If stock is the essence of meat and aromatic vegetables, then consommé is the essence of the goodness of stock. It is stock strengthened, intensified, and -- most importantly -- clarified. The key to a successful consommé is the formation of the raft, the mass of meat and vegetables which forms, floating, at the top of the pot. By the miracle of chemistry and physics, the raft will attrack the proteins and starches which cloud stock. A good consommé is intensely flavorful and clear as colored glass.
- 5 cups beef stock
- 12 ounces extra-lean beef, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup finely diced carrot
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 1/2 cup plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
- Finely mince the beef and mix it with two cups of the stock. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Add the vegetables and tomato; stir well. Whip the egg whites to break their tension (so they are thin instead of slimy) and stir this in as well.
- Heat the remaining stock to around 85° - 90° or sightly less, and stir in the meat mixture. Mix thoroughly. Over medium heat stir until globs of meat and vegetables begin coming to the top. Stop stirring at this point.
- The solids will rise to the top and form a "raft". The raft is critical to a good consommé, and you need do nothing to it other than make sure a three or four inch hole remains in the center of the raft as it forms.
- Heat until the consommé begins a gentle simmer. It is critical you don't boil this now; if you do, it will be a very tasty beef soup, but not consommé. Carefully ladle small amounts of stock up through the hole and pour it gently atop the raft. You want to be filtering the stock through the flavor-enhancing vegetables and meat while not disturbing the raft. Do this every fifteen minutes for one hour.
- Rinse a cheescloth well and wring out as much water as you can. Use this damp cloth to line a strainer over a smaller, clean pot. Drawing the consommé from the well in the center of the raft strain through the cheesecloth. Do not attempt to remove the raft.
- Consommé should be completely clear, and have a srong, robust flavor. Add some salt and a little dry sherry to finish it, but it should be mainly flavored with beef and vegetables. Serve in heated bowls to maintain the warmth. Here are a few classical garnishes: Consommé printaniere: Finely julienned spring vegetables; Consommé julienne: Finely julienned leek, carrot and celery; Consommé celestine: Julienne of egg crepe.