A clarifying ritual
I started serving consommé on New Year’s Eve at Mesa Restaurant back in the mid-eighties. I continued to offer it on New Year’s Eve at every restaurant I cheffed at after that.
Making this soup allows me to get lost in the process; the waiting stages give ample time to take stock of the year behind me. It offers up a sort of symbolic clean and pure fresh palette for the coming year to those who experience it.
One can get lost in the act of peering into the bowl of clear amber broth, seeing the delicate garnishes on the bottom, breathing in the reassuring complexity of the soup and tasting the simple, pure essence of its components.
It’s an involved process but the outcome is well worth it. I share this recipe with you in the hope that you will consider making this a New Year’s ritual of your own.
Consommé is a classic French clarified stock, or clear soup that has been around since the sixteenth century. The French word consommé literally means “consumed” or “finished,” indicating that the soup is more refined than a simple broth.
Because of its potent savory flavor and crystal-clear finish, chefs often consider a good consommé the Rolls Royce of broths, well worth the hours of effort.
Makes 2 quarts
4 ounces lean ground beef 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion 1/4 cup finely sliced leek 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 1/2 cup peeled, finely chopped carrots 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme (stems and leaves) 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (stems and leaves) 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (stems and leaves) 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed Freshly ground black pepper 8 large egg whites, lightly beaten 8 cups chicken stock, defatted
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground meat with the onions, leeks, celery, carrots, thyme, tarragon, parsley, garlic, and black pepper. Puree on high speed.
2. In a bowl, combine the egg whites with the pureed meat mixture. Stir well to blend.
3. Place the stock in a large pot and add the "raft" (the pureed meat-egg white mixture). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent the raft from sticking to the bottom and sides of the pot. (Once the stock has come to a boil, do not stir again.)
4. Reduce to a simmer and puncture a hole in the center of the raft for the stock to circulate through and clarify. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gently poke a hole in the raft large enough to fit a ladle.
5. With a ladle, gently scoop out the consommé into a clean pot or bowl. Strain through a layer of cheesecloth to finish clarifying. Serve hot with desired garnish.
Lemon slices Diced seeded tomato and finely shredded basil leaves Thinly sliced mushrooms and minced fresh parsley or chervil Small, thin bread rounds topped with finely shredded Parmesan and toasted Diced carrots and fresh peas Finely shredded savory crepes Chervil chiffonade
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