Preparing A Consomme

Bowl of broth (consomme) and fresh vegetables on wooden table
Photo by Claudia Ventrello c/o www.123rf.com

Consommé is what chefs describe as a thin clear soup. It is to all intents and purposes a strong flavoured stock which has been cleared or clarified. In most cases, such a soup will use any pieces of meat including chicken, turkey, veal, duck, pheasant and beef. Vegetarian versions can also be produced which can be based on roasted tomato and onion. The soup is a real party piece but also ideal as a late night supper. It certainly is comforting and relies heavily on being a full flavoured dish.

The defining aspect of this stock is that a clearing agent is used. Egg white is added as the clarifying agent as is the albumin protein. It binds particles to it.

Cream is never added but a variety of vegetables are often added as a garnish and these often define the type of consommé. It’s quite common to see specific titles given to a julienne of vegetables More sophisticated versions have sherry and brandy added to them.

The consommé is one of the stock in trade arts for the chef and perhaps one of those defining moments in a chef’s career when the first one is made. You often hear of how unprofessional a chef especially on television competitions if the stock is not as clear as a bell.

The consommé probably began in the Middle Ages but there are instances of it being produced even further back in time. There is some evidence the Romans understood the use of egg white as a clarifying agent and may well have produced similar soups.

Make more than you need and freeze as it is quite labour intensive at times.

Here we have a recipe for a classic chicken consommé and for a veal version. I would suggest having some vegetable as part of the stock base as you are seeking as a much flavour as possible.

Chicken Consommé

Serving size: 6 cups worth

Ingredients:

  • Chicken pieces such as breast and leg meat. These are chopped up. Ideally mince any chicken flesh to maximise flavour. Blitz in a food processor with the shallot or onion if this is possible.
  • Chicken stock which is prepared independently.
  • (Optional) A small carrot – chopped finely (1/2 cup)
  • (Optional) A small piece of celery -chopped finely (1/2 cup)
  • (Optional) A roughly chopped shallot or onion (1/2 cup)
  • Egg whites – about six should do it to help clear the particulates out of the stock. Whisk them before hand so they just begin to start foaming.
  • Salt – a pinch should do it if needed after tasting the initial broth.
  • (Optional) A slug of cream sherry or brandy (please don’t overdo it !).

Preparation:

  1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chicken pieces and any vegetable pieces.
  2. Stir and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add 2 cups of stock and stir to combine. Add the remaining 6 cups stock. (If preparing a richer version, add a small amount of sherry or brandy but not enough to overpower the soup).
  4. Add the egg whites.
  5. Place on a medium-high heat to begin the cooking process.
  6. Keep stirring frequently to avoid the mixture sticking to the pan. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and a solid mass or ‘raft’ has formed on top. Foam and bubbling will begin around the edges of the pan. Do not stir when the liquid has begun boiling as this will break the power of the egg whites for want of a better word.
  7. It is possible to make a hole at the edge of the raft so you can see whether all the egg white has risen to the surface. You might have to gently stir the bottom of the pan to loosen any of the mass that is caught but don’t be fussy about this.
  8. Reduce to a simmer and keep this going for 45 to 50 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. It would be worth tasting to check the quality of the flavour. Add salt if needed although the stock should contain some salt.
  10. Try to keep the raft as stable as possible – do not break up as a cloudy stock could be produced.
  11. Pour the clear liquid through the same gap created before through a sieve which is lined with a damp cheesecloth or piece of food-grade muslin, or even one with a paper filter. I’ve seen coffee filters used for this purpose as they quite robust. Do not press down on the solids as you only want clear liquid. Allow it to drip through. If any particles remain in broth, strain again in the same way.
  12. The consommé may be chilled until any remaining fat solidifies on the surface. Remove this fat, and discard. The consommé will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days and frozen for up to 3 months.

Veal Consomme With Chives.

Ingredients:

  • Veal stock (2.5 litres or 10 cups). 
  • 1 lb(s) (454 grams) lean ground veal
  • A small carrot – chopped finely (1/2 cup)
  • A small piece of celery -chopped finely (1/2 cup)
  • A roughly chopped shallot or onion (1/2 cup)
  • Egg whites – about six should do it to help clear the particulates out of the stock. Whisk them before hand so they just begin to start foaming.
  • Salt – a pinch should do it if needed after tasting the initial broth.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 1 thyme sprig, crushed
  • 1/2 cup of diced vegetables – whatever is to hand
  • Coarse salt – a peck or just to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper, also to taste
  • 6 black peppercorns, crushed
  • Some parsley stems (about 5)
  • A slug of cream sherry or brandy (please don’t overdo it !).
  • Chives – a small bunch.

Preparation:

  1. Add the veal stock to a large stockpot.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to a froth.
  3. Add the eggshells and any ground veal.
  4. Add the vegetables, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley.
  5. Stir the egg whites and the mixture in 3. and 4. into the veal stock which should still be cool.
  6. Bring the stock to a simmer and stir occasionally. Do not allow to boil.
  7. Stop stirring when the mixture is warm because a raft should have formed. as with the chicken consomme, the raft will break and make the soup cloudy not clear.
  8. Make a small hole in the centre of the raft with the handle of a wooden spoon. The stock should simmer through the hole, Simmer the consomme until there is a full flavour, about to 1 to 1.5 hours.
  9. The stock should be clear.
  10. Strain the consommé as for the chicken version by pouring through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
  11. Remove any fat at the surface through chilling or collect grease with a paper towel.
  12. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  13. Serve hot.
  14. Add chopped up chives.

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