Monday, November 9, 2009

How to Make Beef Demi-Glace

If you’ve ever ordered a beef dish in a restaurant and it was served with a rich brown sauce, chances are the chef created the sauce using homemade demi-glace. This incredibly flavorful beef-stock reduction sauce was invented by the French. Usually combined with red wine, brandy or cream, demi-glace is used in such classic recipes as Beef Bordelaise and Madeira as well as gourmet versions of Beef Stroganoff and Steak Diane. Demi-glace transports any sauce from ordinary to extraordinary.

But there is a price to pay for having demi-glaze on hand to include in sauces and it’s not money—it’s time. Making demi-glaze is a day-long process requiring browning, simmering, de-fatting and boiling down veal or beef bones, vegetables and spices that make up the ingredients. It is absolutely worth the effort, but set aside a day when the weather is clear and warm enough you can open the windows to let the browned-beef odors escape your home.

This demi-glace recipe is adapted from Jacques Pepin’s The Art of Cooking. While most people of my generation point to Julie Child as their cooking muse, Jacques Pepin was mine. He was a private chef in the 60’s and cooked a dinner for the executives of The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My grandparents attended and my grandmother subsequently became keenly interested in French cooking. We spent a whole weekend once cooking a fabulous French feast. I was also lucky enough to meet Chef Peppin a while back at a book signing; he was just as charming and gracious in person as he is on TV.

Jeff is the maker of all things difficult in our house. Not only is he proficient at making pastry and pasta and soufflés, he is the only person I know who regularly makes demi-glace (bless him!). Jeff first made demi-glace 20 or so years ago for a Beef Stroganoff recipe that called for "meat glaze" which he figured out was French meat demi-glace. He set about making a batch. The aroma from the demi-glace was so wonderful it made our cat roll around on kitchen floor in some sort of cat ecstasy. Jeff's perfected this recipe over the years, learning how to make it in a pressure cooker, which reduces the time from what used to take two days making it the traditional way to one day using the pressure cooker.
Veal/Beef Demi-Glace

10 lb. veal or beef bones, cut into 3-inch pieces by the butcher
¾ lb. beef scraps
3 onions, unpeeled, quartered
5 carrots, cut into chunks
2 leeks, cleaned and cut in quarters lengthwise
½ head of garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
½ bunch parsley
1 celery heart, but in half
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbls. whole black peppercorns
14 oz. can tomatoes

Note: You will need a large pressure cooker and will make the demi-glace in two batches. You can buy 5 pounds of bones and make one batch. Just be sure to use half of the vegetables and herbs.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the bones and beef scraps in one layer on two large aluminum roasting pan. Cook it for 1 hour and 45 minutes hours, stirring every 20 minutes. The bones should have a nice brown color. 

Add the carrots and onions and garlic and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lift out bones and vegetables and place half the bones into the pressure cooker and put on stove. Pour off fat from the roasting pan and discard. Add enough water to the roasting pan to cover the bottom and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Scrape the bottom of the pan to dissolve the solidified juices. Be careful not to burn this mixture or will turn bitter. Add the mixture to the pressure cooker.

Fill the pressure cooker with water to cover the bones and  bring to a boil. Then skim off as much fat, scum and any black charred bits as you can from the top. It’s important to get the black bits out as they will make the stock bitter. Add half the parsley, leeks, celery heart, thyme, peppercorns, and tomatoes. Add water to fill the pressure cooker to 2/3 full (this photo is only half full to show the green veggies and herbs). Put the lid on and cook at full pressure for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Strain the stock through a chinois (or other very fine sieve), tapping the edge gently with the palm of your hand. Do not press the solids with a spoon or ladle as they will be crushed and make a muddy brown stock. 

Cool on the counter for a half-hour and then add ice to the bowl. The fat will congeal and stick to the ice. Remove the ice and fat.
Demi-glace results from reducing this brown stock. Boil the brown stock down on high heat to about 2 ½ quarts and cool. It should be very gelatinous, slightly syrupy, and have a dark reddish-brown color. Put into the refrigerator to solidify. Store 2/3 of the demi-glace in small containers in the freeze; cut the rest into cubes and freeze separately. (Use these smaller cubes to add flavor or to thicken up a sauce.)

Steak Sauce Made with Demi-Glace

Tips and Tidbits
Order the bones from your butcher and tell him or her that you're making stock and need them cut up in 3-inch chunks. Try to get veal bones as they smoke up the house less.
Browning the bones is messy but don't use aluminum foil on the roasting pan as you need all the roasted bits of bone and meat that stick to the bottom of the pan to add flavor and depth of color.

1 comment:

  1. It really sounds like making this sauce is worth the time and effort because it has so many uses. Can't wait to try it on some rainy weekend!