One of the most difficult things for a home cook to accomplish is a rich, smooth sauce to serve over steak. The answer isn’t in the “how to” but in what ingredients are used to create the sauce that makes the difference. In the days before refrigeration sauces were more often used to smother the taste of foods that had begun to go bad. However, in the 19th century, the French created a process for making sauces that is still being taught in cooking schools all over the world. The initial preparation of the key ingredients that go into the sauce takes a lot of time. The first step is making a stock with roasted veal and/or beef bones, simmering them for at least 12 hours, continuously skimming the pot, straining the liquid to remove the bones and reducing the liquid for making a successful base for the sauce.

A professional chef will then reduce this brown sauce further to make a demi glace, the ” supreme sauce”. (I have included a recipe, if you would like to try your hand at making it.) Stock reductions are the foundation to hundreds of classic sauces that are served in fine restaurants.

Stay away from bouillon cubes or instant sauce packets you see in your local supermarket. Just take a look at the ingredient list to see what the mix contains and, most likely, you will see a list of processed ingredients along with several preservatives. You can purchase demi-glace, ready made, at a gourmet supermarket to add to your homemade sauce to give it that rich flavor, if you do not have time to make it from scratch.

How to quickly create a rich tasting sauce:

1. Sauté a chopped shallot or small onion in one ounce of butter (1/4 stick) for 1-2 minutes until translucent.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with 1/2-cup red win. Return pan to the heat and reduce liquid to half the amount.

3. Add 8 ounces of demi-glace and heat the sauce until it is thick enough to coat a spoon.

4. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.

5. One last addition that is often used by professional chefs is a pat of butter to add flavor and shine to the finished sauce.

At this point you have a sauce that you can serve or use as a base and layer in more flavors by adding additional ingredients, such as fresh herbs and spices or cream. If you are adding mushrooms that need to cook, add them to the pan right after you add the wine and let them cook while the wine is reducing.

Homemade Demi-Glace

Ingredients

  • 10 lbs. veal/beef bones
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 white part of leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 Bouquet Garni: A bouquet garni is usually made by tying together herbs with kitchen twine or enclosing them in cheesecloth.

  • 2 outer green leek leaves
  • 15 flat-leaf parsley stems
  • 2 fresh thyme stems or sprigs
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Directions

1. Roast the bones: Browning bones and vegetables in a roasting pan in the oven before combining them in a pot with water gives the stock a more pronounced flavor and a deeper color. Veal bones have more collagen than beef bones; simmering the bones transforms the collagen into gelatin, which makes for a thicker, richer stock. Heat oven to 500°F. Put bones into a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer and roast until lightly browned, about 1–1 1⁄2 hours. Add carrots, onions and leeks to the pan and spread them evenly around the bones. Roast the bones and vegetables until they are deeply browned, about 45 minutes more.

2. Deglaze the pan: Transfer bones and vegetables to a 15–20-qt. stockpot. Place roasting pan over 2 burners on the stove over medium heat. Add 3 cups water to the pan; begin scraping up any browned bits fromthe  bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as the water heats. These caramelized bits will enrich the stock. Simmer for 3 minutes; transfer liquid to the pot of bones. Add the bouquet garni and tomato paste. The paste will give the stock a deeper flavor and color. Cover bones with 6–8 qts. cold water; set pot over medium-high heat. Starting with cold water encourages the proteins and fats contained in the bones to rise to the surface in large pieces, where they can be skimmed and discarded.

3. Simmer the stock: When the first bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the liquid, reduce heat to medium-low and maintain a very gentle simmer; a bubble should rise to the surface about once per second. Simmering slowly prevents the fat and impurities from being churned back into the stock and clouding it. The strength and concentration of the demi-glace will be determined by the length of time the stock simmers. For the minimum amount of extraction, it should simmer for at least 6–8 hours, but 12 hours will produce a richer, more gelatinous sauce. Check every few hours and add more cold water, if necessary, so that bones are always covered.

4. Skim the fat: Skim fatty froth from the surface of the stock with a ladle every 5–10 minutes during first hour of cooking to prevent it from clouding the stock. After the first hour, skim the stock every 30 minutes or so.

5. Strain the stock: Set a chinois (a fine-mesh conical sieve) or a fine metal sieve over a clean 8-qt. pot. Strain stock through the sieve into the pot. Tap edge of sieve with a wooden spoon to loosen any solids that impede the straining of the stock, but do not force liquid through. Discard bones, vegetables and bouquet garni. The stock should yield 4–5 qts.

