The Wonders of the Pan Sauce
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)
- Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan in just a tiny bit of olive oil. Saute the minced shallots until translucent.
- 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).
- Add the Calvados, spices, honey, Worcestershire, and balsamic vinegar. Bring back up to a boil, and keep it there until reduced by half again.
- Whisk in country Dijon mustard until smooth. Continue reducing until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
- 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.
- Serve over pork chops (I rubbed them with olive oil, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice); pork tenderloin; or even chicken.
- Wait until no one is looking to lick your plate clean.