A labor of love

4 04 2010

Karen loves French onion soup.  She always has.  She’s begged me to make some for over a year now.  I never have because I was intimidated by it.  Think of it.  It’s all about the broth.  There your broth stands, almost alone, with no one to hide behind.  And I don’t make my own stock that often.  So I was scared.  But finally I relented.  We found a recipe in Cooking Light’s Soups & Stews cookbook for the soup.

It calls for beef stock and beef consomme.  Beef stock sounds pretty straightforward, but you know me, I over think everything.  And everyone has their own idea for how to make beef stock.  Tom Colicchio doesn’t make beef stock; he makes veal stock.  No wonder his food is so expensive.   In the end I chose a recipe that called for roasting some bone-in meat before boiling it.  We chose beef shanks and oxtails.

Karen made the stock, and truthfully that’s probably why everything else turned out so well.  The next day I set about making the consomme.  This is the entertaining part, since I didn’t read the recipe before setting to work.  It said to blend ground beef, celery, carrots, onion, egg and beef stock well.  Now, when I read “blend” it means put it in the blender.  The mixture went from this:

to this:

It looked like vomit.  I was horrified at this point, so I read in some of my other books, and they say merely to mix everything together.  I can see how that would be better.  But I’ve reached the point of no return so I put the heat to it.  The egg white is supposed to congeal everything together at the top into what they call the raft, leaving clear broth below.  You’re supposed to disturb the raft as little as possible, but poke a hole in it so the bubbles can rise to the surface as it simmers.  Honestly, for a long time it still looked like vomit.  But I finally saw a glimmer of hope with as the raft took shape.

See some clear broth in there?  I was cautiously optimistic.  Now, getting the broth out without disturbing the raft is another issue.  I decided to use a turkey baster and it worked really well.  And to my surprise, a perfectly clear broth emerged.

Hope?  Now I’m excited to make the soup.  Karen takes it from here and makes the finished product.  I’m busy with other things, as you’ll see in the next post.  We were wondering how clear the broth is supposed to be in the finished product, but the recipe calls for corn meal so it’s not going to be crystal clear.  What you see is not the finished product, but merely the soup portion of the meal.  There are also croutons and cheese included in the recipe, but that’s another post.

...to be continued...

Beef Broth Recipe

4 lbs. beef
1 1/2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 leek, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup celery leaves
3-4 parsley stems
3-4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 4ooF.  Put the beef in a roasting pan and place in the oven.  Roast until deep brown, 45 minutes to an hour.  Transfer the beef to a soup pot.  pour 1 cup water into the roasting pan and deglaze.  Pour over the beef.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches and simmer gently for 2 hours, skimming frequently.

Add the remaining ingredients.  Continue to simmer gently for 2 more hours.  Strain the broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander.  Discard the solids.  Refrigerate.  Once the broth is cool, remove any fat that has hardened on the surface.



6 responses

4 04 2010

I’d love to know what recipe you used for the beef stock – I have some beef (with bone and other bits) that I am not going to cook on its own, and stock would be good!
And that blended ground beef etc might have looked ok if you hadn’t told me what was in it 😀

5 04 2010
mark - in my own defense

Thanks Chennette, you are the fastest commenter ever.
I updated the post to include the broth recipe. Enjoy!

6 04 2010

I try to perfect the few skills I have 🙂


5 04 2010

French onion soup is intense! Julia Child says that “the onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew.” Yours looks pretty good– can’t wait to see how it looks with the croutons and cheese!

5 04 2010
mark - in my own defense

Yes, Karen carefully caramelized those onions slowly for a half hour so they were melt in your mouth sweet in the soup. I’m glad it was her doing it.

7 04 2010

Mark that consomme looks amazing!! I would love more details on the raft you used to get the consomme so crystal clear. Is there a link to a website or any names for a book you may have used?

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