Cook the Book: Pan Sauce for Roasted Chicken

Cook the Book: Pan Sauce for Roasted Chicken

[Photograph: Donna Turner Ruhlman]

Yesterday we shared a recipe for Michael Ruhlman's dead simple and totally fantastic Perfect Roast Chicken from his latest technique-based cookbook, Ruhlman's Twenty. We alluded to a particularly wonderful Pan Sauce for Roasted Chicken and today we're sharing that recipe with you.

Ruhlman's Perfect Roast Chicken needs at least 15 minutes to rest before carving so that all of those great juices don't bleed out onto the cutting board. And it's in those 15 minutes that this pan sauce is made.

The sauce comes in two variations, rustic and refined, both of which are equally tasty. Both recipes begin with the onions and carrots that the chicken was roasted in to make sure all of that flavor isn't wasted. Once they're sautéed and softened, the pan is deglazed with white wine and the fond (the little crispity bits) is scraped up and incorporated into the sauce.

If you're going the rustic route, your sauce is done here, but if you prefer a more refined sauce, read on.

The refined version calls for the addition of butter softened shallots, a selection of herbs including parsley, tarragon, and chives, and a kick of acid from either mustard or lemon.

No matter which version of the sauce you chose, this is the ideal accompaniment for Ruhlman's chicken. It's full flavored and meaty, but delicate enough to let the pure roasty flavor of the chicken shine through. And like any great sauce, this is one that calls for plenty of crusty bread, since there will invariably be a pool of sauce left on your plate just waiting to be sopped up.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Ruhlman's Twenty to give away this week.

Adapted from Ruhlman's Twenty by Michael Ruhlman. Copyright © 2011. Published by Chronicle Books. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved

  • Yield:about 3/4 cup
  • Active time: 15 minutes
  • Total time:15 minutes


  • Rustic Sauce
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • Refined Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives 
  • Squeeze of lemon (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional) 


  1. 1.

    For the Rustic Sauce: Put the pan in which you have just roasted a chicken over high heat and cook any remaining skin for 1 minute or so. The juices will cook down and stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour off all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat if you wish. Add the onion and carrot and stir with a flat-edged spoon to coat the vegetables with the fat. Cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the caramelized bits. Cook all the wine off (the fat will begin to crackle). Continue to cook until the onion and carrot are caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup hot water, deglaze the pan again, and let the water cook down completely. When the crackling begins, stir the onion and carrot until they become nicely caramelized. Add another 1 cup hot water and cook until reduced by about two-thirds.  

  2. 2.

    For the Refined Sauce: While the wine and water are cooking down, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, adding the shallot as the butter melts. Cook the shallot gently until translucent. Remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce into the saucepan with the shallots and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the remaining butter and swirl it in the pan until completely incorporated into the sauce. Stir in the herbs. (While the sauce is reducing, separate the legs from the chicken. You can add any juices accumulated on the carving board to the pan sauce.)  

  3. 3.

    Add the lemon juice or mustard, if you wish. Arrange the chicken on plates. Holding back the solids in the pan, pour the sauce over the chicken, or spoon the sauce over the chicken.