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Steak + Sauce: The 20-Minute Dinner Party

This classic pairing comes together in one pan in minutes, and it never fails to impress.

October/November 2019 Issue
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Bert and Ernie, Cracker Jack and baseball, gin and tonic: Just a few of the most iconic duos of all time. Add to that list steak and sauce. Few pairings impress like a sautéed steak drizzled with an elegant pan sauce, and this dressy preparation demands remarkably little effort. With a good pan, the right cut, and a couple of basic pantry ingredients, the meal comes together in about 20 minutes.

Skirt steak, a thin, quick-cooking cut that boasts big flavor and a still-reasonable price point, is perfect for this simple method. First, sear the steak until it browns on both sides and is pink in the middle. Then, make a pan sauce while the steak rests. Finally, slice the steak and serve drizzled with the sauce.

Try the method with my four sauce recipes: Grainy Mustard, Apple & Tarragon Sauce; Smoky Saffron & Tomato Sauce; Lemon-Parmesan Cream Sauce; or Garlicky Tequila-Lime Sauce, or create your own custom pan sauce following the steps below. Serve with a good bottle of red, and make like the meal has been a heck of a lot of work for you. I guarantee, no one will be the wiser.


Create your own pan sauce

Use this basic formula to inspire your own pairings.

1. Sear the steak in a 14-inch skillet until browned on the outside and pink inside. Be sure to add the steak to the skillet only when it is very hot, and don’t move the pieces for the first 3 minutes of cooking; they will stick as soon as they hit the pan, until a crust forms.


2. Using the pan in which you’ve seared your steak, cook the flavor base: Finely dice members of the allium family (garlic, onion, shallots, and leeks), aromatics like ginger or peppers, and/or meaty ingredients like bacon or mushrooms, and cook in oil, butter, or a mixture of both until soft and lightly browned.


3. Deglaze with broth or booze (or both): Add a splash of alcohol, such as beer, brandy, or wine (watch for flare-ups), and cook until almost completely reduced and/or pour in beef or chicken broth, and simmer until reduced. Upon adding the liquid, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any flavor-packed browned bits. Be sure to use the best-quality broth possible as the flavor will shine through in the final sauce.


4. Stir in finishing flavors and rich ingredients: Whisk in a couple of pats of butter or some cream. Add a drizzle of vinegar or citrus, some chopped fresh herbs, or grated aged cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and drizzle over the steak or serve alongside.



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