Pan sauces – 2 ways

So last week I was shopping and all I could think about is how badly I wanted a steak. Thick, tender steak, melting in my mouth. Now, had I catered to my every selfish whim, I would have purchased a filet, grilled it, maybe drizzled a little olive oil and lemon juice on it, and perhaps posted a photo for you to salivate over. But, that would have been it, with no editorial commentary about a recipe for you to try, and no learning experience. So for your (and I suppose mine) education, I bought a New York strip, cut it in half, and worked on 2 different pan sauces. I’m so giving. One is from the wondrous Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (revised 10th edition) and the other is from the February 2011 Bon Appetit issue. In all honesty, they aren’t so different, I think in general it was just the added practice I got that improved my second sauce. Here they are:

Mark Bittman’s pan sauce:


1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion

1/2 cup dry white or red wine

1/2 cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock (or water, warmed, which I didn’t use)

2 tablespoons softened butter (optional, per Bittman, but not so much in my eyes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar (optional, I didn’t use)

1. Pour off all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat (there weren’t really much from my steak). Turn the heat under the skillet or pan to medium-high and add the shallot and the wine. Cook, stirring and scraping, until most of the wine has evaporated, the shallot is soft, and the bottom of the pan is clean.

2. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until there is just under 1/2 cup of liquid, then turn off the heat. Add the butter, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition to incorporate it. Taste and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or lemon juice or vinegar if necessary. Sauce the meat or vegetables however you like.

Bon Appetit’s recipe (I did not prepare the pink-peppercorn butter and didn’t include the instructions here, sorry):

Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce and Pink-Peppercorn Butter

Recipe by Jodi Liano

February 2011

Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce

* 1 10-ounce New York strip steak (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)

* 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

* 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

* Coarse kosher salt

* 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot

* 1 cup dry red wine

* 1/2 cup low-salt beef broth or low-salt chicken broth


Rub steak with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle both sides with thyme, then coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let steak stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook to desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to plate; tent with foil. Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet; add shallot and sauté until slightly softened, scraping up browned bits. Add wine; boil until liquid is reduced by half, stirring often, about 1 minute. Add broth; boil until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons pink-peppercorn butter. Season sauce with coarse salt and pepper.

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My cooking experience:

I pan seared the steak both times – the first on super high heat, as Bittman suggests (he also says don’t do this unless you have a good exhaust fan – I do not and spent the whole time praying the fire alarm wouldn’t go off – SMOKE EVERYWHERE!!!), the second on medium-high, which reduced the smoke, and also cooked the steak a bit more the way I liked, not too done on the outside, and cooked a bit more in the center (ie not burnt on outside and still moo-ing on the inside). For the Bon Appetit steak, I did rub it in olive oil and covered it in thyme. Nice, but not necessary.

It’s clear that pan sauces are made up of the following: wine, shallots, butter, broth and the . The rest are just flair! 🙂 I think that pan sauces are a fun thing to add to any sort of meat dish (chicken, beef etc) that adds to the meat, and doesn’t cover it up. It’s really not difficult to make, so don’t be intimidated, but I do think that with anything, the more you make, the better you get! Also a big part of the sauce is the drippings from whatever piece of meat you’re cooking! Yum!!

The first sauce, Bittman’s, I’m not sure the shallots were cooked long enough, and I’m not sure I allowed the sauce to cook long enough to thicken. The second sauce, I sauteed the shallots for a bit in olive oil, and found this to be helpful, but you had to be careful not to brown them too much. I let the wine cook down about the same, being sure both times to scrape the bottom of the pan to get the good drippings from the steak into the sauce. The second time around, I added a bit less of the chicken broth than before, but more importantly, I let the sauce cook longer to thicken, and let the flavors develop. As you can tell, I didn’t hold back either time on sauce – I wanted to be sure none of it went to waste and that I got to fully taste the sauce. I guess not such a great presentation though, haha. YUM.


3 thoughts on “Pan sauces – 2 ways

  1. Pingback: Pan sauces – 2 times (via justonemorebiteplease!) | My Grandparent's Kitchen

  2. I don’t think there are many things in life which beat a good steak. Done well and it’s an almost religious experience to eat. Done badly and it can be one of those things you really regret. Yours looks awesome – I can almost smell it from here!

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