This Super-Easy Sauce Recipe Goes with Every Meat Imaginable
A lot of the difference between a simple homey dinner and a fancy restaurant meal is just sauce. And while sauce work in restaurants is a complex and important part of elevating dishes, that doesn't mean you can't learn to make a simple sauce that can be made ahead and wow your family and guests!
The sauce everyone can make: a wine reduction sauce
A simple wine reduction sauce is actually easy to make, requires no special ingredients, and even better, can be made a couple of hours in advance and kept hot without breaking, so that you are not working at the last minute. Even better? It isn't really a firm recipe, but rather a technique, so you can make as much or as little of it as you need for your meal. (It's also a great way to use up leftover wine.)
Wine reduction sauce basics
Let's start with the ingredients: either shallot or onion, wine, and butter. That's it! Basically, you sauté finely chopped shallot or onion in a small amount of butter until tender, then add wine, reduce to a near-syrup texture, then whisk in cold butter until you have a smooth, flavorful sauce that can be seasoned with salt and pepper. Once you know this technique, you can expand the range of flavors by adding herbs or spices, citrus juice or zest, or extra flavor boosters like capers.
Wine reduction sauce amounts and pairings
When you use ratios, it makes everything so easy you can do it by heart. For every cup of wine you reduce for your sauce, you will need about two tablespoons of minced shallot or onion and a stick of cubed cold unsalted butter. While this sounds like a staggering amount of butter, this is a rich sauce, and only a spoonful or so will be going on the plate. You can use any type of wine but think about where you are putting the sauce. Here's a good guide:
Red wine reductions: beef, lamb, and game dishes; and dark birds like duck or goose
White, rosé, and Champagne reductions: pork, veal, chicken, fish, and on vegetables
How to make a wine reduction sauce
Ready? It's easy!
1. Put a tablespoon or so of butter into a medium saucepan and melt over medium high heat. Add shallot or onion and sweat until tender.
2. Pour in wine, and bring to a boil, letting reduce until you have a syrupy liquid. If you are adding juice like lemon juice, add it at the end of the reduction before adding the butter.
3. Once you have the wine reduction, start whisking in small cubes of cold butter one or two at a time, being sure to whisk constantly to create a creamy emulsion. Once the butter cubes are almost fully incorporated, add a couple more, and keep going until all the butter is blended in.
4. When you taste the sauce, there should be a good balance of acidity and creamy richness. If it tastes too astringent, add more butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add any extra flavorings like zest, chopped herbs, or capers.
Pro tip: If your sauce breaks (the butter separates out), you can whisk in a tablespoon of water to try and re-emulsify it, or just serve as a "broken" sauce. It will still be delicious!
Once the sauce is completed and hot, you can hold it in a thermal travel coffee bottle for up to two hours. I keep a few sizes of YETI rambler bottles in my kitchen just for gravies and sauces and soups. They can keep things hot for a couple of hours, meaning I can make my sauce in advance, and have it piping hot and ready for dinner without any danger of splitting, or getting a skin.