If storing stock for another use, you can cool it quickly by placing the pot in a sink half filled with ice water. Once it’s cooled, skim the surface again to remove any fat. Transfer the stock you don’t plan to use right away to storage containers and refrigerate. The stock will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. To transform the stock into demi-glace, proceed to next step.

6. Reduce the sauce: Traditionally, the stock for demi-glace was thickened with a roux, but modern chefs have shunned thickeners in favor of reducing stock to a pure, more syrupy consistency. Simmer stock over medium-high heat, skimming occasionally, for 4–5 hours until reduced to 2 cups. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

I freeze the demi-glace in ½ cup portions to add to sauces as needed.

Filet Mignon with Bordelaise Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 tablespoons Demi-Glace
  • 4 6-oz. filet mignons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions

In a 2-qt. saucepan, combine wine, thyme, shallots and bay leaf. Reduce wine over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Discard the thyme and bay leaf; stir in demi-glace. Cover, remove from heat and set aside.

Heat oven to 500°F. Season filets with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 10″ skillet over high heat. Sear steaks, turning once, until browned, 4 minutes total. Transfer skillet to the oven; roast until steaks are medium rare, 4–5 minutes. Place steaks on a serving plate to rest.

Reheat sauce over medium heat. Whisk in butter. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in parsley and season sauce with salt and pepper.

Transfer steaks to a cutting board; pour juices from the serving plate into the saucepan and stir.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto each of 4 plates. Slice steak into 1/4″-thick slices; divide between plates. Sprinkle with rosemary and thyme; drizzle each steak with 1 tablespoon additional sauce.

Steak with Italian Herb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3⁄4 cups plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (24 oz.) 2″–3″-thick rib-eye, strip or porterhouse steak

Directions

Put the herbs and garlic on a cutting board and finely chop together with a large knife. Transfer herb mixture to a small bowl and stir in 3/4 cups oil. Season herb sauce with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 1 hour to let the flavors blend.

Meanwhile, put steak on a plate; season generously with salt and pepper and rub with the remaining oil. Let sit at room temperature for an hour.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (If weather permits.) Alternatively, heat an oiled grill pan over medium-high heat.

Cook steak, turning once, until browned and cooked to desired doneness, 8–10 minutes for medium rare. Transfer steak to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak against the grain and spoon some of the herb sauce over the top.

 

Espresso Spiced Steaks with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (12-ounces each) rib-eye steaks or steak of your choice

Tomato sauce

  • 1 cup low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Directions

Combine first 6 ingredients; stir well. Rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of the steaks; cover and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Preheat grill (indoor or outdoor) to medium-high heat.

Place steaks on greased grill; cook steak 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from grill; let stand 10 minutes.

Combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer and heat for 2 or 3 minutes.

Top steaks with tomato sauce just before serving.

Flank Steak with Garlic Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Directions

Cut head of garlic in half, place on a square of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of skins and mash into a puree. Set aside.

Sprinkle steak with salt to taste and the 2 teaspoons of freshly ground pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, but do not add any fat.

When hot, cook seasoned steak until seared and well browned on both sides, about a minute per side. Reduce heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove meat to a platter and keep warm.

Add the scallions and red wine to the skillet. Bring to a boil and whisk in the garlic puree. Boil until the wine is reduced by half and the sauce is thick and syrupy. As it boils, scrape up browned bits with a wooden spoon.

Move steak to a cutting board. Stir in the meat juices from the serving platter that have accumulated under the steak. Boil for another second or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until it is incorporated into the wine sauce.

Quickly slice the meat against the grain, into thin strips. Place them back on the platter and pour the sauce down the center of the slices.

Skirt Steak with Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 fat-trimmed skirt steak (about 1 1/4 lb.)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grained Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire

Directions

Wipe meat with a damp paper towel, then cut crosswise into 2 or 3 equal pieces.

Prepare an outdoor grill for direct heat or heat an indoor grill pan. When grill is medium-hot, place steak on grill. Cook, turning as needed to brown evenly, until meat is pink in the center of thickest part (cut to test), 5 to 7 minutes, total.

Meanwhile, in a shallow skillet combine butter, mustard, vermouth and Worcestershire; stir occasionally until butter melts. Keep warm.

Place cooked steak in the skillet, slice and stir meat into sauce. Serve immediately.

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