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May 15, 2008 06:23 AM

Wine sauce help...

I've made an incredible wine sauce the first time I made beef bourgingon. And after many tries, I've never been able to replicate my success. The sauce kept coming out bitter even after experimenting with different wines and aromatics. I just could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong.

But now I think I understand what I keep on doing wrong. Let's say you're making a simple sauce out of stock and red wine. It's important to fully reduce the wine to a glaze 1st, and THEN add in the stock and reduce to taste, right?

What I've been doing is essentially mixing the wine and stock together and reducing the sauce from there. That's going to lead to a bitter and generally not very good sauce right? Because as you're reducing, by the time you get the right consistency and strength of taste, you haven't cooked out all the alcohol and bitterness from your wine. This seems like a good explanation for my constantly bitter wine sauce.

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  1. Yes, I always deglaze the pan first with wine, then reduce that wine until only a fraction of it is left (probably 1/4 at the most). To a glaze, as you said, is the good way to put it. Then add stock and reduce again.

    1. One of the problems I had was making beef bourginon or even coq a vin. I see lots of recipes where you just throw the wine, meat, and veggies in a pot, cook, and then reduce the braising liquid at the end. That just doesn't work for me at all, and the reduced sauce in the end still comes out bitter. I don't know why all wine-stew recipes don't tell you to reduce the wine first.

      1. No. The beef is marinaded in the wine and cognac, drained, dried, and browned; a bit of butter-flour is browned; and then slow cooked (four hours) in the marinade and stock. After a bunch of other tricks--and depending on use of things like calf's foot, bacon, and so on--add the other ingredients, strain the sauce, simmer in the oven for another hour. At this point you'll have about 3 cups of sauce. Reduce if you have more.

        1. The above is not the same as a red wine sauce: mirepoix then garlic then red wine and pinch of salt and sugar; reduce to two-thirds; add demi-glace or espagnole sauce, cook 20 minutes, strain, bring back to boil and finish with butter.

          1. No again.

            For beef bourgingon. Using the fond on the bottom of your pan (what's left after browning the meat, onions & so on..) Turn the heat on high, and once it's good and hot, add a little oil or butter, and a nice dark red wine. About a cup, and let that cook down til there is about 1/3 of total amount of wine left in the pan, At that point, toss in a sprig ( 3 inch sprig) of fresh thyme. Careful not to break it up, it will flavor the reduction. Now. let that marry about 2 more minutes.

            Meanwhile, in a seperate little jar, mix a flour and water slurry. The mix should be 3 to 1, meaning 1 part flour to 3 parts water of water/broth/wine or a combination of all. Heat your pan until it looks like it's going to boil or smoke, then add 1 cup of stock.. Let that heat carry through the contents of the pan, coming to a bubble, then add your other liquid a little at a time. Watching the sauce thicken slowly, allows you to get the sauce exactly how you want it.

            You can always thicken your sauce,but it is really imporant to cook the sauce so you're not getting a floury taste.... Use salt and pepper,& taste your sauce, you do not want the flavor of burnt garlic...carefully watch the garlic and onion, and watch the ingredients up until this point...I cant say this enough, "taste taste taste."

            One of my personal finds was that if I used plenty of onions in the beginning, I was able to achieve a better sauce. Onions are like chamelions. They start out harsh in their raw state, but given some butter or a teaspon of sugar, they mellow out beautifully and they really sweeten. Left to the heat, they will continue to the next phase carmelizing and become gold. But be careful, they can burn quickly if you aren't paying attention.

            This is the point where they add SO much to your dish or sauce. They almost becme dessert like in their brown sweet goodness. So soft, they will break up and mash into any other dish you're making. Use the stick blender if you have one, it will puree the sauce perfectly.

            Also, my little trick other than depending on onions, is to use shallots. At least 3 nice sized fresh shallots. The shallots are sweet, and cut them fine, and once sauteed to perfection are darm near a cross between garlic and a scallion. This is SO hard to describe, but just trust me with this one.

            By adding about, 1 T of GOOD balsamic vinegar. The richness it brings about will just flabergast you.And for the extra touch and a smooth sauce, strain the sauce using cheese cloth. After 25 years of cooking Chinese and Asian dishes, the sauces are delicious. For Asian sauces, a dab of oyster or hoisin will take you miles.
            Mostly, the quick pass of a fresh lemon or lime, will do wonders for any of your sauces, it just works well with Italian sauces. Oh and don't forget the fresh herbs. Whether you're working with Italian, Chinese, Indian, or etc... remember those fresh herbs that finish the are like you're blowing a kiss to the recipient!