The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 6, 2013

Reductions add zip to flavor

Karen's Kitchen
Karen Freeman

TARBORO — When I cook, I often don't have a lot of time to spend making exotic meals, so I decided that I want to get more for less. In cooking that often means reductions. It’s amazing how the taste of something can change just by cooking it down until most of the liquid is gone. Reductions are so ridiculously easy that I often ask myself why I don’t use them more often. They also keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

When creating reductions, it’s important that the ingredients be good quality. Concentrating a flavor that was mediocre to begin with changes it from mediocre to terrible. That particularly applies to wines, oils and vinegars. Buy the best that you can afford and don’t use anything that you wouldn’t want to taste alone.

It’s also important to cook the reduction sauce moderately and until it reduces to a thick, syrupy consistency. It doesn’t take very long, but don’t be in a hurry or it will burn.

The first recipe is a great way to try a reduction sauce for the first time. Grill a t-bone or your favorite cut of beef and top it with a red wine reduction sauce. You will totally appreciate the value of reducing.

The second recipe is a great dish to have for a light lunch or brunch. The apples are crisp and fresh. Use your favorite variety. Most people use Golden Delicious but I prefer the tartness of Granny Smith apples. Pair this with a crunchy salad and you have the perfect lunch.

The third recipe is a balsamic vinegar reduction. It’s great over any red meat. It will make a good cut of beef taste like a great cut of beef. Use good balsamic vinegar for best results.

The fourth recipe is a cider reduction and will be great over scallops or shrimp. It uses apple cider and cider vinegar. You will really enjoy it.

The last recipe is a basic reduction sauce. It can be used and adapted for almost anything. Use the drippings from the meats that you prepare and concentrate them into wonderful sauces.

Grilled T-Bones with a Red Wine Reduction Sauce

2 Tsp Olive Oil, plus more for brushing grill 
2 Tsp Minced Shallots 
1/4 Tsp Minced Garlic 
3/4 Cup Dry Red Wine 
2 Tsp Chopped Fresh Rosemary, plus 4 sprigs for garnishing plates 
1 1/2 Cups Beef Stock 
1 1/4 Tsp Kosher Salt 
3/4 Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper 
8 Lamb T-Bone Steaks s
8 Tbsp Blue Cheese (about 4 ounces)

Place a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the shallots to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add the chopped rosemary. Cook the red wine until it is nearly evaporated, about 4-5 minutes. Add the beef stock to the pan and season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, and reduce to a gentle boil. Reduce the stock until its volume is 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Set the sauce aside and keep warm while you prepare the steaks.

Preheat a grill to medium heat, and brush with oil to prevent the beef from sticking. Season the t-bones on both sides with the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2 minutes, and then rotate 45 degrees. Cook an additional 2 minutes before turning over and cooking for a final 2 minutes.

To serve the steaks, place 2 t-bones in the center of an entree plate. Scatter blue cheese over steaks and then drizzle the sauce over the top. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs.

Aged Cheddar with Apple Wedges and Cider Reduction

2 Lbs Aged Cheddar, room temperature, cut in 8 (2-ounce) pieces 
2 Medium Size Apples 
2 Cups Apple Cider 
1 Tablespoon Butter

Peel, cut and core the apples into 8 even wedges.

In a small saucepan simmer the apple cider. Reduce the volume of the liquid by two-thirds or until if forms a syrup. Stir in butter.

Place 2 apple wedges on a small plate. Place piece of cheddar cheese over the apples and drizzle the warm syrup on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Sauce

Try this sauce for broiled or roasted red meats.

2 Cups Real Aged Balsamic Vinegar, good quality

3-4 Ounces Cold Butter, cut into chunks

In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a simmer and reduce by 2/3.

One chunk at a time, swirl in the butter and combine until it's completely melted, and the sauce has a smooth, velvety consistency. Serve immediately over chateaubriand or other red meat.

Basic Cider Reduction

2 Cups Apple Cider
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Chopped Shallots

Place cider, vinegar, and shallots in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Strain; discard solids in strainer. Return cider mixture to pan. DO AHEAD: Cider reduction can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Basic Reduction Sauce or Pan Gravy

1 Tablespoon Minced Shallot or Onion

1/2 Cup Dry White (for fish, poultry, or vegetables) or red (for red meats) Wine

1/2 Cup Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Stock, or Water, warmed

2 Tablespoons Softened Butter (optional)

Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar (optional)

Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Pour off all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat (if there are any dark, non-fatty juices in the skillet or roasting pan leave them in there). 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.

Add the stock and repeat; when there is just under 1/2 cup of liquid, turn off the heat. Add the butter, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition to incorporate it. Taste and season if necessary with salt, pepper, and lemon juice or vinegar.

Spoon this sauce over the meat, garnish, and serve.

Yield: 1/2 cup

Did You Know?

Creating Sauce with Wine:

Definition of Deglaze: The process of loosening and reducing the residue left in a pan after meat has been sautéed. After cooking, the meat is removed from the pan and a liquid such as wine, vinegar, stock, or juice is added to the remaining meat juices and bits. This flavorful residue combines with the liquid to produce a sauce or gravy for the meat. The longer the liquid is cooked, the thicker the mixture gets as the liquid evaporates and reduces. Cream or butter is often added to create a smoother sauce.

Definition of Reduce: To thicken and intensify the flavor of a liquid by boiling, uncovered, to evaporate excess liquid. This process is used generally on soups and sauces.

Definition of Reduction Sauce: A sauce which uses the juices that are created from oven roasting or stove top cooking foods, such as meat, poultry or vegetables, as its base and then thickens and intensifies the flavor by reducing (boiling to evaporate the excess liquid) the juices. This liquid is strained and used as a base for sauces, soups and stews.

Using wine in deglazing and reducing: Using wine in deglazing and reduction creates an intense and complex sauce.

Do not use light/fruity wines when making sauce. The fruitiness is destroyed during the cooking process, leaving a highly acidic sauce.

If wine becomes overly acidic during deglazing or reduction, add fresh/dried fruit to counteract.

The amount of time spent reducing the wine, may be dependent on the color of the wine. White wines are cooked for a shorter period of time, long enough to burn off the alcohol. Red wines are normally cooked for a longer period to turn the typically rich purple color of the red wine into a rich red color. The rich red color blends beautifully with the deep brown color of meat.