Cooking Vocabulary and Notes (Pan Sauces)

v  Chicken Bits (breast or leg) with Caramelized Onion Pan Sauce

  • Season the chicken (salt and fresh pepper) and sauté (presentation side down) over high heat (remember the oil moving around -shimmering- in the pan is an indication of the right temperature.)
  • Reserve the chicken to another container while you sauté the chopped onions, giving them plenty of caramelized color and aroma
  • Deglaze the pan with white (or other) wine, and reduce that liquid by half.
  • Return the chicken to the pan and continue cooking, adding more liquid (stock, or water) as needed.
  • Remove the chicken and adjust the pan sauce (we’ve used balsamic vinegar, honey, and plenty of salt).  Finish with a little butter swirled in the pan, correct any seasoning issues, and serve it forth!

Important bits here:

  1. Don’t be scared to use a little oil, even in a non-stick pan.  The difference in color, flavor, and texture will all be enhanced by using a touch of oil.
  2. Have all of your ‘mise en place’ ready before you start cooking.  You’ll be much more efficient, and your cooking will be more organized.
  3. Saute – You love it.  But it can be smoky, be ready to open up the house
  4. To Deglaze, is to introduce a liquid to a hot cooking surface in order to release the cooked-on bits from the surface.  We used white wine, and reduced it by half.
  5. Cooking with alcohol does a few nice things.  First, the aromatics of wine are pleasant, and add a depth to your cooking.  Second, the volatile molecules in the alcohol accelerate and accentuate (carry) the aroma of the dish up to your nose.  Third, the acidity in wine is almost always a welcome addition.
  6. Be certain to reduce (evaporate) the wine at least by half.  Raw alcohol has a bitterness which is not always welcome, and reduction will burn the alcohol away.
  7. Braising is a ‘moist-heat’ method of cooking where the item being braised is covered 1/3 to ½ in a liquid, and cooked in a closed container.  Stewing is the same as braising, except the item being stewed is covered entirely by the stewing liquid.  There are also other steps in these processes, such as browning, deglazing, sweating aromatics, reducing, thickening, and so on.
  8. Always taste.  We adjusted the sauce with a little sweetness and finished with butter.  The butter added a slight thickening, a glossy appearance, and a delicious rounding out of any sharp (bitter, acidic) flavors.  Yum!

Get this method down, and employ it with different proteins and vegetables –

Happy Cooking!

-Scott

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