What is Beef Consommé: How to Make the Famous Dish?
My hubby has a certain opinion. He thinks that real man must eat a lot of meat. The more meat you consume on a weekly basis, more of a man you are. For him, it's simple as that. And I don't mean chicken or fish. He's big on pork, turkey, beef, steaks and red meat in general.
On the other hand, we are not as young as we used to be, aren't we? Which means, insisting on being mainly carnivore every day at our age, is not the best option for our health. You need to eat a salad from now and then, or your cholesterol will go through the roof.
The good thing is, my wide cooking experience allows me to comply with his wishes and take care of his health at the same time. So, is there a single dish that includes a lot of meat, vegetables and will provide you with necessary hydration? There is.
Let me introduce you to beef consommé, a protein bomb that will fulfill everyone’s wishes and won't leave anyone hungry.
Beef Consommé – Luxury in the Soup
Beef consommé is a type of an intense flavored glass-clear soup. It is made from beef stock or broth and seasoning. In order to make this dish the right way, these ingredients need to be clarified by simmering. If well made, consommé tastes very “meaty”.
Traditionally, the dish is served “sipping” hot or cold. When chilled, the liquid turns into a gelatinous mass; a delicacy called aspic, which can be perfect if you want a meaty meal on a hot summer day.
I can already see you frowning while question marks appear above your head. If you are a culinary beginner, many of these terms may be strange to you, so I'll make a little consommé dictionary.
- Stock – liquid made by boiling vegetables and most importantly bones. It may include meat, too. It's most commonly used to add flavor to various dishes or to make soup. The stock should be cooked for a long time, to extract bone gelatin and flavor. It is usually not seasoned.
- Broth – Similar to stock. It is any liquid that has meat cooked in it. It uses meat to get the flavor, not the bones. However, many people use this term to describe any flavored cooking liquid. Broth commonly gets some seasoning.
- Clarification – removing liquid's sediments by adding egg whites and simmering, thus making it clear.
- Simmering – Boiling something gently. It means turning the heat up, to the moment where liquid starts to boil and then reducing the temperature to the point where bubbles barely appear.
Why do I talk so much about meat and vegetables in it when it's a clear soup?
Well, listen to me, you'll need about one pound (500 grams) of meat for preparing only approximately eight ounces (250 ml) of serving. And you are never making that little if you are cooking for a whole family. On the other hand, vegetables are often added for more exotic flavor and better nutritional value.
Back in Middle Ages when this dish first became popular, not many people could afford to enjoy it. The ratio of invested groceries and obtained amount of meal set the consomme in the class of expensive and extravagant food. It was usually cooked on special occasions, for ladies and lords. Until then, soups were thick, chunky, stew-like mixtures, consumed by peasants who couldn't afford anything better.
With Renaissance and prosperity in Europe came the beef consommé. Its elite reputation lasted for more than seven centuries. A fun fact is that this dish was served to the first class passengers of Titanic on its sinking day.
So, if you are planning on making a Titanic-themed dinner party, or any themed party that relates to Middle Age, royalty or Renaissance, the consommé should be your first choice.
How to make Beef Consommé?
We’ve come to the most crucial part. How to make the famous dish?
Be aware that making the consommé requires a lot of time and patience, so plan your cooking before you start. I mean it, only making stock may take over than eight hours. People often give up and buy a tinned consommé, but believe me, it is not even close to the richness of the taste you get if you make it by yourself.
Taking you step by step trough the preparation of this meal would take possibly as much time as cooking it. Additionally, you would be tired and frustrated by all the reading. Firstly, I would have to explain to you how to make stock or broth and then proceed to explain the making of beef consommé.
So, instead of all that, I’m going to provide you with the list of the ingredients and utensils you’ll need. After that, I’ll give you a useful video tutorial and step-by-step text explanation that’ll help you achieve your goal.
For making a solid beef consommé that will feed four people, you’ll need:
- 0,3 gallons (1 liter) of clear beef stock. I recommend cooking one by yourself, not buying it.
