Typically, this sauce is made in the pan you cooked the beef or lamb in. After the meat is either in the oven finishing, or while it is resting on the cutting board, relaxing so you can cut it properly, pour off any grease remaining in the pan and wipe out with a paper towel if the are singed bits in the pan.
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1/2 cup berry vinegar
2-3 grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized bits
Place the pan over medium-high heat and when it is hot, put in the 1 tablespoon of butter. When it is melted, put the shallots in the pan and cook until they are “clear” and fragrant. Sprinkle the thyme into the pan and give a quick stir. Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan, and watch for it to begin to caramelize. As soon as it starts to turn dark amber, pour in the brandy if you are using it. Be careful! The sugar will want to spit and pop. Avoid getting this on you as it can hurt. Give a quick stir with a long handled spoon. Reduce the brandy 80%. Add the vinegar, and stir to scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan (The French call this the “fond”).
Turn up the heat to begin boiling the pan contents. Reduce the vinegar until you have 3-4 T of liquid left in the pan. Grind in the black pepper.Turn the heat to it’s lowest setting, taste the sauce for sweetness and add sugar if necessary.
Begin tossing in the butter bits a few at a time, swirling the pan to emulsify the butter into the sauce. Continue doing this-the sauce should take on a thick, almost creamy consistency. If the sauce looks like the butter is melting really fast and turning greasy, remove the pan from heat immediately and dump in lots of the butter and swirl to incorporate it into the sauce. The sauce was “breaking”, and dumping a lot of the butter should cool the sauce and arrest the breaking process.
Once the sauce is rich and creamy in appearance, taste for seasoning and tart/sweet balance. Adjust if necessary.
Use the sauce by laying down a bed of sauce on the plate and placing the sliced meat on top of the sauce.
NOTES: This pan sauce is a basic sauce technique that can be applied to some many things. Use wine or stock instead of vinegar, although with stock, a little vinegar or wine is good to add some acid and backbone to the sauce. The butter technique (monter au beurre in French) is a sauce basic as well.
SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Chef Andrew Cohen, Chef in Residence, Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets