Quick and Easy Pan Sauce (with variations)
Make in any amount
This is not a precise recipe with required amounts of anything. It is a description of the quickest, easiest and, oftentimes, most desired method to prepare a little sauce to go with roasted, sautéed, pan-fried or braised meats and poultry. These sauces are thinner and lighter than gravy and take much less time to prepare. See the similar and related recipes links for a few specific and delicious examples of main dishes finished with a pan sauce.
Braised meats will have the braising liquid in the pan. Remove the meat and, if necessary, skim and discard most of the fat from the top of the liquid. Reduce the sauce over high heat to the desired thickness and it is ready.
This is the method I use most often to add extra flavor and moisture to the finished dish. Roasted, pan-fried and sautéed meats leave both fat and a fond, which is the wonderful caramelized browned bits in the bottom of the pan that add so much flavor to a sauce. If there is enough liquid and minimal fat, reduce to a simply delicious 'au jus'. Nothing more is needed. When there is too much fat and not enough of the natural juices, skim off most of the fat and discard. Place the pan over high heat. Add wine, broth or water to deglaze, which means to scrape up the browned bits while the liquid boils so they will mix into the sauce. Reduce slightly so the flavors blend. If you want more flavor, add a little very finely minced garlic, shallots or onions and cook with the broth while deglazing. You can also add herbs that complement the dish with which the sauce will be used.
Finally, if you want a more luxurious and richer dish, add a little cream to the above preparation and reduce again. Alternately, you can whisk in a few tablespoons of cold butter, one at a time, just before serving. That is it. It does not get any easier or tastier than that.