Pan Sauces 101/Cast Iron Care

Nov. 5, 2019, noon

So, you just bought a cast iron skillet. Now what?
Peel off the sticker and wash the skillet in hot soapy water. What! I thought you weren't supposed to use soap on cast iron! Well, you're only going to do this one time to remove residue from the factory. Dry it with a paper towel thoroughly and then you are ready to go.
Today we are going to cook some pork chops in several skillets and learn how to make a pan sauce.
Here's how to do that.....
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.
Put the skillet on the stove and turn the heat to high. Add a tiny bit of olive oil or ghee. When the oil or ghee is hot, add the pork chops making sure not to splatter oil on yourself. Now.....leave them alone for about 3 minutes and then check for browning. Do not disturb them more than you have to in order to check for browning. When they are really brown on one side, turn them over and allow the second side to brown.
When both sides are brown, remove the chops to a plate and cover with foil.
CHECK OUT THE STUFF IN THE SKILLET. That is called fond and that is what we will be working with next.
Now, it's time to make a decision. Do you want gravy or a pan sauce?
If you want a cream gravy, then......

Turn the pan to medium low, and to the drippings in the pan, add flour and stir with a whisk constantly until browned and bubbly. Add milk or cream, stirring constantly and with gusto until it is smooth and thick.
The ratio of fat to flour to liquid is important when making a roux-based gravy, and depending on how thick you like your gravy, you can adjust the amount of fat and flour. To make 1 cup of roux gravy, start with 2 tablespoons of fat, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 1 cup of liquid. (If you would like a thinner gravy, decrease the fat and flour measurements to 1 1/2.) The liquid can be broth, milk, or heavy cream, depending on how rich and decadent you want the finished product. You can also combine smaller amounts of heavy cream or wine with broth for added texture and flavor.

brown gravy – flour and water
mushroom gravy – add mushrooms

1. Turn the heat to medium high, and deglaze with a flavorful liquid like wine or fruit juice, scraping the pan with a spoon to dissolve all the fond. Reduce until there is couple of tablespoons left.
2. Add stock or broth to the pan and reduce over medium to medium-high heat.
3. When the reduction is a bit syrupy, remove from the heat.
4. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
5. Swirl in a pat of butter or a splash of cream to finish the sauce, round out the flavors and give it some added body.
6. Since pan sauces can be intensely flavored, you really only need one or two tablespoons per serving. So, to make a pan sauce for a family of four, you will only need about 1/2 cup of sauce.

In Step 1, add a little fat and sauté some minced shallot or garlic until softened and just starting to brown before deglazing.
In Step 1, add minced, sliced or diced mushrooms along with the shallot or garlic.
In Step 1, stir in some mustard, chutney or other flavor accent
In Step 3, stir in some fresh minced herbs.

Of course the trick is to use complementary flavors. To make an Italian-inspired pan sauce, you might use a mixture of stock and Chianti, perhaps stir in some tomato paste along with some garlic, flavor it with basil and/or oregano and finish the sauce with some olive oil.
For a French twist, consider adding minced shallot, stirring in some Dijon mustard, using stock and white wine for the deglazing liquid and flavoring with some tarragon, lavender or Herbs de Provence.
You can even make a great sauce with Asian flavors by sautéing some fresh ginger and stirring in some peanut butter in Step 1, flavoring with some five spice powder and deglazing with a lemony chicken stock. Finish the sauce with some toasted sesame oil.
Remember, a quick pan sauce is about using a series of techniques—sauteing, deglazing, reducing and enriching—and not so much about following a strict recipe.
Serve with the pork chops and enjoy!

Now what do I do with my skillet?
it is easiest to clean your pan while it is still warm.
Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust.
Rinse with warm water and use a brush or scraper to remove stuck-on bits. Do not use soap and definitely don't put your skillet in the dishwasher! You can also use a gentle brush or plastic pan scraper to remove stuck-on food.
For really stuck-on food, scrub with salt and oil, rinse and wipe clean. If rinsing and scrubbing aren’t enough, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few tablespoons of salt into the pan and use a paper towel to scrub the pan with this mixture until it comes clean, then rinse.
Dry the pan and coat with a thin layer of oil. Dry the cast iron with a clean towel and then place over low heat. Add a thin coat of more oil, but make sure the oil doesn’t pool anywhere — one teaspoon wiped across the entire cooking surface is just right for most pans.
Store until ready to use. Cool the pan and store until ready to cook again
Do use gentle utensils like wood, silicone, and rubber. The occasional metal fish spatula or pancake turner is okay, but try to avoid lots of metal utensils in your pan – especially while building up the seasoning.
Don’t store food in cast iron. It is bad for the pan and bad for the food.
Dry the skillet: Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
Put it away: Store the skillet in a dry place.
If your cast iron gets rusty or loses its seasoning, you can reseason it. Follow the instructions here: