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Red Wine Reduction for Beef Tenderloin

One of the first real sauces that I learned how to make was a red wine reduction...and I was instantly hooked.  It's a very simple sauce in appearance, but it's quite complex in flavor and accompanies the flavors of cooked meats really well.  To some, this may also sound like the description of a traditional Mexican mole sauce.  The good news is that it isn't nearly as complicated to prepare as a mole.

Red wine reduction plated with grilled beef tenderloin
Red Wine Reduction with Beef Tenderloin

Modern Essential Sauces


You've probably heard references to the "five mother sauces" in traditional cuisine.  If you went to culinary school, then you naturally know them really well.  These are the 5 sauces written about by Escoffier in the early 1900s that chefs have used for decades as their foundation sauces.

A lot has changed since then.

Rather than learning how to make mother sauces like bechamel and hollandaise, I'd say it's more important first to know how to make a great stock (chicken and vegetable) from scratch.  The core of a really flavorful stock is the blend of onions, carrots and celery used known as the mirepoix.  Since nearly every soup recipe (such as Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy) also starts with a mirepoix, making a good stock is an essential skill.

If you love Indian food, I'd also add that tomato-based curry is another key sauce to know how to make.  The core ingredients, onion, garlic and ginger (as well as the dozens of spices) can also be taken in a dozen different ways based on what you add next.  Though, like a mole, good curry from scratch takes time.  In my Spinach, Potato & Chickpea Curry recipe I have some tips on where to take some shortcuts and still get great results.

What's behind a Red Wine Reduction


Alright, back to the reduction.  They key ingredient here is an affordably priced bottle of a full-bodied red wine (e.g. Cabernet or Syrah).  You don't want to overspend here because you won't be drinking any of it.  But you also don't want to grab one of those cheapo bottles from the bottom shelf of the wine aisle because there isn't any character to start with.

The complexity of the sauce's flavor is assisted by aromatic herbs and the delicate flavor of sautéed shallots.  I've chosen two herbs that go well with beef - parsley and rosemary.  After rinsing the parsley and rosemary, they only need a rough chop to open up their flavor.  The rich, velvety texture of the sauce comes from a classic roux made with the shallots and butter.  As the wine reduces, the roux will help thicken the sauce while all of the flavors concentrate and intensify.

What about pork?


The first time I made this sauce, it actually wasn't for steak, it was for a pork tenderloin.  With a few tweaks, this can also be a tremendous sauce for pork (whole roasted sections rather than pork chops) and also make it a red wine friendly dish.  The first change would be to use a lighter red wine.  A Pinot Noir would be a good choice.  Next, you'll want to change out the aromatics and match the herbs to whatever herbs you'll be cooking with your pork.  Rosemary and Sage are great with pork.  I'd also add in a chopped Granny Smith apple to the mix to bring in some more fruitiness to the sauce.  Finally, rather than just shallots, I'd go back to a traditional mirepox as described above.  Maybe this needs to be its own post?

Red Wine Reduction Recipe


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients
  • 2 large Shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 1 Bottle Red Wine
  • 1 Cup Beef Stock
  • 1/2 Cup Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Rosemary

Step-by-Step Process

Red wine reducing with aromatic herbs
Red wine reducing with aromatic herbs

  1. Start by heating your pan to medium and melting the butter.  I'll usually wait until most of the most of the foam to subside while being careful not to brown the butter.  Add in the shallots and sweat them in the butter for about 10 minutes.  Slowly add in the flour and use a whisk to integrate it fully with the butter and shallots
  2. Let the shallot roux cook over medium for another 10 minutes to develop a light golden color
  3. Add in the bottle of wine, beef stock and herbs.  Bring this to a boil
  4. Reduce the heat slightly so that you have a "slow boil".  If it's just simmering, it's going to take a long time to reduce.  To reduce this to 1/4th of the current volume in an hour, you'll want to have this bubbly.
  5. After about an hour, pass this mixture through a sieve to filter out the solids.  You should have about 1 cup of sauce at this point.  Pour the reduction back into your pan and put it over a low heat.  Use a spoon to check the seasoning and the sauce consistency. At this point it's up to personal preference if you want to cook it down further or use as is.  It should be really delicious though!


Red wine reduced down to 1 cup
Red wine reduced down to 1 cup
Have any leftover?  It freezes!  Pour into an ice cube tray, freeze and transfer to a freezer bag.  It doesn't keep forever, so I recommend writing a date on the bag that's 3 months to make sure it's still tasty and usable.