This is a recipe for Vermouth Jus which I’m sharing as the sauce for Crispy Slow Roasted Pork Belly, also published today. A jus is an intensely-flavoured, meat stock reduction sauce favoured by fine dining French restaurants to serve alongside meats and fish.
What exactly is jus?
If the word “jus” conjures images of Masterchef and fine dining restaurants, you’re right on the money! Jus is a French culinary term for what you can think of as the posh cousin of gravy. It’s an intensely savoury, glossy sauce made from homemade stock or meat drippings, heavily reduced to concentrate the flavour.
Whereas a gravy is normally made from meat drippings diluted with added stock or water before being thickened with flour, a jus is never diluted (quite the opposite). A jus typically gets its thickness from the natural gelatine in meat and sometimes from whisking in finishing butter (called “mounting”).
Because it has such a strong flavour, jus is used sparingly – typically a small amount drizzled artfully around the plate!
In classical French cooking, a jus is usually made from veal or chicken stock. Veal is often favoured because it’s rich in gelatine, which is desirable. As veal bones are hard to come by these days, beef stock makes a great substitute and is what we are using today.
In its purest form, it needs very little or no extra flavours added. However it can be a great blank canvas for adding other flavours. In this case, we’re using vermouth. Closely associated with the martini cocktail, this aromatic fortified wine is flavoured gently with botanicals that subtly but beautifully flavour this sauce. The flavour is not distinctly identifiable (and you can certainly cannot detect any alcohol in it), but it adds incredible extra complexity to the sauce that makes it extra wow!
What you need for Vermouth Jus (sauce for pork belly)
If you’ve got homemade beef stock stashed away in the freezer, this is an excellent and quick sauce to serve alongside meats that will elevate any dish!
Homemade beef stock – Jus has to be made with homemade stock, and beef stock is the easiest type. Here’s why:
Store bought stock is nearly always salted, so when reduced down by 80% or more as is required to make a jus, the sauce becomes far too salty;
Gelatine from the bones and connective tissue in beef bones is what gives a homemade stock its full-bodied richness and mouthfeel, as well as natural thickness when highly reduced for use as a jus. Store-bought stock lacks this quality; and
Store-bought stock simply lacks sufficient flavour. When reduced, it just becomes salty and stronger in flavour, but not tastier. I’ve tried with various store bought brands, from economical to more premium brands. It just doesn’t work, I’m afraid.
Butter and eschallot – For slow sautéing at the start, for a base flavour foundation flavour. Butter also helps thicken the sauce slightly;
Vermouth – Instead of just plain wine, the aromatics in vermouth impart a beautiful extra complexity to this sauce. The alcohol is totally cooked out so you won’t taste even the smallest hint of it, just all the good flavour. If you can’t consume alcohol, just leave the Vermouth out. You’ll be left with straight classic jus which is equally delicious; and
Cream – For extra richness and to round the sauce out. Not much here, just 2 tablespoons.
Note: This jus is naturally thickened from the gelatine in the homemade beef stock, once the sauce becomes concentrated. So there’s no cornflour/cornstarch or flour used, unlike in gravy and other sauces. It should have a consistency like pictured below and in the video: a thin syrup, and not as thick as traditional gravies.
How to make Vermouth Jus
Any jus is straightforward to make and most of the time involved is simply leaving the liquid to simmer on the stove to reduce until it thickens and concentrates into a sauce. We’re going to reduce about 2 1/2 cups of liquid (625ml) down to just 100ml / 3.5 oz!
Sauté eschalots in butter over low heat until softened, to bring out the sweetness and create an aromatic flavour base;
Add vermouth and simmer rapidly to reduce, stirring to deglaze the pan (ie. loosen and dissolve the caramelised bits on the bottom of the pan – the fond – into the sauce). Cook until mostly evaporated. In this step, the alcohol cooks out, leaving behind just the vermouth flavour;
Add beef stock and simmer for around 10 minutes on medium until it reduces by about 3/4. During this step, the main flavour concentration action is underway!
Add cream and keep simmering until you end up with around 100ml / 3.5 oz of liquid. Colour is a key indicator here: the sauce will be quite a pale brown colour for most of the simmering time. Once it reduces down enough, it will be the deeper brown colour you see pictured here;
Strain the sauce, pressing out all the juices. As mentioned, you should have around 100ml / 3.5 oz of jus. Be sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape out every single drop when transferring from bowl to measuring jug! If you have too much, just pour it back into the pan and reduce further.
Season with the salt and pepper, and taste at this point: Stick your finger in and be prepared to be amazed at the rich, deeply savoury flavour of the glossy, fancy jus you just made! If it tastes a little thin still however, pour into a clean pan and keep reducing.
