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January 11, 2013 8:04 pm
You really don’t have to make a consommé. It’s a long affair – not remotely tedious, but not inexpensive and not especially easy. Great care is needed to remove every drop of fat, to make sure it cooks but never boils, and that it does not burn (it can, only too easily). Yet serious cooks should give it a go: the emergence of a crystal-clear consommé from the murky depths of a stock and its peculiar clarification mixture is a thing of beauty and extremely satisfying to accomplish.
It is perfectly easy to cheat. You can make the stock so well that it will not really “need” clarifying. Indeed, it could be argued that what will be sacrificed in it not being shiningly clear will be amply compensated for by a superior flavour: as much flavour is lost as is gained in the process of clarification. You can even buy the consommé in a tin. It will, at least, be clear and if it lacks the savour of a broth that you have made yourself, this will in no small measure be disguised by the powerful flavourings recommended here.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
Beef consommé with oysters
The idea of putting oysters in a consommé came to me after following the traditional English habit of slipping oysters into a steak and kidney pudding. Beef and oysters, as the Chinese have observed, are excellent companions. Serves six.
For the stock
1kg beef for boiling such as silverside or brisket
4 chicken legs
2 sticks celery
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs thyme
1 tsp peppercorns
1 beef bouillon cube (optional)
● Cover the beef and chicken legs with plenty of cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface. Cut the unpeeled onion in half across the middle and char the inside on a griddle plate or dry pan until the surface is quite blackened. Add the onion, peeled carrots, celery, herbs and spices to the meats in the pan and continue to simmer very gently, so that small bubbles are just popping gently on the surface, for a good hour. Skim from time to time, carefully removing any scum or surface fat and occasionally replacing any lost liquid with a little top-up of cold water.
● After an hour, remove the chicken legs – they can be used for a salad, sandwiches or pies. Add the bouillon cube if desired – it will give extra body and flavour to the stock – and continue to cook the beef slowly for another hour. Once cooked, very carefully, ladle by ladle, strain the liquid into a bowl and allow to cool. Save the beef to eat as is, with a herb vinaigrette or salsa verde, with the carrots and some lentils, or make it into a hash with some boiled potatoes.
For the clarification
200g completely lean beef
The top section of a leek
A few parsley stalks
3 egg whites (without a trace of yolk)
1 tbs dark soy sauce
● When the stock has cooled completely, once again remove any fat or impurities – dragging a paper cloth across the surface is very effective in this instance. Prepare the clarification mixture by chopping the meat and vegetables coarsely and then chopping very finely in a mincer or food processor. In a deep saucepan, whisk the egg whites slightly, then add the chopped mixture and mix well. Whisking all the while, pour in the stock, then put the mixture on a moderate heat on the stove. Allow the mixture to come very slowly to a simmer, stirring once or twice extremely gently to stop the clarification mixture catching on the bottom of the pan. Once it has come to the surface, all impurities in the stock should have been bound in a firm “raft” and the liquid should now be clear. Add the soy sauce and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.
● Place a strainer over a second saucepan or bowl and line it with a thin cloth such as muslin or cheesecloth. Carefully ease a hole in the raft formed on the consommé and ladle out the clear liquor beneath into the strainer. Get every drop, as you will discard what remains – all the flavour should now be in the shining consommé.
For the consommé
3 shallots, peeled
1 very small glass dry sherry
● Slice the shallots into thin rounds. Place them in a small pan and add enough consommé to cover and simmer very gently for five minutes. Open the oysters, rinse them in their own juice and then strain this juice into the pan with the shallots. Add the oysters and poach them for 30 seconds so that they begin to stiffen.
● Heat the consommé separately, check the seasoning and flavour with the sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon the shallots and oysters into six bowls and pour a large ladleful of consommé over each.
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