How to Prepare a Beef Consommé

Beef consommé is a classic, clear, and richly flavored broth that makes an elegant start to any meal. Making consommé involves clarifying a broth or stock using a mixture of ground meat, vegetables, and egg whites, which trap impurities. Here’s a detailed guide to making beef consommé for two people, ensuring every step is clear and easy to follow.

We have described a similar recipe for chicken consommé and veal consommé if you want to develop your expertise further.

Ingredients

For the Beef Stock

  1. Bones and Meat
    • 1 lb beef bones (preferably with marrow)
    • 1/2 lb beef meat (such as chuck or shank), cut into small pieces
  2. Vegetables
    • 1 medium onion, halved
    • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
    • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
    • 1 small leek, white part only, washed and roughly chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  3. Herbs and Spices
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
    • 6-8 black peppercorns
    • 1-2 parsley stems (optional)
  4. Water
    • 8 cups cold water

For the Clarification

  1. Clarifying Mixture:
    • 1/4 lb lean ground beef
    • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
    • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
    • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1 tomato, chopped (optional, for added color)

Equipment

  • Large stockpot
  • Fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  • Large bowl
  • Whisk
  • Slotted spoon
  • Ladle
  • Skimmer

Preparation

Step 1: Making the Beef Stock

  1. Roasting the Bones:
    • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
    • Spread the beef bones on a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until they are well-browned. This step enhances the flavor of the stock.
  2. Preparing the Vegetables:
    • While the bones are roasting, prepare the vegetables by roughly chopping the onion, carrot, celery, leek, and garlic.
  3. Making the Stock:
    • Transfer the roasted bones to a large stockpot.
    • Add the chopped vegetables, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and parsley stems.
    • Pour in the cold water, ensuring the ingredients are fully submerged.
    • Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, skimming off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface.
    • Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 4-6 hours. This slow cooking extracts maximum flavor from the bones and vegetables.
    • Periodically skim off any scum that forms on the surface to keep the stock clear.
  4. Straining the Stock:
    • After simmering, strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a large bowl to remove the solids.
    • Discard the solids and allow the stock to cool slightly.
    • Refrigerate the stock for a few hours or overnight, which will help any fat to rise to the top and solidify.
  5. Removing Fat:
    • Once the stock has cooled, remove the solidified fat from the surface using a spoon.

Step 2: Clarifying the Stock to Make Consommé

  1. Preparing the Clarifying Mixture:
    • In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, finely chopped carrot, celery, and onion.
    • Add the egg whites and whisk until well combined. The egg whites will act as a filter to clarify the stock.
    • Optionally, add the chopped tomato to the mixture.
  2. Clarifying the Stock:
    • Pour the cold stock into a large, clean stockpot.
    • Stir in the clarifying mixture.
    • Place the pot over medium heat and gradually bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the egg whites from sticking to the bottom.
    • As the mixture heats up, the egg whites will coagulate and rise to the surface, forming a “raft” that traps impurities.
    • Once the raft forms, stop stirring and let the consommé gently simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Do not allow it to boil, as this can break up the raft and cloud the consommé.
  3. Straining the Consommé:
    • Carefully make a hole in the raft with a ladle to ladle the clear liquid through the hole into another pot, being careful not to break the raft too much.
    • Line a fine-mesh strainer with damp cheesecloth and strain the consommé through it to ensure it’s perfectly clear.
  4. Seasoning and Serving:
    • Taste the consommé and adjust the seasoning with salt and a touch of pepper if needed.
    • Reheat gently if necessary and serve hot in pre-warmed bowls.

Tips for Success

  • Skimming: Regularly skim off foam and impurities during both the stock and clarification stages to ensure a clear broth.
  • Cold Stock: Starting with cold stock for the clarification process helps the egg whites coagulate more effectively.
  • Patience: Consommé requires patience and gentle heat. Avoid boiling at any stage to prevent cloudiness.
  • Flavor: For additional depth of flavor, consider adding a splash of dry sherry or Madeira before serving.

Final Thoughts

Beef consommé is a labor of love that showcases the purity and intensity of beef flavor. This elegant dish is perfect for a special occasion or to impress your dinner guests with its clarity and depth. With careful preparation and attention to detail, your beef consommé will be a clear, flavorful triumph.

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