If you’re starting this recipe with reserved stock from a previous cooking session, it won’t take more than a few hours to complete. But if you’re starting from scratch, this consommé will take several days.
After you’ve mastered making stock, sharpen your skills further by making consommé, which I sometimes call bone tea. It’s artful and refined, and when you are able to turn a cloudy liquid into something clear, you’ll feel incredibly accomplished. I know, because I was mystified by consommé for years. I looked up recipes, watched videos, and researched old cookbooks, but nothing was instructive enough. That’s why this recipe is so detailed. I want to demystify the entire process.
Consommé is achieved by building a “raft” out of mirepoix, egg whites, ground meat, and aromatics. As you slowly heat the stock and raft, the egg whites start to coagulate, attracting proteins and fats and acting like a built-in fine-mesh strainer to clarify the cloudy stock into a crystal-clear, ultra-flavorful liquid. If you can’t purchase ground chicken thigh, substitute the leanest ground beef possible to reinforce the deep, meaty flavor lost through clarification.
I serve this elegant consommé with thinly sliced truffles or matsutake mushrooms when I can, and I drink it from a favorite teacup like the prize it is. If you don’t want to use mushrooms, a garnish of perfectly brunoise-cut (finely diced) carrots, celery, and potato cooked separately in seasoned water is another lovely option (see photo).
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
- ¼ cup finely diced peeled carrot
- ¼ cup finely diced celery
- ½ plum tomato, finely diced
- 2 thyme sprigs, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 12 ounces ground chicken thigh
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2½ quarts homemade stock or other high-quality stock, refrigerated
- until needed
- 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 2 celery stalks
- 8 cups water
- 2½ tablespoons salt
- 4 cups ice cubes
- ¼ cup shelled English peas
- 24 tiny chervil leaves, or 2 teaspoons minced edible blossoms (such
- as chive flowers or calendula petals), optional
- MAKE THE CONSOMMÉ Carefully crack the eggs into a large metal mixing bowl. Pull out and discard the yolks or save them for another use (see separating eggs). Lightly whisk the whites for no more than 10 seconds (or about 25 turns of the whisk), until just barely frothy. Add the onion, carrot, celery, tomato, thyme, parsley, chicken, and salt and mix well using a wooden spoon or a stiff whisk.
- Remove the stock from the refrigerator and turn it upside down into the mixing bowl. Mix very well until a somewhat lumpy but uniform paste forms. Between the gelatinous stock, egg whites, and ground meat, the contents of the bowl will not look appetizing (it will resemble a very wet meat loaf), but the finished product will be beautiful.
- Transfer the mixture to a small stockpot (or large saucepan) no more than 9 inches across. If the pot is too wide, the raft will be weak and break apart, ruining the consommé. Place over very low heat (I use a diffuser) and cook, stirring slowly in a figure-eight pattern with a spatula or flat-bottomed wooden spoon (see Clarification Process). Be sure to stir along the entire bottom of the pan so no egg white bits get stuck anywhere. Eventually the egg whites, meat, and aromatics should form one semisolid mass in the middle of the pot. The entire clarification process takes about 1 hour.
- During the last 15 minutes of simmering, set a strainer on top of a 2-quart saucepan. Line the strainer with a clean linen napkin or paper towel. At the 1-hour mark, turn off the heat under the consommé. Hold a ladle on the raft’s edge and very slowly tilt the stockpot over the saucepan so the liquid pours through the strainer. When done, the raft will be on the bottom of the stockpot. Tilt the pot very slightly to get whatever leftover stock you can into the saucepan. Discard the raft.
- You can choose to leave the consommé as is, especially if you want a simple, impressive clear broth to start a meal (served in a beautiful teacup). Or you can garnish it with blanched and shocked English peas, finely sliced matsutake mushrooms, or shaved truffles.
- MAKE THE GARNISH Slice off the sides of the potato, carrots, and celery stalks to transform them from rounded vegetables into squared-off ones. Slice each vegetable into rectangular slabs ¼ inch thick. Stack the slabs and cut them into ¼-inch-wide strips. Slice the strips crosswise into a brunoise, or small uniform squares (about ⅛ inch). Put the cut potato in a small bowl of water to prevent browning until ready to use.
- In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of the water and 1 tablespoon of the salt to a boil. Set up a metal mixing bowl with the remaining 4 cups water, the ice cubes, and the remaining 1½ tablespoons salt. Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 30 to 60 seconds. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to the ice water to stop the cooking. When fully cooled, transfer them to a kitchen towel to drain. Cook, shock, and drain the the peas and celery in the same way. Drain the potato of its soaking water, add to the boiling water, and cook until tender but still firm, 1½ to 2 minutes. Shock the potato in the ice water and transfer to the kitchen towel. Let the veggies come to room temperature.
- To serve, divide the vegetables evenly among the consommé cups. Heat the consommé over medium heat and pour it into a teapot or other beautiful pouring vessel. Bring the cups with the vegetables to the table and pour the hot consommé into the cups. Garnish with the chervil and serve immediately.