That leftover fat that stays in the pan after cooking chicken, steak, or even fish, is the foundation of a delicious and easy pan sauce that will elevate your dish from home cook to professional chef status—and all with only a few additional ingredients like white wine or fresh herbs. The next time you’re serving up a protein, save those fatty bits and pan drippings that collect at the bottom of your skillet for a smooth and decadent sauce. Make sure to use a stainless steel or cast iron skillet to preserve all those browned bits. Alternatively, an easy recipe for a great meat-free pan sauce simply swaps in olive oil.
Chef Gordon Ramsay shows you how the brown bits left in your chicken pan provide the perfect base for a delicious sauce.
4 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Remaining half bunch thyme
1 stick butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup brandy (substitute with a splash of
3/4 cup veal demi-glace
(Optional: Shaved White Truffle)
Place a large skillet over high heat and add grapeseed oil. Lower the heat to medium and add garlic and thyme.
Then place the chicken breasts, skin-side down, into the pan. Don’t move the chicken until skin releases and browns on the edges, about 4 minutes. Tilt the chicken to the edge of the pan, searing the sides, about 10 seconds per side.
Flip the chicken and add 6 tablespoons butter. As the butter melts, carefully and continuously spoon it over the chicken, basting the skin until golden, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken back to skin-side down and transfer the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and juices run clear.
Remove from oven and transfer the chicken to a plate to rest. Drain the excess fat from the pan to a small bowl.
Place the skillet back over medium heat on the stove top. Add shallots and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer garlic and thyme back into pan.
Stirring frequently, continue to cook until shallots caramelize, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat and carefully pour brandy or splash of apple juice into the pan. If using brandy, be cautious of the flambé caused by the alcohol burning off. Scrape the bottom of the pan clean. Add demi-glace, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cook a few minutes, then pass through a strainer into a small sauce pot. Push the shallots and garlic into the strainer. Place back over heat and cook until reduced, about 5 minutes.
Separate the chicken tender from each breast and slice breasts, then transfer all chicken pieces to plates. Drizzle sauce around chicken, careful not to moisten crispy skin. Grate truffle over the plates, if using.
Note: make sure your hands are thoroughly washed with warm, soapy water before and after handling raw chicken. It is also crucial that you wash knives and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw chicken. Practicing good hygiene in the kitchen will reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
This approach to sauce can be applied to several types of meat. Translate what you’ve learned in this lesson into other dishes. Look for au jus recipes like roast rack of lamb with natural au jus and prime rib with red wine jus.
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