The trouble with light entrees is that low-fat proteins generally are at the heart of the dish. While this is great for your health, it often is wanting in flavor. The secret to making it work can be in the sauce.
As long as you don't go crazy with the butter and cream, sauces can be a stealthy healthy tool for adding flavor and moisture.
There are several ways to make a sauce that is both flavorful and low in calories and fat.
When you cook a chicken breast, steak, pork chop and most other lean proteins in a saute pan, you generally end up with some browned, caramelized bits called fond stuck to the bottom of the pan.
That fond can be turned into a flavorful sauce. Just remove the meat from the pan, return the pan to the heat, add some liquid, then use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom. The resulting sauce can be seasoned, then simmered down until thickened.
This process — called deglazing — can be done with wine, broth or even water. If you like, before you deglaze you also can brown some aromatics, such as chopped shallots or onions, in the pan to add even more flavor.
Another route to a flavorful, low-fat sauce is to use fresh or dried fruit simmered with broth, vinegar or both.
This fresh cherry sauce is sweet, yet savory, and can turn simple sauteed turkey cutlets or chicken breasts into an entree worthy of holiday-season company. Fresh sweet cherries from Chile can be found in grocers most of the winter, but frozen cherries work fine, too.
Start to finish: 45 minutes (20 minutes active)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted and halved (about 2 cups)
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound turkey cutlets
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they are soft and beginning to color, about 4 minutes.
Add the cherries, balsamic vinegar and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the mixture maintains a vigorous simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half, about 25 minutes.
Stir in the mustard and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a shallow dish, combine the flour, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Coat both sides of the turkey cutlets with the flour mixture.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the cutlets and cook until lightly browned on both sides and no longer pink at the center, about 2 minutes per side. Serve the cutlets topped with cherry sauce.