Fond of Fond
was so fond of fond,
he picked up his spoon,
and set down his wand.
}?>What do professional cooks use to form the base of many flavorful sauces, while many home cooks simply discard and wash down the drain? The answer is fond. How could two groups of people treat the same thing so differently: one as a bother, the other as a boon? A little culinary knowledge is all it takes to incorporate the wonderful substance that is fond into all your home cooking.
Oh how fond I am of fond! Fond is the highly flavorful, browned bits of meat stuck to the bottom of a pan after sautéing. It is the basis for creating a pan sauce, i.e. a sauce made in the same pan the food was cooked in. After the main item is cooked, it's removed from the pan, most of the excess fat is poured off, and any aromatics such as shallots, garlic, fresh herbs, or whole spices are added and cooked briefly. To remove the remaining fond, a process known as deglazing must take place by means of adding a liquid such as wine, stock, or water to the pan. The addition of this liquid, along with some scraping with a spoon or spatula, frees the fond stuck to the pan and forms the base of a sauce. I prefer to use wooden spoons or rubber spatulas since they won't damage any coating your pan may have.
In addition to pan sauces, fond is very important in developing rich stews and soups. When making a stew, the first step is often to brown the meat. A cast iron enamel-coated Dutch oven works incredibly well for this part. The cast iron retains heat much better than stainless steel or aluminum and the enamel coating forms a great fond that is difficult to burn and easily removed with deglazing and gentle scraping. Much of the richness and depth of flavor in a stew comes from proper fond formation, so take your time with this important step.
With all the great benefits of fond, it's hard to imagine that it would have any enemies. But, lurking inside every inexperienced or inattentive cook, dwells the potential to destroy fond, or, just as bad, to prevent from ever forming at all. Steam is fond's sworn nemesis. If a pan is not very hot when meat is added to it, the meat will not sear and brown, and fond will not develop. Instead, the juices in the meat will turn to steam and cook the meat, resulting in a pale gray color instead of an appealing golden brown. To avoid this problem, always get your cooking oil to the point of shimmering, (just below the smoking point) before adding whatever it is you wish to sear. Steam also forms when the pan is too crowded. So when browning meat never add more than one layer of meat to the pan and try to leave some space between the pieces of meat. If a pan is too crowded the meat will not sear, fond will not form on the pan, and you'll be stuck will a lackluster stew, pan-sauce, or soup. It's often necessary to brown meat in batches if the pan is too small. Lastly, once you add the item to the heated oil, refrain from moving it in the pan for at least a few minutes. This gives the meat some time to brown and the fond some time to form.
Up to this point I have discussed fond formation only as it applies to meat. Flavorful fond can form from the addition of vegetables, fruits, and even starches. My absolute favorite recipe involving fond from vegetables is the classic French onion soup. The fond that forms here is from caramelization of the natural sugars present in the onions. The onions are allowed to cook slowly for a long time. This allows all their water to evaporate. With most of the water gone, the onions, now greatly reduced in volume, slowly begin to brown, leaving a brown fond on the pan. This is then deglazed. At that point the cook can then decide to let another fond form, once the deglazing liquid has evaporated and the onions caramelize further, or add all of the liquid.
Now that you know a little about fond, it's time to put that knowledge to good use. Remember the tips described above and instantly improve your braises, stews, and sauces, all thanks to the crazy little thing called fond!
Christopher Allen describes himself as "an archaeologist of flavor". He relentlessly digs deep to discover the missing ingredient to make his dishes Smithsonian-worthy.For more throughly tested recipes with in-depth explanations, he recommends visiting cooksillustrated.com}?>
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