As a kid I loved clear soups, especially consommé. Probably because I was a very picky eater, I used to get scared of too many “thingies” in my food. So the simpler, the better. And you can’t get much simpler than consommé! Unfortunately most people think it’s too simple, they prefer their soup stuffed with meat, vegetables, mushroom or at least thickened with cream and flour. If you are one of those people, please don’t read any further.
Making consommé used to be a tricky and time consuming affair. Skimming the broth, clarifying it with egg whites. But then there was Heston Blumenthal and he gave us: ice filtration! Easy as hell! Anybody can do this, without any effort. All you need is time.
Step 1. Making stock/bouillon/broth
This can be done any way you like, with the ingredients you prefer. Just like your grandmother, like the Chinese or like Heston Blumenthal made perfect duck consommé. You can first brown your meat for the Maillard reaction or just throw it in a pan with onion, carrot, celery and cover with water. If you have a pressure cooker, that’s brilliant. Use it! Cook the ingredients for about 30 minutes under high pressure. (Herbs and spices are best to be added afterwards and just simmered for about 10 minutes). If you don’t have a pressure cooker simmer everything for a couple of hours in a normal pan. The only, but big difference with the “old way” is that you do not need to bother about skimming! Just cook it!
Step 2. Sieve, cool and freeze your stock
Sieve your stock through a colander in a bowl. Put the bowl in your kitchensink which you fill with cold water to cool it down as quickly as possible. Just for safety. Then transfer into a freezerbag or container and freeze it.
Step 3. Clarifying
Hang a colander in a bowl and line it with cheesecloth (muslin). Add the frozen stock and place it in your refrigerator. Wait for a day or two and voila: perfectly clear stock which doesn’t only look brilliant but tastes brilliant too. Unlike the residue which looks disgusting.
Tips, tricks and notes
- Think/measure what sieve and what bowl you are going to use and see if it fits in your fridge.
- Try to freeze the stock in a thin layer so it won’t take 3 days to defrost.
- I saw Francois Geurds from restaurant
IvyFG in Rotterdam using two bain marie trays of which one was perforated. That looked pretty convenient to me.
- One time my stock failed. I’m still not sure why, it seemed too gelatinous. Just jelly, no liquid. Probably should have waited longer.
- Adding salt or other seasoning after you’ve clarified your stock will make it less translucent again.
- I love some madeira in my oxtail consommé. Next time I’ll try adding it before the freezing stage.
- Read Harold McGee’s article The Essence of Nearly Anything, Drop by Limpid Drop (NY Times 5 sept 2007)