Any liquid cooked until reduced in volume
can be referred to as a reduction. By reducing the volume of a cooking
liquid, either rapidly over high heat or more slowly over low heat, you
concentrate the flavors and thicken the consistency, making a quick,
flavorful sauce. Often, reduction sauces are made by adding wine or
broth to a pan that was used to saute foods. Then, the browned bits from
the bottom of the pan are scraped up and stirred into the cooking liquid
so that they dissolve (called deglazing). When the browned bits dissolve
and the liquid is reduced in volume, the flavor becomes tremendously
To make the most flavorful reductions, start
with the best ingredients. The flavors of bad-tasting ingredients will
only get worse when reduced and concentrated. Also, reduce liquids at a
gentle boil, which causes some of the sauce to splash on the sides of
the pan and caramelize. Stirring these caramelized bits back into the
sauce creates additional flavor.
And make sure to layer the reduction rather
than adding liquids all at once. For example, first add wine to deglaze
the pan and reduce the wine. Then, add some stock and reduce it.
Finally, add some cream to the pan and reduce once more. If you need to
create a smooth texture, just strain the reduced sauce before serving.
To prevent reduction sauces from becoming
overly salty, add any salt only after the liquid has reduced to the
desired consistency. Also, avoid using canned broths, which are often
too salty to be reduced and concentrated in flavor.