The Fond or La Fonda?

Fond!  What is “fond” and has  anyone ever heard of it before?  Well I can assure you I had not ever heard that term until my American Regional class.  In fact, the first time I heard chef say, “don’t burn the fond”, my first thought was of “LaFonda” in Napoleon Dynamite.  Couldn’t help but chuckle to myself when I pictured trying  not to burn her.  And why would anyone would want to burn her!  Hmm.  Well, maybe you didn’t need to know all that but sometimes I just need to share.

So what exactly is “fond”?  The technical term may be “fond” but that is only because “gold” was already taken.  In my house anything left in the bottom of a bag is called gold.  Cereal, chips, cookies, you name it.  If it was worth eating and leaves crumbs at the bottom- it is GOLD! I digress…

Think back to when you last browned a roast, hamburger or beef tips, chicken and/or pork.  You saw a bunch of little bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and thought “how am I going to get that mess off my pan!” you throw it in the sink and fill it with water.  I will tell you now that you are committing a crime of huge proportions!  Those bits and stuff stuck to your pan is called “fond”!  A French term for the brown, not black, caramelized bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  From this time forth please cease and desist your bit drowning.  No longer should you scrub that gold off for the drain gods to enjoy.  It is essentially all the flavor and complexity you can and should add back into your meal.

fondSo now you ask, “how do I use that mess and why does it have so much flavor!”  Here is my answer, anytime you caramelize something you are not only adding color but also intensifying the flavor.   If you think about the bits on the bottom of the pan as little flavor scraps you can then try to protect them a little more from being burned.  Once you burn them it is no longer useable, trust me on that one!  How do you use them?  It can be as simple as pouring off the excess oil, adding some kind of liquid, (wine, stock, juice or water) into the pan and scrapping the bits off as the liquid simmers, then add it to your sauce, soup or whatever.  OR you could use the bits and make a simple “pan sauce” right there in the pan.  Once again, drain off the excess oil/fat , add chopped shallots (or onion) and minced garlic.  Let those caramelize in the pan, while scrapping the bits  as you stir the veggies to keep them from burning.  Once they are translucent and soft, add a liquid, (wine, stock, juice or water)  bring to a simmer and cook for one more minute.  Now, you can either leave it as is or add a pat of butter and thicken it just a little.  If you want a smooth sauce be sure to put it through a strainer, otherwise leave all the chunks and bits as they are!  The only thing to do now is, in the words of Chef Brian, “Season folks, SEASON!!! Be sure to taste and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Seriously, it couldn’t be more simple but the flavor it will add to your sauces and gravies is very complicated!  No more dry pieces of meat, just make a sauce and pour freely.

Here is a simple recipe for chicken pan sauce  to get started with:

After browning your chicken drain off excess oil
Add ¼ cup chopped shallots
1 tsp garlic (or as much as you like, it’s all subjective to personal taste)
Cook over medium to low heat so you don’t burn the “Fond”

Add ½ cup white wine (or chicken stock)
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
Juice of ½ a lemon

Let it simmer for a minute
Add  1 tbs of fresh herbs of your choice, parlsey, chives whatever is on hand and wa laa, pan sauce for chicken.

Caution: if using wine, be sure to turn off gas heat before pouring.  The alcohol could ignite and you’d have a flaming sauce not a pan sauce!

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