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Nov 11, 2013 07:23 AM

Making a pan reduction sauce

I know the main way of making a sauce out of some pan meat residue is to first deglaze with either white or red wine (depending on the protein you're using), however, I want to make sure the sauce i make is nice and thick (like a gravy). But that would require me making a roux.

My question is - can i do both without disaster? Was thinking i first deglaze with wine (just a bit), then add butter, let it melt and then add flour? Will this work?

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  1. This may just be semantics, but I think what you really want is "gravy" rather than "sauce." There must be a gazillion versions but here's one that popped up on a quick google:

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      ha, well i wanted something in between a sauce and a gravy (a grauce? sravy?)

    2. You can thicken your pan sauce with a cornstarch slurry or xanthan gum.

      1. You're close. Sure you can use a roux. Just one thing: Make the roux separately. I follow Escoffiers method. Six parts flour to five parts clarified butter. Very low heat to keep the roux white. Brown roux and red wine makes for a 'muddy' looking sauce. The slight difference in these ingredients really do make a difference. So does using clarified butter b/c milk solids in table butter can scorch plus the taste the milk solids impart are not always welcome. If you are making a small amount of sauce just use 1/2t measurements for the roux. You are looking for a 'sandy' texture for the roux. Next part is very important. Make sure the roux is good and cold before adding it to the deglazed liquid. Stir stir stir!
        Classically you would add ALL the deglazed liquid into a pot containing the little ball of cold roux at once. Then stir like mad. (Not dribbling it in otherwise you could end up with a paste needing extra hot liquid in a hurry. But that's risky unless you know how much roux to deglazed liquid. So just add the cold roux a bit at a time while constantly stirring until you have the consistency you like. Lap with a pat of cold clarified butter.
        Hope that helps.

        1. Would it work - yes . . . but there could be better ways.

          If you want this type of "sauce/gravy" I'd probably add the butter, then flour, then deglaze to make sure the raw flour taste cooks out and you don't get random flour clumps.

          Another option is a "beurre manie". For some magical reason, kneading together butter and flour eliminates the raw flour flavor and stops clumping. So you would knead together butter and flour (equal proportions), deglaze with wine/stock/whatever you want in your sauce - then whisk in the butter/flour mixture to thicken.

          Some really rich pan sauces are made with home-made stocks (store bought will never do this for you). But deglazed with wine, then stock added and allowed to reduce. As the homemade stock reduces it thickens naturally.

          Lastly, another option is the one the freaks most home cooks out when they "learn the secrets" of those restaurant sauces - finished with lots of butter. Deglaze, add some stock if needed, reduce heat - swirl in butter to finish (sometimes lots of butter but oh so good and thick).

          If you're trying to recreate a specific sauce you've had, the other thing to keep in mind is that any of the "flour" solutions result in a "cloudy" sauce. The clear sauces are more typically reduced stocks and or butter thickened (though using something like arrowroot can get you a clear sauce, though slightly different in texture)

          6 Replies
          1. re: thimes

            thanks so much! this is super helpful!

            1. re: thimes

              follow up question. in your note about the 'homemade stock thickening naturally' - are you basically saying that I don't need a roux to make it a thick sauce? that was sort of the underlying question, I suppose.

              1. re: cryssy

                If you don't use a roux or some other thickening agent what you'll end up with is some wine and deglazing liquid. To make it 'gravy like' enough feed a fly you'll need a lot of it reduced. If making a roux is too much trouble go buy a can of gravy.

                1. re: cryssy

                  Depending on what you are making the gravy or sauce from, the thickening agent may be already in the drippings. Did you brown a chicken breast that was coated with flour? If so, you can just deglaze with the wine, bring up to a high temp, then lower and let thicken. (As in Marsala) Same with stew meat. I use Wondra (superfine flour) for thickening when necessary. Sprinkle it in a bit at a time, whisk furiously to combine, no clumps, no raw flour taste.

                  1. re: cryssy

                    I think it all depends on what a "thick sauce" really means - I know side stepping a little. Without knowing the criteria for a "thick sauce" it is hard to answer.

                    Can you make a sauce based on pan drippings and essentially a "demi-glace" (term used loosely) finished with butter - yes - will it be "thick" enough to not seem like broth and be recognized as a sauce - yes - will it be as thick as a flour based gravy - no.

                    There is a great sauce that I learned years ago (Eric Ripert - just to give credit where credit is due) which is essentially reduced sherry vinegar and port, finished by swirling in a fair amount of butter. It makes a very excellent sauce. You can spoon it around a plate like a sauce. It has no flour, no starch, no stock but it gets it thickness from the butter (and reduced port which thickens because of sugar content I'm pretty sure but don't quote me on that one) - so yes there are lots of ways to make a sauce without starch (or stocks) but they will never be as thick as a starch thickened gravy.

                    So it isn't a super simple answer.

                  2. re: thimes

                    Another option - sprinkle Wondra instantized flour, which does not clump, into the deglazed liquid. In this case, butter or other added fats are optional.

                    By the way, deglazing with wine is good because alcohol enables flavor compounds to be tasted which would not be detected without interaction with alcohol. The flavors remain even after the alcohol evaporates. Beer and other alcohols will serve the same function. But you can certainly deglaze with other liquids, anything from water to juice to broth to dairy.

                  3. I will usually make a slurry of tapioca starch or arrowroot and a little stock or wine from the fridge and dump that in. Less effort than flour, and it provides a less cloudy sauce.