We had reached the second course without incident, and I was beginning to relax slightly, though my hand still had a tendency to tremble over the consommé.
“How perfectly fascinating!” I said, in response to a story of the younger Monsieur Duverney’s, to which I wasn’t listening, my ears being tuned for any suspicious noises abovestairs. “Do tell me more.”
I caught Magnus’s eye as he served the Comte St. Germain, seated across from me, and beamed congratulations at him as well as I could with a mouthful of fish. Too well trained to smile in public, he inclined his head a respectful quarter-inch and went on with the service. My hand went to the crystal at my neck, and I stroked it ostentatiously as the Comte, with no sign of perturbation on his saturnine features, dug into the trout with almonds.
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 18 – Rape in Paris)
Remember Murphy’s Beef Stock/Broth that we made a few weeks back? This little bowl taste heaven is a further refinement of that.
Consommé is a clear soup made from the richest stock you can find. Which means that you have to start with homemade. Canned or packaged stock isn’t going to cut it here. It has to be strong, rich, homemade stock, or nothing at all.
So — you’ve got your beef stock. I know, I know — that’s about 8 hours of work I just skipped over there. But with make a big enough batch, you’ll have enough to make soups and sauces throughout the cold winter months.
Or, you could use this method to make chicken consomme. Just substitute finely diced chicken breast or well-trimmed thigh meat (supermarket ground chicken WON’T work — plus, it’s really gross) and chicken stock. That cuts your stock prep time by about half.
Options, my friends. You always have options.
Next up is the clarification, which is what turns a stock or broth into consomme. As it heats, the protein in the egg whites and ground meat coagulate and trap impurities suspended in the liquid, leaving a crystal clear, dark-amber nectar like no other.
As they solidify, the egg whites combine with the meat and mirepoix to rise to the surface and form a raft. As the mixture simmers, the raft ingredients further flavour and enrich the consomme. And that’s what keeps me coming back to this classic technique — even though it can seem like a lot of work to make what is, essentially, clear soup — the contrast between the delicate clarity of the consomme and its bold, strong flavour is Soul Feeding.
Serving suggestions include anything that shows off the transparency: a brunoise of carrot, onion and celery in the bottom of the bowl, julienned crepes floating on the surface, or a simple green onion curl for garnish as I’ve done here.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: Deep golden, crystal clear and rich with beef, consommé warms to the core, no matter how cold or dangerous your walk home.
Yield: 2 Quarts/6 servings
Egg Whites – 3
Lean Ground Beef – ½ lb
Onion, fine chop – 1 medium
Carrot, fine chop – 1 medium
Celery, fine chop – 1 medium stalk
Tomato Paste – 1 Tble
Beef Stock, cold – 2 Quarts
Bouquet Garnii (tie in cheesecloth or a tea ball)
Peppercorns, lightly crushed – 10
Thyme – 2 sprigs
Parsley Stems – 6
Bay Leaf – 1
Salt & White Pepper – to taste
Sherry (optional) – to taste
Whip the egg whites until slightly frothy. Put the whites, meat, onion, carrot, celery, and tomato into a small stockpot and mix. Add the stock to the pot and stir well, then add the bouquet garnii.
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the clarification from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stop stirring once the raft has begun to form on the stock’s surface. Make a hole (chimney) in the raft’s centre as it forms; this allows the liquid to boil through the raft, extracting as much flavour as possible.
Reduce heat to ensure a slow simmer. Do not allow to boil. Simmer for 1 hour, then carefully ladle through several layers of cheesecloth set in a strainer.
To serve immediately, return the consommé to a clean pan, and add an ounce or two of Sherry, if desired. Simmer for 5 minutes, to evaporate most of the alcohol, the ladle into bowls. Alternatively, cool the strained consommé quickly and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Keeps in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Freeze up to 6 weeks.
Once you have poured the consomme into its serving bowls, remove any fat droplets that have accumulated by gently dragging the corner of a paper towel across the surface.