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How To Make a Perfect Red Wine Sauce
What you need to make a perfect red wine sauce:
- A bottle or box of red wine
- A large pot
- A frying pan
- Unsalted butter
- Heavy cream
A thick luscious red wine sauce can be the highlight of a dish or even a meal. The sauce seems delicate, yet buttery, sharp but fruity, creamy yet never over powering to the dish. The secret to the perfect red wine sauce is not something that takes a five star palate or a decade of cooking experience, all you need is a bit of planning and the correct technique. There are a few, but very crucial principles to creating the perfect sauce to impress your customers or friends.
The first step is to choose the correct wine. This is not nearly as hard as it seems. The important thing to remember is that the sauce will amplify the flavors of the wine. High levels of tannins will create a sharp bitter reduction, so its bets to avoid wines with high tannin concentrations. Likewise, wines with peppery flavors will create an overpowering sauce, one that masks the natural flavors of your protein. In my experience, cabernet for example can contain very high tannin levels, making it difficult to create a complex and subtle flavor. The truth is that mild red wines with subtle fruit and spice make the best sauces. If in doubt, just keep in mind that many high-end restaurants in metropolitan areas use inexpensive boxed wine for reductions because the flavors are less intense.
The next step is to make the initial reduction. Take your bottle, or box of wine and simmer it in a large pot. Make sure it is a level pot high heat at specific points can lead to scorching. Simmer at medium to low heat. Let the water boil away and the wine reduce into a thicker consistency. Make sure that the wine does not scorch, or burn in any way, this will ruin your sauce. A nice slow boil is all you need. The finished wine should have the consistency of heavy cream. Let the reduction cool and pour in to a small container.
I have encountered two methods in restaurants to making red wine sauce. The first is the pure, basic and traditional method. Pour your reduction into a small frying pan enough to sauce as many dishes as you have to serve. The amount is important, I typically figure two tablespoons of reduction for each dish.
This is where we have to mention the second method. In this method, add one-third parts cream to two-thirds wine reduction. This can be increased to equal parts cream and reduction if you want a creamier but still flavorful sauce. I prefer the cream addition. I find that it holds the sauce longer, the flavors are more enhanced, and it provides a buffer against the sauce breaking.
Now, let the wine reduction heat up, until the edges begin to bubble.
Remove your pan from the heat, when the bubbling stops add your butter. I use approximately one tablespoon of butter per dish The temperature is important, if the pan is too hot, the butter will clarify and ruin (break) your sauce. Add the butter into the center of the pan. Also, make sure it is cold butter as warm butter will clarify and ruin your sauce. Swirl the pan on a horizontal plane, do not toss or use a spoon or whisk. You want the pat of butter to spin in the middle of the pan and slowly melt. The idea is to temper the butter into the sauce, not melt it quickly. Try not to put the pan down or force the butter to melt. Let the sauce ‘make itself’ and remember patience is important. It should take about a minute for the butter to melt. Keep the sauce away from heat, which will clarify the butter and break your sauce. Pour on or around your dish and enjoy.
Things to note,
- You can save your reduction in an airtight container, at room temperature for a couple of weeks
- Margarine will not work; the vegetable oil will separate and ruin the sauce.
- Milk cannot replace cream, the fat content is not high enough and it will ruin your sauce
- The sauce will thicken as it stands, a splash of water or stock (just a teaspoon or so) will loosen in up before serving.
- Make sure your pan is clean, soap residue or oils will float to the top and ruin your sauce.