Dinner Diva: How to make a simple skillet sauce (now you’re a chef!)

dinner diva leanne elyDid you know you can make a simple sauce in the skillet? Honest, this is easy stuff! Just follow these easy steps.

Let’s pretend for a moment, you’ve just sautéed some chicken and veggies. The chicken is nicely cooked as are your veggies. Pull the chicken and veggies from the pan and place on a warm plate and keep warm (I turn my oven on to the lowest temp and then put a very loose foil tent “hat” on top of what I just sautéed. I don’t tuck the sides of the foil in; just let it rest on top to preserve the heat. If you tuck it all in, it will steam and lose its sautéed appeal).

On the bottom of your pan, you’re going to see all kinds of browned up stuff from the chicken and veggies or what I refer to quite often as “browned goodie bobs”. This is concentrated flavor that will make for an exquisite sauce.

To make sauce, you will need liquid. I like to add chicken broth (adds more flavor and body than just plain water). I also might add a little wine, depending on what I’ve just cooked. The deal is you’re going to use the liquid to pull the stuff up off the bottom and incorporate into the liquid using your trusty wire whisk.

Anyway, you’re going to crank the heat up somewhat (not too high or the liquid will all evaporate too fast) and whisk the bottom of the pan like your life depended on it. Your liquid will start to turn a little brown (from incorporating the goodie bobs) and next thing you know, you’ll have something that starts to look like a sauce emerging. Now we’re cooking! Isn’t this the coolest?? When I made my first sauce like this, I felt like I could do anything in the kitchen. It’s really that empowering, really!

At this point, you may have enough liquid, too much liquid or not enough. The remedies are simple—if it’s just right, pull it from the heat, arrange your chicken and veggies on a serving plate and pour a portion of the sauce over the top. If you have too much liquid, then you will bring your sauce down to a simmer and let the sauce reduce via evaporation. Now if you let it reduce a lot, you’ll make your sauce instead into a reduction, which is just really a concentrated sauce and for our purposes right now, you don’t need to go there. If you don’t have enough liquid, then add just a little more chicken broth (or your liquid of choice) and whisk away till you get the desired consistency.

Whew! There you have it, Saute 101, complete with a lovely sauce. How’s that for an explanation? Are you feeling good about your skillet now? I hope so! Have FUN!

And here’s a skillet recipe for you from our One Pot October collection.  Enjoy!


Zesty Balsamic Pork Chops

  • Serves 4
  • Prep time: 5-10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25-30 minutes



  • 2 medium shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup red wine, (or use beef broth)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork chops



In a food processor, combine first 6 ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper on both sides the brown all sides of chops in butter. Remove pork from skillet and set aside.

Pour mixture into skillet, as soon as it boils turn heat down to low. Add pork back to skillet, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then turn over pork chops. Cover again and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes or until pork reaches 160 degrees. Serve with cooking juices.

Leanne Ely is a NYT bestselling author and the creator of www.savingdinner.com the original menu planning website, bringing families back to the dinner table for over 15 years.

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