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making consomme

  • w

I've read recipes on how to make consomme, yet I have never tried. The clairfying process is what scares me. The whole "make a raft" seems like a really mysterious thing, more scientific then cooking.

Is is as easy as it described in the books? It seems to me the process would make a huge batch of egg drop soup with egg shells in it!

Any reassuring advice?

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  1. I make consomme two or three times a year. It is a fascinating process. If you can, the first time you try it, go and buy some of that old Corningwear that is clear then you can actually SEE what is happening. The obvious recommendations - take it slow. Follow the directions carefully and and don't stress too much if the raft breaks (but be careful not to break it yourself). I have found that getting one of those Chinese-style frying sifters is a great thing (not sure what else to call them - brass wire on a stick to lift items out of a deep-fry). When the raft is ready, you want to be able to pull the whole thing out and then pick out the smaller pieces.

    Also, afterwards, strain it through a cheesecloth to make it that much clearer.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Renee

      For all that effort, is the taste worth it?

      1. re: Wendy Lai

        Clarification alone won't attribute any extra flavor. It simply serves to make your broth particle free, which is important for a classic consomme, or if the broth will be used next as the base for an aspic.

        You could, by rights, make your consomme with all the fortified flavor one would expect from such a luxuriant broth, but not clarify it; it would taste no different. However, no amount of straining would remove every little particle that only a good egg white bath can do. Well, that or a centrifuge, but all that clean-up with the centrifuge is just too much trouble.

        Anyway, don't sweat it. Just mix those egg whites (and crushed shells if you want--I never found them essential) into the stock, bring everything back to a simmer, turn the flame way-low, and leave it alone for awhile. As long as you don't mess with the raft that develops (don't go wisking it back in), you'll be fine. Carefully lift out the raft in as large a chunk (or chunks) as possible and strain the remaining big pieces out from the broth with a coffee filter. Marvel at your particle-free broth, then put in some appropriate sliced poached meat and/or a fine dice of cook vegetable, and drink your consomme.

        1. re: Daniel C

          I disagree that Wendy says it is not worth it. My consommes are usually extravagant affairs: roasted game meats and raw venison in the raft. The finished consomme has a sliver of a mushroom on it... beautiful.

          1. re: Renee

            I'm not sure, but I think I may have caused some confusion. Let me attempt to, uh, clarify:

            Just the egg whites ALONE contributes no extra flavor; it only serves to clarify the broth. However, if you follow classic consomme recipes, you will be fortifying your stock with extra flavors--more meat and vegetables is added to the base stock before or during the clarification.

            So...

            If you clarify your stock without adding the extra meat and veggies, you end up with a clarified stock, but it's not consomme.

            If you add the extra meat and veggies, but you don't take the steps to clarify, you end up with a very rich and tasty particle-ridden broth, which is not classic consomme.

            If you add the extra meat and veggies and take the steps to clarify, you'll end with a rich and tasty clarified broth--this is classic consomme.

            1. re: Daniel C

              I think the comments made so far cover the essence of making consomme, but I must correct one thing. It is not true that you should leave the raft undisturbed. You must poke a whole in it so that the liquid can go up through the raft and back down again through the flavors in the raft. Near the end of the cooking enlarge the raft so you can ladle out the consomme without removing the raft which could disturb the broth.

              Classic consomme garnish recipes include Consommes Brunoise, aux Crepe, Celestine, Chasseur, Chiffonade, Julienne, Madrilene.

              1. re: Chef Stefano

                Good point about the hole in the raft. In the past for a large quantity, I've made a siphon from fish tank plastic tubing. You put the pot on the work table and poke the tube through the hole in the raft. With the second pot on the floor, with a strainer with cheesecloth over the lower pot. Then suck the consomme up the tube and place the tube in the lower pot. The raft slowly moves down and the consomme is undisturbed. Sounds odd I know but it works,and when you have several liters to take out the chance of clouding from the ladle going in and out increases each time you pull out more consomme.

    2. It's been a while since I made consomme, and for sure I don't remember anything about a "raft". What I do remember is that you take the broth and stir into it a beaten egg white, plus some egg shell; then you strain it, and the egg white/shell mix captures the solids and removes it all. I remember being impressed by it, but for sure I don't remember that it was tricky in any way.

      1 Reply
      1. re: howard

        Those eggwhites (and usually raw ground meat and mirepoix), when it begins to form together, pulling the impurities into it, IS the "raft".

        Usually, "straining" the raft risks breaking it apart and having the impurities (that which makes it cloudy) dump back into the broth.

      2. consommes are wonderful place-holders in elaborate meals. do some appetizers, then a hot, clear consomme, then start with the fish/small meat/meat progression. i've tried lots of different ways to clarify, from the complicated to the simple. The one i like best is plain egg whites (this assumes a very flavorful stock ... the enrichments are added to make up for the flavor stripped by the clarifying). pull the stock off the heat and whisk in the egg whites. return to the heat and keep whisking until you start to get "floaters". at that point stop. i use a spoon to gather the raft into the center and when it gets big enough, i poke a hole in the center to let some of the stock bubble through. when the raft is dry on top, lift it off with one of those chinese "spiders". let the consomme continue to bubble for 5 minutes or so to make sure you've cooked out all the egg white. Then strain it, either through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. beware with coffee filters--they'll strip even more flavor. Really important: taste the consomme AFTER the final filtering. you will almost definitely need to adjust the seasoning. the simpler the garnish for a consomme the better (after all that work getting it clear, you don't want to cloud it again). one common restaurant presentation these days is to present hte bowl with a small arrangement of garnish in the bottom, then pour the consomme over. i did that this christmas with tiny amounts of shrimp/crab/chervil in the bottom and a shellfish consomme and it was well-received.