Monday, September 7, 2009

how to deglaze a pan

Level of difficulty: Not very hard, but definitely high on the gross factor. Quick gag reflexes may want to step out of the room.

So being really frugal, yet really loving to eat good food, means finding ways to use nearly everything. Like those little brown bits left over in the frying pan when you're done cooking something messy, like eggplant.

One complaint many meat eaters have about vegetarian food is that it doesn't have enough flavour. When you're used to dead, cooked animal flesh flavouring everything you eat, I guess I can understand the complaint. Because who wouldn't want to bite into something that tasted like dead, cooked animal flesh, right?

But anyhow... the way for vegetarian cooks to give their food a richer, more complex flavour is to use a few tricks like the one described in this deglazing technique.

(Obligatory definition of deglazing: Umm... from the prefix "de-," meaning to undo, and the word "glaze," meaning glass? BTW, I really don't recommend trying to take broken glass out of food. Ever. And this post isn't about eating broken glass, okay?)

[Later insertion for clarification: What I mean is, if you break glass in food - which I have done many times, and it's not pretty - do not try to salvage the food. The broken-glass infused food is garbage. Just so we're clear.]

For this technique I started out by cooking some eggplant and onions for a really great pretend ratatouille. After the vegetables were done cooking, there was this disgusting mess left in the pan. Now, I'm not averse to washing dishes, but I have a latent lazy streak that manifests at odd moments, so if I can figure out a way to get rid of a brown mess AND come up with a practical way of utilizing the brown mess in a future recipe...

(Plus, if the truth be told, I'm always trying to capture more iron in my food - and cooking liquids in cast iron pans has to be the iron jackpot, I'm sure.)

Add some liquid to the pan. In this case, I had some homemade vegetable stock (aka the cooking water from some potatoes that I'd put in a jar and frozen) on hand. You could also use water, or leftover wine if you're feeling especially frisky.

Use a spatula to scrape all the little brown bits off the pan, and stir them into the liquid.

Let the liquid simmer on high heat for a few minutes, until it reduces (some of it evaporates a bit). Stir frequently.

Pour the resulting liquid into a glass jar. I tend to favour doing this in my sink because, you know. Spills. That cool-looking speckled black thing is a canning funnel. It fits into the mouths of canning jars - which I always use to store food - and helps me not spill everything all over the place. Helps.

The brown liquid in the canning jar.

Now, I do realize this looks totally gross. But trust me - use just a little bit of this stuff in a recipe like French onion soup, and nobody will miss the dead animal flesh. You can also use this liquid to make vegetarian gravy, which is awesome over mashed potatoes. I personally avoid gluten, so you probably won't be finding a vegetarian gravy recipe anywhere on this blog, but go for it.

Cost per serving: I'm gonna say $0. Because really, the brown stuff is free. And so is the cooking water.

The End.

1 comment:

  1. Um, why not use arrowroot to thicken it for gravy (rather than flour)? I'm vegan too... just finished the Forks Over Knives cooking class... (for what it's worth).