Consommé is defined as a clear broth made from meat, poultry or fish served as a soup course at the start of a meal. It is full of flavour yet is very light on the palate. It is a great way for chefs to show off their skill as the technique is very specific. A perfect consommé should be crystal clear, amber to light brown in colour and be full of flavour.
My first experience of consommé was in Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, London. It was a roasted vegetable consommé and was a delight. It was beautifully flavoured and was so clear it sparkled.
The method isn’t really as complicated as the hype would suggest and the original technique can be adapted by the home chef. Purists would probably scoff at the idea of veering slightly to the left of the original method but why should we deny ourselves of this delicious dish at home? In the old French style restaurants there was a specially designated position such as the ‘saucier’ who was in charge of making stocks, soups and broths. This person, when making consommé, had a specially designed vessel for making consommé. This was a large pot with a tap at the base which allowed the chef to drain the crystal clear liquid while leaving the sediment soaked egg white at the top. It’s easy to do, I swear!
You can garnish the consommé with various things such as a chiffonnade of herbs etc. but I prefer it as it is in its pure simplicity.
500g lean beef (any cut really) 1 stick of celery
500g beef shank (with the bone) 1 medium sized onion
1½ litres water 1 sprig of fresh thyme
3 carrots 1 bay leaf
½ parsnip ½ garlic clove
2 egg whites 3-4 whole peppercorns
1. Fill a large stock pot with the water.
2. Separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs. Discard the yolks and lightly whisk the whites just until bubbles begin to form. Add to the pot of cold water.
3. Next, prepare the stock vegetables. Peel and dice the carrots and parsnip. Dice the onion and peel and slice the half clove of garlic. Add to the pot of water.
4. Trim the beef as much as possible, getting rid of anything that isn’t muscle so as to obtain a clear, and honest meat flavour.
5. Add the vegetables, trimmed meat, herbs and spices to the stock pot and slowly bring it close to boiling point.
6. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1½ to 2 hours maximum.
7. At the end of the cooking time an egg ‘raft’ should have floated to the top of the pot. This will contain the majority of sediment, herbs, spices and fat. Remove this and discard along with the meat.
8. Finally, line a sieve with a coffee filter and pass the liquid through it. You should now have a crystal clear consommé that is ready to serve.