100ml / 3.5 oz is not much sauce, but this is a very intensely-flavoured, heavily seasoned sauce and is supposed to be used sparingly. This is why you’ll see only small amounts drizzled or dotted on plates at fine dining restaurants, rather than smothering everything like a gravy. You shouldn’t need more than 1 1/2 tablespoons per serving, which is what I’ve allowed for in the Pork Belly recipe;
How to serve Vermouth Jus
Jus is normally served with proteins, ie. meats and seafood. You may think a beef stock-based jus must be served with beef, but in reality it does not taste distinctly of beef at all but rather is simply “meaty”. We use beef largely for its gelatine-rich bones, not its flavour (though it does have a deeper flavour than say, chicken jus).
As such there are no hard and fast rules about what protein you can serve it with, and so I serve it confidently with Slow-Cooked Crispy Pork Belly here.
Use it sparingly when serving as it is a strong flavoured sauce. Allow around for 1 1/2 tbsp per plate. Much more than this and it can overwhelm the flavour of the protein.
On the plate of pork belly slices pictured below, I spooned it partially over the pork. The natural thickness of the jus makes it cling to the pork beautifully and pool elegantly around it.
More ways to serve Vermouth Jus
As mentioned, a beef jus can be used with any protein not just beef. You can use a jus anywhere that you would use gravy or a pan sauce, to bring a deliciously upmarket and special touch!
Here are a few more suggestions for ways to use it:
Dollop on to a pile of Paris Mash for possibly the world’s most decadent French-style mash n’ gravy!
Salisbury Steak (cook the patty, and serve with jus – a classic Japanese diner favourite, in fact!)
Poured over an omelette (another popular Japanese diner special!)
Love to know what you think if you do try this! And if you too try your hand at putting together a fancy-pants plate of food, send me a photo – I wanna see! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
If you have homemade beef stock on hand, this is a deceptively easy sauce that will elevate any dish to fine dining levels!
It must be made with either homemade beef stock. Store-bought stock or broth just won’t work unfortunately.
Makes: 100ml / 3.5 oz. It doesn’t sound like much, but you only need 1 – 1.5 tbsp per serving because it is so strongly flavoured.
- 2 tbsp/ 30g unsalted butter
- 1 eschallot , thinly sliced (aka French onion. US: shallot, Note 1)
- 3 tbsp dry vermouth (Note 2)
- 2 cups homemade beef stock (cannot use store bought, Note 3)
- 2 tbsp cream
- 1/8 tsp salt , kosher/cooking (Note 4)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper , finely ground
Melt butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add eschalot and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until softened and sweet. Do not allow to colour.
Add vermouth and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let it simmer, scraping the base of the pan to dissolve any fond (stuck caramelised bits) into the liquid, until the liquid is almost totally evaporated. The alcohol cooks out during this step.
Add beef stock and let it simmer for 6 to 7 minutes until it reduces by 3/4 (exact time will differ depending on stove strength and pan size).
Add cream and simmer for a further 4 minutes or until it changes from a pale cream colour to a medium brown colour.
Season with salt and pepper, and taste. If it tastes a bit thin, continue to reduce.
Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. If you have much more than 100ml / 3.5 oz jus once strained, then return to pan and simmer on low for a bit longer. (Be sure to use a rubber spatula so you don’t waste a drop!).
Jus is an intensely-flavoured sauce and so is used sparingly (allow 1.5 tbsp – 2 tbsp max per serve). Restaurants will typically serve it already poured with the meat, rather than a jug for people to serve themselves. Drizzle it on the plate around or on protein using a spoon (pan seared or roast slices). See in post for some ideas, including how I plated up the Crispy Pork Belly slices using this jus.
2. Vermouth – A fortified wine infused with botanicals, commonly associated with martinis! You must use a dry vermouth. Sweet vermouth will make the sauce far too sweet. I use Cinzano brand, which costs $17 from Dan Murphys. Vermouth adds subtle botanical flavours into the sauce and the extra complexity you can only get from cooking with wines.
3. Homemade beef stock – Unfortunately this recipe won’t work with mass-produced, store-bought stock. It lacks the richness that gelatine extracted from the bones and connective tissues, needed to naturally thicken the jus when reduced. Flavour quality is also paramount when used in such concentrations as a jus. Store-bought stock also has salt in it, so the jus becomes way too salty when heavily reduced.
4. Salt – If you only have table salt, just use the smallest pinch. Table salt grains are much finer than cooking/kosher salt so 1/8 tsp of table salt = more than 1/8 tsp cooking/kosher salt.
5. Storage – This will keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, or freeze for months. Do not waste a drop of this liquid gold!
Life of Dozer
You can sit there and look as cute as you want. You aren’t getting a drop of this Liquid Gold!!!