It was real early summer a few years back when I made this pea ravioli with sauteed shrimp at home. Since it was one of the first warmer days of the season, I wanted a lighter sauce to go with the shrimp. However, I also wanted a sauce that was packed with flavor.
There are two terms I would like to talk about for a moment. The first is "Au Sec" which means dry in French. This technique is used when recipes call for the use of a liquid to be reduced, like making a pan sauce after searing a steak. This is accomplished by reducing the liquid until there is almost nothing left. The most common liquids used are stock, wines and vinegars.
Caramelization is the second term I would like to talk about, which is merely the act of browning the sugars in something. Now I realize that mentioning sugar allows your mind to think this is unhealthy, but there are plenty of natural sugars in our foods which are safe to eat. In stock, there are the natural sugars from the onions, celery and carrots; all of which add tremedous flavors when caramelized.
The process of caramelizing these liquids is where we introduce the technique of Au Sec. With this specific dish, I had seared the shrimp in a sautee pan with some oil. When the shrimp were finished, I placed them aside and drained out the oil from the pan. I then returned the pan to the heat and added some white wine, allowing that to reduce to aAu Sec, which gave it a brown color.
The concept is that you are removing all of the water (or as much of it as you can), leaving much of the flavors behind and deeply intensified through this caramelization. In stages, I added a little bit of chicken stock and allowed the pan to return to Au Sec. After repeating this process a few times, I added the stock one last time and returned the ravioli to the pan. I cooked it long enough to warm the ravioli through and have the sauce stick to the pasta, seasoned the dish and plated it.
The final product was exactly what I was looking for; a light sauce that complimented the shrimp and was full of deep flavor. This is a great example of not needing extravagant ingredients to make a powerful dish.