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Silky red wine & shallots sauce

I’ve wanted to make a red wine sauce for a long time, especially a sauce not requiring any butter, cream or milk, just to challenge myself. When Simon came home with fresh sturgeon from the farmer’s market, I became inspired.

Actually, the root of the inspiration was a sturgeon dish I had at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino. The fish had been pan fried and served with a mushroomy, truffle “emulsion,” which may or may not have had wine as an ingredient (but muy sabroso, nonetheless).

So I hit the Web and found a recipe for Striped Bass in Agrodolce Sauce (literally, “sour-sweet”) at Epicurious. Lacking white balsamic vinegar, I substituted regular ole Monari red balsamico. I used Estancia’s 2005 Monterey Pinot Noir, but I’m sure any dry red wine would do.

The result was a lovely, unctuous sauce, which went delightfully with the pan fried sturgeon that Simon cooked up. Both the sauce and fish go well with a side of rich rice cooked in chicken stock.

Since he didn’t make fish for eight people, we had plenty of leftover sauce. This recipe yielded approximately 1 3/4 cups. It’s quite thick, enough that I might purée part of it. Quite reminiscent of chutney, come to think of it! I imagine it would go quite well with chicken, or even on a cheese sandwich.


  • 1 cup shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cippolini or sweet red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • (optional) 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • (optional) 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup red balsamic vinegar, preferably not already reduced
  • 1/3 cup prunes, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 to 2 ounces golden brown sugar; amount depends on the tartness of the wine and vinegar —maybe omit if the balsamico used is already reduced and sweet


  1. In a wide bottomed sauce pan, sauté the shallots and onion in the olive oil over medium high heat until golden. Stir in the garlic oil and throw in the bay leaf (and mustard seed and thyme, if using).
  2. Add the remaining ingredients (red wine, balsamic vinegar, prunes, raisins and brown sugar). Raise the heat to high to bring the mixture to a vigorous simmer.
  3. Lower the heat to medium high, and continue simmering uncovered until the liquid has become syrupy. The liquid will reduce to about half, or just under half of its original volume. This should take about 30 minutes; this is where having a broad bottomed pan helps. 🙂
  4. Serve warm (preferably) on top of, underneath or to the side of fish, chicken or cheese.

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