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Cuisine

Embrace the consomme, do not be afraid

3/16/12 | By Paul Suplee

Consommé is beyond the shadow of a doubt the nectar of the soup gods.

Unbeknownst to many people and misconstrued by others, consommé is simply a carefully clarified and fortified stock, making it laborious and luxurious, not to mention a bit expensive to craft.

The end result is a clear and succulent essence, perhaps dotted with a small garnish, which lends its rich mouth-feel and potency to the guest without all of the fat. It is pure flavor.

Chefs simply don’t make consommé on a regular basis anymore. These soups are time consuming, uber-expensive and are in many ways misunderstood by most diners, so the effort may very well be lost on many. As such, these factors are relegating consommé to the history books as if to say that they are not worth making anymore.

Nothing could be further from the truth and when talking with a friend about it recently, he gave away a telltale sign and a normal mistake by saying “I tried it once and I ended up with egg drop soup.”

One simple fix and he will be all set the next time that he goes to make it.

The secret of the consommé is to utilize natural ingredients which will act as a filter and to keep them cold. The filter is comprised of proteins by means of egg whites and ground, lean meat.

Then, tomato product is added which adds flavor, a bite and somehow works with the protein to form the raft, something I will cover in a bit.

Simply combine the cold (and note that I stated cold) stock, egg whites, tomato product and the other ingredients listed in the recipe and stir in a stockpot.

As the soup slowly heats up, we can stir a little bit, but as the proteins heat up, they will rise to the top, forming the raft or a thick chunk of the gobbledygook that you have put in the stockpot. We want to stop stirring now.

This raft is the key to the whole shebang. Without it you will just have a tastier and fortified cloudy soup which would defeat the purpose.

As the raft forms, poke a hole in it and carefully baste the raft with the stock as it simmers. The stock will separate from all of the particulates and you will have a crystal clear consommé before you know it.

The entire process is really done in about thirty minutes, but you want to cook it for an hour or hour and a half in order to extract the flavors and essence from your ingredients.  After all is said and done, your raft ingredients are going in the bin so you might as well get everything you can out of them.

When it comes to making your garnish, use whatever comes to mind but consider two things. First, The garnish should not overpower the consommé.  With the time and effort put forth, you don’t want to showcase some carrots and some kale, do you?

Second and most important, Cook your garnish in a separate pan and in consommé that you will not use again.  The cooking process will cloud the liquid, again a stalemate situation.  Simply cook and rinse your garnish and place in the service bowl.  Then slowly pour the consommé around the garnish and you’re done.

Yes, consommés are time consuming, but then so is laundry and both are very important to understand albeit for very different reasons. Don’t shy away from this. After you make this once or twice, you will realize how easy it is and when you have friends over for dinner, you can tell them about the hours of grueling work that you suffered at their very hand.

You can revel in the fact that they will never try to make consommé themselves and then will elevate you to a pedestal of culinary mastery.  They may even call you a soup god. 

Chicken Consommé

5 qts. Fresh chicken stock

2# boneless, skinless chicken breast

12 oz. Tomato puree

8 oz. Peeled onion

4 oz. celery

4 oz. peeled carrot

10 ea. Egg whites (no yolk!)

2 ea. Bay leaves

  1. Grind together the chicken, tomato, onion, celery and carrot.  Set aside
  2. Whip the egg whites until they are frothy
  3. Combine everything cold (very important!) in a stockpot and stir well
  4. Heat the soup, stirring only until it becomes warm
  5. Allow the consommé to settle in, and as it does so a raft will form.  This will effectively become your ‘coffee’ filter of sorts
  6. Poke a hole in the raft carefully to allow you to ladle soup on the raft to keep it moistened
  7. Occasionally baste the raft, otherwise leaving the consommé at a simmer
  8. Cook for about 1 ½ hours
  9. Carefully remove the consommé with a ladle, through the hole in the raft, and run through moistened cheesecloth
  10. Serve with garnish*

*If you decide to use a garnish as I did in this article, simply prepare them but rinse them with the consommé so as to insure that it does not cloud the consommé.  Otherwise, all of this work will be for naught 

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