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Sauté 101

Every young ambitious culinarian starting their career wants to be promoted to the saucier. The saucier is not only responsible for sauce preparation but they are assigned as the sauté person stationed on the hot-line in a classically organized kitchen. The sauté station is usually the most prestigious position on the hot-line due the volume and character of the dishes. It is a fast paced high-pressure position. One must know how to multitask is an understatement.  I love this cooking method because it has some very identifiable methods, techniques and procedures, to be properly completed. The preparations can be very simple or very difficult, complex and with many components. This cooking method is used by everyone and can be refined by much practice. I will walk us through all the key steps to be successful at this cooking method.

We reference two sauté recipes in this article.

Sauteed Venison in Mushroom Cream Sauce

Sautéed Venison in Chanterelle and Oyster Mushroom Sauce

From a chef’s perspective there are some very basic rules or guidelines to follow when approaching cooking meats. All tender cuts get dry cooking methods; less tender or tough cuts get moist or combination cooking methods. Sauté is a dry cooking method with a small amount of oil Sauté literally means to jump so there usually is action in the pan.

As the young culinarian learns the key steps of each and every cooking method, they will write recipes with one-word cooking methods. As example. sauté, braise, stew, or poach. Chefs don’t write a page of cooking instructions because they already know/understand all the key steps. Hopefully this column will teach you these methods and techniques and you won’t have to reference and/or read them every time you sauté something. Let’s hope you will also be able to create recipes from ingredients found on your refrigerator shelves.

There are many ingredients that compliment a sautéed game dish. I am going to utilize mushrooms in the two recipes that are accompanied by this blog because their earthy flavor tones accent the flavor profile of these recipes. The meat will be prepared and cut differently but the final result will be the same. A tender delicious preparation that was fairly easy and fast to complete. Tender cuts from any member of the deer family or game birds such as wild turkey, pheasant, and grouse will work as well. Tender cuts of the deer muscles include but are not limited to the tenderloins, backstraps, inside or top round, or sirloin but.

We choose a sauté recipe for a specific reason, we want the meat served smothered in a sauce that was created by deglazing the fond (brown on bottom of pan). Unlike a grilled or broiled steak which we want the thatched grill marks to show and flavor our steak, we would not smother in sauce and hide that beautiful presentation.

The sauté cooking method is demonstrated more than other cooking methods because it is fast, and can be performed in front of the camera, tableside, on an island or table using portable burners in front of the guests or crowd. It mostly is a one-pan-preparation, no need for ovens, broilers, grills, etc. Sauté is an easy, elegant, preparation that many times includes flambé which is rather impressive.

Choosing the correct pan is just as important as choosing a tender cut of meat. The sauteuse is a bevel sided sauté pan designed for action. The sautoir is a straight sided pan used for pan frying and/or braising, not designed for action or movement of the sauté process.

Be extremely careful when adding alcohol, always pour alcohol into a cup and then into the pan, never directly out of the bottle. If using rum or brandy or alcohol that has high alcohol content, add to some other liquid such as broth or sauce before heating as to lessen the flame.

Be careful when preparing cream dished because if the cream boils over it is very flammable, and could start a fire. Also if using cream, reduce any acids such as wines, mustards, or items brined in vinegar such as green peppercorns before adding cream as to not curdle the cream. One of the most common mistakes when people sauté, is they leave the meat in the sauce while reducing. The sauce is boiling and overcooks the meat and makes it chewy and tough. Most important rule when cooking tender cuts of meat is to not overcook tender cuts. That’s why menus in steakhouse state in writing at the bottom of the menu “were not responsible for well-done steaks” because if you overcook a tender cut you make it dry and tough.

If sautéing large pieces of meat, sear, remove from pan and place in pie tin and into hot oven to finish cooking. In the meantime, deglaze the pan and prepare the sauce.

The key steps of the sauté cooking method are as follows:

Tender cut of meat

Choose the correct sauté pan, a sauteuse

Hot pan

Small amount of oil

Don’t overload the pan with too much cold meat

Too much action lessens heat

Create the fond on the bottom of the pan by caramelizing meat, dark for red meats and light for white delicate meats.

Turn once, either by flipping, fork, or tongs

Keep rare with exception of poultry boar and bear

Remove from pan, spread out to prevent the meat from sweating

Add garnish such as shallots & mushrooms and sauté

Deglaze fond with liquid such as wine, broth, sauces

Bring to boil

Adjust flavor and consistency

Add meat back to sauce

Add fresh herbs

Add whole soft butter (optional)

Plate smothered in sauce

Serve immediately

Of course there are always exceptions to the rules but these are basic guidelines for this cooking methods. Follow these rules and you should be able to create many wonderful game preparations.

Remember you must have quality meat at the cutting board to start with. You cannot make or hide poorly handled meat at the cutting board or in the pan.

Variations could include different type of oils, such as olive oil, avocado, canola, or sesame oil.

Store bought spice blends work as well as creating your own blend and can be as basic as salt and pepper. I’ve found fortified wines such as madeira sherry port all compliment game and add much flavor to sauces. Mushrooms and fruit compliment the earthy tones and flavors of game meats.

So the next time you choose to sauté some game meat, imagine yourself as a saucier chef on a hot line in a fast paced busy kitchen of a fancy restaurant. Let us know what recipes you’ve tried and or invented with your harvest.

Good Cooking Chef Wutsch


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