Monday, November 14, 2011
The Burned Parts
My dear wife Malacy is terribly afraid of burning things while sautéing on the stove or roasting in the oven. She constantly is peeking underneath to see if something is getting a tad too black to be considered slightly charred. She flips toast twenty times for grilled cheese, she slides fish around dozens of times and she wishes she had Superwoman x-ray vision when she’s making pancakes!
But a few days ago out of thin air, she said, ‘Charleston, I saw a cooking show that was talking about de-glazing the pan after sautéing and they said that really it’s the burned parts that end up adding the most flavour to a dish! Surely there is a theological metaphor in that, right.’ I quickly interjected, ‘If so, I hope it has nothing to do with eternal flames and endless heat’!
Technically, what’s happening here in her statement is this: after something has sautéed in a pan or roasted in the oven, especially after sautéing meat, most people pour a significant amount of the fat off just after they remove the meat from the cooking surface. Caramelized meat juices and herbs, however, stay behind, and they need transforming in order to be useful. A liquid, preferably wine, is added as a solvent so that you can scrape the caramelized meat juices, i.e., the ‘burned parts’, and create the basis for a tasty and versatile sauce. At that point, you’re free to add herbs for flavour, shallots and other root veggies (pureed first) for taste or even butter to thicken the reduction. What you then have, of course, is the beginnings of what is commonly referred to as a base sauce – au jus roti or fond in French – or, if you’re Southern, you’ve got gravy – though Southerners add a starch to most all of their gravies from some reason.
But Malacy wasn’t really interested in making sauces or hearing about the science of gravy; rather, she was proposing a serious theological truism without even knowing it.
The metaphor is thus: the burned parts, the remnants that must be deglazed, you see, are those parts of our lives that need scraping up and the fragments that need to be transformed into something more useful, something enduring, something renewed, something restored and something overflowing with forgiveness and peace. And transformation is God’s business.
And this is two-fold. First, who can deny that we have parts of our lives that God needs to touch? Do you have or know of a broken marriage, a strained relationship, a troubled teen? Of course you do; we all do! And that's the first part.
The second part of this, the completing couplet, consists of allowing Jesus Christ Himself to be that solvent – that flush of wine – poured into the burned over parts of our lives so that His grace, mercy and healing can transform us so that we may abide in His Divine Love.
Otherwise, the burned bits simply are useless; they stick to the pan indefinitely, or, metaphorically, they remain stuck to us – stuck to our hearts and keep the light of God’s grace and forgiveness from flooding our darkest tombs.
The point of all of this is simple: we all need healing, and we all need mercy. And we need it all the time. And God’s mercy, grace and love never run out. It’s real, it’s available – especially in His holy Sacraments – and it’s the only thing in this life and the next worth being scraped up and transformed in order to know.
Finally, next time you roast a whole chicken (or sauté pork or beef), try this simple deglazing recipe.
Deglazing Sauce for Roast Chicken
3 Tablespoons finely minced shallots
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup or more chicken stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Place a strainer set over a small saucepan. Tilt the roasting pan so the remaining fat and juices accumulate in one corner. Carefully spoon off most of the fat and discard.
Place the roasting pan on a stove burner over medium heat; add the shallots and stir for a moment until sizzling. Pour in the wine or vermouth and the stock and heat rapidly to a simmer, vigorously scraping up all the glazed bits in the pan. Cook briefly until the glaze is melted and the liquid is slightly syrupy. Strain into the saucepan.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning; you may add more wine or stock and boil it down a bit to thicken. Whisk in the butter just before serving over low heat.