After you roast or sauté something, you can build a sauce on what’s left behind in the pan, the drippings and cooked bits known as the fond. Add some liquid (like stock, wine, cream, or water), then thicken it by boiling— or use it as is. Sometimes the “reduction” is finished with butter or cream. The result is a flavorful sauce that naturally enhances the food instead of being added as an entirely separate component.

The process is straightforward and foolproof:

Deglaze Once the meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables are done, remove them from the pan. Add about twice as much liquid as you would like sauce. Turn the heat to high (if you’re working with a large roasting pan, put it over two burners) and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any solids left from cooking.

Reduce Keep the liquid bubbling vigorously until it is reduced by about half. If you’d like a smooth sauce, strain the solids out before proceeding.

Enrich To finish the sauce, stir in some softened butter, Compound Butter, Flavored Oil, olive oil, or cream.

Season Taste and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and some chopped herbs if you like and you’ve got them. To serve, you can pool the sauce underneath your food, pour a little on top, or pass it at the table.

Every reduction sauce is a variation on these simple steps. Some are thickened by adding flour to the fond before the liquid, or a cornstarch mixture after reducing. Many are assertively seasoned. You change reduction sauces by making changes within the various stages. For example, when you heat the pan before deglazing, you might sauté a little garlic, shallot, or other aromatic. But basically, that’s about it. Recipes for one true reduction and one shortcut follow, with plenty of ideas for more.

Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce

Makes: ½ cup | Time: 5 minutes

Nothing could be easier or more versatile. I’ll start you off with the base recipe— a kind of warm vinaigrette— and a handful of variations, but no doubt you’ll soon come up with even more ideas. See the list on page 82 for inspiration.

  • ¼ cup olive oil or 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, or lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or mild vinegar like balsamic
  • Salt and pepper Put the oil or butter

Put the oil or butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is warm or the butter melted, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, a minute or 2. Turn the heat down if it starts to color.

Stir in 2 tablespoons water and the lemon juice and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Maintain the heat so it bubbles gently for a minute or 2. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Sesame-Soy Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce Replace the olive oil with 2 tablespoons each sesame oil and good-quality vegetable oil; replace the lemon juice with soy sauce. Add 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or chopped peanuts if you like in Step 1. Finish if you like by adding 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro just before using.

Miso Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce Scrap the whole main recipe and do this: Combine ½ cup miso, ¼ cup sugar, and ¼ cup mirin (or 2 tablespoons honey mixed with 2 tablespoons water) or sake (white wine or even water is okay too) in a small saucepan. Bring almost to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then just keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

Ten-Minute Drizzle Sauce Almost any high-quality juice works here— carrot, tomato, orange, or pomegranate, for example: Omit the lemon juice and water. In Step 2, stir in 1 cup fruit or vegetable juice instead. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat so it bubbles steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juice reduces by half and thickens almost to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Stir 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs if you like.

Reduction Sauce

Makes: ½ cup | Time: 10 minutes

Here’s a sauce made in the same pan you just used to cook meat or vegetables. Keep your food warm in a low oven if necessary while you prepare the sauce. Or add the food back to the pan with the finished sauce and heat through for a minute or so.

  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot or onion
  • ½ cup dry white wine (for fish, poultry, or vegetables) or red wine (for red meat)
  • ½ cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock (to make your own, or water, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits Salt and pepper (optional)
  • A few drops fresh lemon juice or vinegar (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Spoon out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan; if there are dark juices, leave them. Turn the heat to high (if you’re working with a large roasting pan, put it over two burners) and add the shallot and wine. Cook, stirring and scraping, until most of the wine has evaporated, the shallot is soft, and nothing is sticking to the pan.

Add the stock and cook briefly, stirring, until there is just under ½ cup liquid. Turn off the heat. Add the butter a little at a time, whisking well after each addition to incorporate it. Taste and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and/ or lemon juice if necessary. Serve the sauce over or under the cooked food. Garnish with parsley right before serving.

Lemon-Caper Sauce Add 1 tablespoon or more chopped capers with the shallot and wine. Finish with at least 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, to taste.

Ginger Reduction Sauce Replace the shallot with 1 tablespoon each chopped garlic, ginger, and scallion and cook until soft before adding the wine. Omit the butter; instead stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, fish sauce, or Worcestershire sauce. Finish with a few drops fresh lime juice. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Mushroom Sauce Increase the shallot to 2 tablespoons, add 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms, and cook until soft before adding the wine. Best with ¼ cup or more cream added at the last minute.