Put those mental image
s of spending 24 straight hours chained to the cooker out of your mind. Demi glace takes a great deal of time but very little effort to make, is absolutely dirt cheap
, and will change the way you cook. No other cooking task will have as dramatic effect on your dishes as making demi glace.
You will need:
- A very large stock pot. This recipe assumes that you are starting out with a full gallon of water, so you want at last a two gallon stock pot to accomodate the liquid, other ingredients, and the foam that will pop up when the stock begins to boil. If you do not have a pot of this size, reduce the remaining ingredients proportionally to the size of your pot. But you want to make a lot, honest!
- Five pounds of beef bones. Traditionally, demi glace is made using veal bones. I've used both, and found little if any difference in the final product.
- Two medium onions, chopped. All vegetables should be chopped into big chunks.
- Four carrots, unpeeled, washed, chopped.
- Three celery stalks, chopped.
- A bottle of dry red wine. Cheap wine is fine, as long as it's not sweet. Night Train is right out.
- A gallon of water.
- Tupperware or other freezing container, ice cube trays, and Ziploc freezer bags.
- NO salt. NO other spices. This is a beef-flavour ingredient you are making, not a salt, or pepper, or tarragon-flavoured one. When you use the final product in a dish, add salt, pepper, or green things at that point. (The vegetables are here because you won't notice that they're there, but you'd notice if they weren't.)
Start off by spreading your beef bones on a roasting pan. Put them in a 450 degree oven and roast the bones for an hour, turning once. Add the vegetables. Continue roasting for 20-30 minutes, or until the veg appear browned.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place on top of your stove elements. Turn the elements on to medium and pour in your bottle of wine. Using a pair of tongs or scraper, scrape all the yummy browned stuff (this is called "fond") from the bottom of the pan. The wine helps here since there are yummy things in the brownness, some of which are water-soluble, and some of which are alcohol-soluble. When all the bits are scraped up, dump the whole mess (and it will look like a mess, as good as it smells) into your stock pot. Add the water. Please note that at this point you've done maybe 5 minutes of actual work.
Bring the liquid to a boil. This is the time consuming, boring part. Stand over your stock with either a mesh strainer or better yet one of the little nets from a pet store they use for catching goldfish (cost: $2). As icky foam appears on top of the stock while it boils, skim it off. Throw it away. This is not yummy. Five or maybe ten minutes into the boil, the foam will subside. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the mix, and let it simmer away.
At this point you are trying to leech all the goodness from the bones and veg. Ideally, you will want to cook this stock for up to 8 hours to do this. Overnight is convenient. Go to bed. After all, you've done all of 15 minutes work over a hot stove tonight.
The stock is now done. The bones and veg have given their all. You should strain the stock into another pot (or a large bowl, then back into the stock pot). Don't worry about filtering the stock at this point -- that comes later. Squish all the goodness out of the hopefully-now-crumbling bones and spongy veg. Total time spent in kitchen now: 25 minutes (including cleaning up the bowl and the stock you spilled, you clumsy oaf!)
Again bring the stock to a boil. You are now reducing the stock. Continue boiling until half the liquid is gone. If you are hard-core, stick with it until it's reduced to a full third of the original liquid. Either way, don't sit around in the kitchen, but stroll through every five minutes or so to give it a quick stir.
Finally, run this completed stock through some cheesecloth to get all the little particles out. This is a necessary step -- don't just use a colander or you'll regret it later when you make a sauce and it has grit in it!
At this point, you can freeze the stock into Tupperware containers, or if you're really bright, freeze it in ice cube trays! Then you can take the demi-glace-cubes and pop 'em into Ziploc bags for future use.
Total time of cooking and cleaning: under 45 minutes. Result: about two quarts of rich, flavourful demi glace. Smell of kitchen: oh my God!
How to use this stuff? Either use a lot of it, and make a really rich-flavoured beef sauce, or use a few cubes to "mount" a different sauce. You'll be stunned at the flavour you get out of a couple of little cubes. My favourite and quick use of these is to cook a steak in a cast-iron pan, deglaze that pan with 1/3 cup of red wine, then add 4 stock cubes and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. (Some dried mushrooms at this point would be nice as well). Reduce this sauce until it's thick enough to be, well, sauce. Mount with a teaspoon of butter. Result: a steak dinner with a fantastic sauce that tastes like it took hours to put together, when in reality the whole meal took about ten minutes.
sneff adds that, regarding the difference between veal and beef bones, "Younger animals natually have more gelatin in their bones - which means veal bones will give a more sticky, glazed result - and possibly a larger yield. Try using veal leg and shin bones next time - see if you notice the difference then." I did use veal shank bones last time, and didn't notice a flavour difference. Try sneff's excellent suggestion if you have a good butcher :).
sneff also adds: "Also, I would also recommend not covering the pot - not entirely anyway. A nicely simmering stock can turn into a boil with a tight lid. Maybe recommend a slightly ajar lid. Be very wary of suggesting home cooks leave a stock on over night. Maybe get them to make the stock during waking hours first so they can gauge their stove's flame level, evaporation rate and stock pot capacity first. A burned stock is at best a nasty mess, and at worst - deadly." Also great advice. I'm used to my pot and my stove, so I know that leaving the electric element on "minimum" results in a perfect low simmer. Your mileage may vary.
Finally sneff says: "Lastly - Once the stock is strained, I would recommend refrigerating to allow removal of the fat before reducing. If you simmer the stock down with the fat, it will incorporate into the demi, leaving it cloudy, and...fatty." Again great. Go vote up sneff's wups! With any soup or stock, you can refrigerate it for a few hours and the fat will both rise to the top and solidify. You can then easily scrape it off.