Basic Red Wine Pan Sauce

From Cook's Country | February/March 2009

Why this recipe works:

The first step was to pour off the fat from the steaks before building the sauce; otherwise it would be greasy. To draw out the flavors of red wine in our Basic Red Wine Pan Sauce we reduced it with a scant amount of sugar before adding the other ingredients. To finish off the sauce we added… read more

The first step was to pour off the fat from the steaks before building the sauce; otherwise it would be greasy. To draw out the flavors of red wine in our Basic Red Wine Pan Sauce we reduced it with a scant amount of sugar before adding the other ingredients. To finish off the sauce we added butter and some minced fresh thyme. It was important to add the butter to the sauce at the very last minute and whisk it constantly until incorporated; otherwise it would “break" and the butter floated to the top of the sauce.

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Makes enough sauce for 4 steaks

Use low-sodium broth and unsalted butter in this recipe or the reduced sauce may be too salty. See related content for a Cooking Lesson on pan-searing steak.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. COOK AROMATICS Once steaks are cooked, transfer them to platter, tent with foil, and pour off excess fat from skillet. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in empty skillet over medium-low heat. Cook shallot until softened, about 2 minutes.

    2. REDUCE LIQUIDS Add wine and sugar to skillet and simmer over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced to about 1 tablespoon, about 3 minutes. Add broth and any juices on plate with resting steaks and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 3 minutes.

    3. ADD FLAVORINGS Off heat, whisk in thyme and remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over steaks.

Pan-Searing Steaks

Cooking steaks in a skillet is fast but hardly foolproof. Who hasn’t ruined good steaks with imperfect technique? The secrets we’ve uncovered in the test kitchen guarantee reliable results—no extra time necessary.

1. TRIM FAT Expect splattering when searing steaks on your cooktop. To keep the mess to a minimum, trim any hard, white fat from the perimeter of the steaks. Leave no more than ⅛ inch of fat. Place a splatter screen covered with fine mesh over the skillet to reduce splattering further.

2. PAT DRY FOR BETTER FLAVOR We’ve found that blotting steaks dry with paper towels yields tastier steaks. The moisture that collects in shrink-wrapped packages inhibits browning; since browning equals flavor, the moisture must go.

3. SEASON LIBERALLY Before cooking, sprinkle steaks with kosher salt (we’ve found that the large crystals ensure even distribution) and freshly ground black pepper. Use 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per steak and as much pepper as you like. Remember to season both sides of the steak.

4. LET PAN SIZZLE Put steaks in a too-cool pan and they’ll stick and fail to develop a proper crust. But how do you know the pan is hot enough? Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, the pan is ready.

5. GIVE THEM ROOM Lay the steaks in the pan, making sure to leave a little room between them. If you crowd the pan, the steaks will steam rather than sear, and they won’t brown. A 12-inch skillet is a must for cooking 4 small steaks.

6. LEAVE THEM BE Don’t fuss with steaks as they cook. Leaving the meat in place helps build a better crust. After 3 or 4 minutes, lift the edge of a steak to check on browning. Don’t use a fork to turn steaks. Skewering the meat can lead to loss of juices. Instead, grab each steak with tongs and flip onto the second side.

7. GET THE TEMPERATURE RIGHT Don’t cut into steaks to gauge doneness. Use tongs to lift a steak out of the pan and then slide in an instant-read thermometer. Here are the temperatures to look for: 115 degrees (rare), 125 degrees (medium-rare), 135 (medium), 145 (medium-well), and 155 (well-done).

8. REST BEFORE SERVING Letting steaks rest on a plate loosely covered with foil gives the meat time to reabsorb juices otherwise lost when steaks are cut. Those 5 to 10 minutes also give you time to turn the flavorful browned bits in the pan into a quick pan sauce.

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