** Apple cider is this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient. See this week’s announcement. Full BSI rules are here.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 1:59 pm

    Love the idea of that pan sauce!! I agree, it would be so easy to lighten season a meat and top it with a show stopper sauce to recreate another meal.

    Sadly, my husband doesn’t eat any leftovers, except fried chicken and meatloaf – but my lunches tend to be creative!

    I did a rump roast on the grill over the weekend, and plan on making a yankee pot roast soup with the leftovers – in my head it comes out good, I’ll let you know!

    Great BSI entry! 😀

  2. October 12, 2010 2:35 pm



  1. bsi winner! | Errign's Adventures

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