An opinionated blog beginning with advice on how to create the ultimate French sauces
Intro: This is my first blog aimed at helping beginners to prepare French sauces, starting with steak sauce. Steak sauce will be followed by both chicken and fish sauces (in future blogs). The ultimate purpose of these blogs is to help you to successfully prepare French cuisine so that you can eventually plan and serve a multi course-meal.
The sauces for the steak, chicken, and fish all share one common characteristic: every sauce is created in the same pan that the steak, chicken, or fish is cooked in, in order to give each sauce its own special character. Nothing captures the purity and flavor of entrée sauce-cooking better than this same-pan process.
(Please excuse my passion for French sauces, but once you successfully create a delicious French sauce on your own you will hopefully understand my feelings. At the point of achieving an excellent French sauce you will be blessed-cursed?-with comparing every sauce that you come across to the one that you made for the rest of your life).
Make the sauce at the same time and in the same pan as the steak
When the French cook a steak they create the accompanying sauce in the same pan which captures the flavors of all the ingredients involved. This process generally involves 3 steps:
1) Sear your steak. The first step is to sear the steak on both sides in a pan with hot oil. This will give the steak a nice brown color and also creates a caramelized residue on the bottom of the pan which will greatly help to flavor your sauce (during the next step). When both sides of the steak are brown, get rid of the oil, and pop the pan in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until the steak is done to your liking. (Personally, I like medium rare).
Searing NY steaks with pearl onions
2) Create your sauce. When your steak is done, remove it from the pan and get ready to create your sauce. First, remove the pan from the stove, and carefully add liquor or wine to loosen the residue from the bottom of the pan. Next, add more essential liquids (like cream or reduced stock) and reduce the liquids down until you have a sauce with a creamy consistency.
Liquor is added to the pan during the beginning of the sauce creation
3) Serve your steak. Finally, place your steak back in the pan, coat it in the sauce, and serve it. (I like to place the steak on top of the potatoes, rice, etc. that it is served with to give the plate some extra eye-appeal).
NY Steak with pearl onions and tarragon
Common Terms related to the above French sauce production:
À la minute- The method of first searing chicken, fish, or meat in a pan and then adding a liquid to it so a sauce can be created as the liquid reduces (with added heat) around the protein. Nothing equals the purity and flavor of French cooking better than this process.
Deglazing- The method of adding liquor or wine to a pan to remove the residue of the chicken, fish, or meat that is located on the bottom of the pan.
Residue- Bits of protein left on the bottom of pots/pans during the searing process.
Brent Littlefield has worked as a chef de cuisine, pastry chef, saucier, and sous chef, for more than 25 years in San Francisco, San Diego, and Las Vegas.