Making a pan sauce is one of my favorite things to do when I’m cooking. It’s quick, easy, delicious and finishes off the dish nicely. Plus, it forces you to let the meat rest while you make the sauce, and letting the meat rest is so important to keep it juicy and moist. But wait… there’s more… making a pan sauce is like doing half the dishes – by deglazing, you clean off the bottom of the pan as you incorporate all those tasty brown bits into the sauce AND making the sauce doesn’t make a second pan dirty. It’s a win-win-win-win!
Need a little tutorial on making a pan sauce once you’ve finished cooking your steak, chicken, pork or fish? It’s super easy. You just need to remember three (or maybe four) things:
- Add Flavor: You start by adding some onion, shallots, garlic, and/or herbs to give the sauce some flavor.
- Add Liquid or something acidic: This will be the main flavor of the sauce – wine, stock, juice, tomatoes
- Let it Reduce: The flavors need time to concentrate and blend and the sauce needs to thicken slightly, so let the mixture simmer and reduce for 2 or 3 minutes, or until you feel it looks and tastes right.
- Finish the Seasoning: After you taste it above, you might think it’s perfect or you might think it needs something – a pinch of salt, a nub of butter to mellow it all, a squeeze of lemon to brighten it. Season it up and serve it!
Here’s a 10-minute lesson on making a pan sauce:
Chicken Breasts with Tomato Balsamic Sauce
- 4 (6-ounce) chicken breasts
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or chopped fresh tomatoes)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
- Pre-heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to the skillet and sear the chicken breasts, cooking for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side (depending on thickness), or until firm to the touch. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Add the shallot and garlic to the skillet and cook for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer until it has almost disappeared. Immediately add the tomatoes and toss well. Cook until the tomatoes soften slightly – just a minute or two. Toss in the basil or parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour over the chicken and serve.