Veal Stock & Demi Glace
The French know the secret to demi glace, and now you will, too!
One of my absolute favorite things to do in my profession as well as my kitchen at home is to make stock and stock reductions, otherwise known as demi glace. Traditionally, demi glace was made by combining espagnole, one of the original four mother sauces of classic French cuisine (a system invented and codified by chef Marie-Antoine Careme, the world’s first celebrity chef), with a reduction of roasted beef or chicken stock in a ratio of 1:1. Nowadays, most cooks skip the espagnole and reduce just the stock, making for a richer, starch-less reduction that has a more intense flavor, color and mouth feel.
Demi-glace is not one of the four mother sauces from classical French cuisine, rather part of a style of French cooking called haute cuisine. Popularized in the late 17th century, haute cuisine took a lighter approach to cuisine classique, which was the second renaissance in French culinary arts single handedly spearheaded by Georges Auguste Escoffier, followed by the starkly different and rebellious nouvelle cuisine in the 1960s.
I love opening a raw case of bones and roasting them to a deep amber brown, caramelizing the evenly cut vegetables to develop all the natural sugar, deglazing the bone pans with just enough red wine to pick up all the charred fond on the pans and caramelizing the tomato paste to a crimson red. What happens next is pure alchemy. In a large pot I combine all of my ingredients with enough water to cover over an inch on the top of the vegetables. I always put my vegetables on top to keep the bones submerged. I also use cold water to start my stock. It seems counterproductive since it takes longer to heat, but the science behind this is an integral step in yielding a clean and pure flavor from your stock; albumin, a globular protein that aids in clarifying the stock will only melt in cold water. So this step is not just beneficial for your stock, its mandate. Gelatin, a fibrous protein derived from collagen, only melts at high temperatures. Once finished, gelatin will make your stock set like Jello.
If making stock and demi glace at home seems too much science for the home cook, I can assure you it isn’t. All of the French terminology and molecular science in the world can’t save a good stock. Start with good, fresh products. Make sure whatever bones you are using have been thoroughly washed and blanched in boiling water before roasting them. This will remove any impurities you don’t want floating in your stock. Your vegetables should be peeled and cut evenly into large bias cuts. The smaller you cut your vegetables, the more plant matter you will have in your stock, which is unwanted. You will be adding a bouquet garni to your stock as well. This entails bundling fresh thyme, bayleaf and black peppercorns along with peeled garlic cloves in a cheesecloth parcel and floating it in your stock, preferably between the vegetables and bones. Make sure you tie it tight with a piece of butcher’s twine to keep it from coming apart in your stock.
Once your stock goes on the stove, it should sit on a medium heat until a simmer is achieved. I always keep a ladle and a heatproof container next to my stock pot to skim off any fat and impurities that rise to the top. If the water levels get too low, you can always add a bit more water. Never let your stock boil, always simmer. The duration of cooking time will depend on what bones you are using. Chicken bones, 3-4 hours, beef and veal bones, 6-8 hours. With beef and veal bones you can get a second rinse when you strain the original, called a remoulage. If you decide to forge ahead with a remoulage, make sure you add fresh vegetables.
After your stock has simmered and you have skimmed away all of the fat and floating impurities, you will need to strain through a fine mesh sieve. If you don’t have one, you can line a regular colander with cheesecloth or even coffee filters. Once strained, you will return the liquid back to the stove and reduce to 1/5th of the original volume. If you progressively taste the reduction process, you may find that it is bland and watery. Don’t add any salt until the very end, though. Remember, you can always add salt, but you can never take it away. The demi glace will be finished when you can thickly coat the back of a spoon. It should look like motor oil, have the consistency of cold syrup and taste like heaven. Enjoy over grilled meats, as a base for a myriad of other sauces or freeze it in individual ice cubes. The fun starts here; where you take it is up to you.