Because I’ve made a fuss about making your own stock, how easy it is, how you should never use the phony canned stuff, I figured rather than trying to convince people how easy it is, I should encourage everyone who likes to cook, to make it more difficult and time consuming, and therefore more satisfying and enriching. Perfect your stock: clarify it.
photo by Donna T. Ruhlman
From The Elements of cooking:
Consommé: Technically, consommé is a clear soup or broth, and a “consommé double” is one that has been clarified with egg whites and fortified with additional meat and aromats. Generally, though, consommé refers only to a stock that has been clarified. The word has an appealing double meaning: it can mean finished or completed (a finished stock), but it can also mean consummate or perfect, and so we can think of consommé as stock brought to the ultimate state of clarity and flavor, stock perfected. It should be crystal clear, clear as a distilled liquid. Any clear stock (stock that hasn’t been made cloudy from too-vigorous cooking) can be clarified using the consommé method: a clarification, ideally including mirepoix, aromats and lean ground meat in addition to egg whites, are combined with stock in a pot and brought up to heat as the pot is stirred continuously (to prevent egg white from sticking to the bottom of the pan) until the raft forms. The soup is simmered gently for about an hour then carefully ladled through a coffee filter into a clean pot or container. The soup can usually be cooled and reheated without losing its clarity. Garnishes range from diced custard to julienned vegetables to grains and pastas and even Parmigiano-Reggiano (see Escoffier which lists nearly 150 consommé variations), though care must be taken to prevent the garnish from clouding the crystal clear broth. Consommé can also be served cold (often as gelled consommé).
The following is for the above simple chicken consomme, with basic garnish:
• 4 egg whites, lightly whipped
• 4 ounces mirepoix (2 ounces onion, 1 ounce each carrot and celery, chopped)
12 ounces chicken, preferably boneless, skinless thigh with fat
removed, ground in a grinder or a food processor (or ask your butcher
to do it for you).
• 48 ounces delicious chicken stock
• Optional, but recommended: chopped plum tomato, thyme, parsley, peppercorns (cracked or roughly chopped), bay leaf.
For the garnish:
• 1 ½ tablespoon carrot, brunoise
• 1 ½ tablespoon celery, julienned
• 4 shiitake mushrooms, julienneed
• 1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced
Blanche the carrot and celery together in boiling water for twenty
seconds, then strain under cold running water until thoroughly chilled.
For the consommé, combine all the ingredients in a tall narrow pot,
preferably taller than it is wide (too wide a pot spreads out the
clarification and allows too much reduction during cooking). Stir the
ingredients to distribute the egg white. Place the pot over high heat
and stir with a flat-edged wood spoon, dragging it along the bottom to
prevent egg white from sticking and scorching. As the liquid gets hot,
the protein will begin to coagulate and rise to the top. Continue to
stir gently to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. As the
liquid reaches a simmer, the solid ingredients will come together in a
mass, referred to as the raft. As this is forming stop stirring and
allow it to come together. Lower the heat before it boils, letting it
get hot enough just to simmer over the raft and sink down. You should
be able to see how clear the stock is at this point. Continue to
simmer like this for 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t let it boil or the
raft may disintegrate. After it’s cooked, ladle the consommé through a
strainer lined with a coffee filter. Your liquid should be perfectly
clear. Taste. Add salt if necessary. Serve immediately in warm
serving bowls, into which you’ve divided your
carrot-celery-shallot-mushroom garnish, or chill the consommé in the
refrigerator and cover with plastic wrap until you’re ready to reheat
and serve. If there are spots of oil on the surface, drag a paper
towel over the surface to lift them out.
Serves 8 4-ounce portions