- 2,2 pounds (1 kilograms) of beef bones
- 9 ounces (250 grams) of beef meat trimmings, preferable neck or shin
- 1 celery stem (without leaves)
- 1 small carrot
- 1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs of parsley, 2 of rosemary and 1 bay leaf)
- 1 large carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 celery stick
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 peppercorns
- 1 spice clove
Before you start cooking, all the vegetables must be chopped! (Have a look at some of the best ceramic knives you can use)
Listed items are the base for you to start from. You can always get creative and add garnishes you want, such as mushrooms, zucchini, parsley, toasted bread, etc.
To make this come true, you’ll need following utensils:
- Roasting pan (or using a lasagna pan)
- Large sauce pan (like the Copper Chef or Red Copper Pan) or stock pot
- Knife and chopping board. You can also use the best steak knives here.
- Measuring utensils
- A large bowl, a ladle, and cheesecloth or a clean linen tea towel
- Balloon whisk
- Wooden spoon (for stock making)
- Sieve (for stock making)
After you gathered all these items, you are ready to start the preparations. For further explanations, please read this step-by-step guide. I prefer this one over the others because it is simple and it offers the pictures so you can make a visual check of your progress.
If you are not a big reader or you find it easier to listen to the instructions while cooking, I recommend this video:
You may notice that this tutorial only says “add the stock” but doesn’t give an explanation on how to make it by yourself. For that part, if you decide to make a home-made stock, this video will be useful:
My husband loves the strong meat flavor, so I prefer using the double meat quantity. Using the canned consommé is just not an option for me. I like the home-made food the best, the meat gets eaten anyhow, and hubby is happy. Triple win!
If you want to make consommé with double strength, you can do one of these things:
- Double the quantity of the meat used in recipe;
- Reducing the standard strength consommé’s volume;
- Replacing all of the water in the original recipe with equal amount of already prepared consommé.
The dilemma here is what happens with leftover meat and vegetables after preparing the stock and consequently consommé? Vegetables usually lose most of their flavor because of the long cooking process. However, they are still not useless. I usually add some of the freshly cooked vegetables, blend them all together and make a creamy potato soup.
On the other hand, leftover cooked meat is tender and has a great taste, but only if you pull the meat off the bones and out of the pot after approximately one hour of cooking. Don’t confuse the things I’m saying, remove only the flesh while leaving the bones and the gristle to be cooked until the end. You can use this meat for making risotto, for example.
Beef Consommé vs. Beef Broth
Even some of the more experienced cooks often mix consommé with regular broth. Because of that, I assume the little culinary dictionary I gave you, won’t be able to explain the difference thoroughly. I don’t blame you; the differences are not that noticeable at first.
For someone who eats these dishes, most important differences between these two are consistency and flavor. Consommé is thicker than broth and rich in flavor. On the other hand, broth has more vague and weakened taste.
The differences crucial for cooks are following: broth is made by simmering beef meat (if it is bones – then it’s stock) in water for hours. Cooks usually add aromatic ingredients to enhance the flavor. It should have particles floating, but it shouldn’t be cloudy.
Consommé is derived from broth or stock by filtering out all the impurities. You cook the broth, clarify it by mixing it with egg whites and then you have the consommé.
They also differ by their primary usage. The broth is usually used as a soup base or added to dishes for its flavor. Consommé is used as a sauce basis and for flavoring the dishes, too. The second one is often used as a separate beef flavored cup-drink.
The terms broth, stock, and consommé tend to be interchangeable in culinary praxis. However the main thing you should remember is this - the broth is made from meat, the stock is made from bones, and consommé is made from broth or stock.
This distinction may help you while talking to a professional cook, shopping for your groceries, ordering in the restaurant or answering a question in a quiz, you never know.
Consommé Types and Substitutes
For starters, beef consommé is not the only consommé there is. This is the list of classic consommés you may have eaten, prepared or heard of:
- George Sand – includes white fish and crayfish quenelles, morels, soft carp roe on croutons made from French baguette;
See Also: Barbara's Halibut Recipes
- Saint-Hubert – made of white wine, game, and lentil royale, julienne of the game.
As I have already mentioned, my husband likes the red meat more than any other, so the beef consommés are the ones we prefer.
But, if you are having an idea of throwing a royal themed dinner party, as I said before, all of these are useful options. You may have a person who doesn’t eat red meat because of religious reasons or a vegetarian at your party, and you still want to offer them an authentic experience. What do you do?
In the first case, you’ll just make a chicken or fish dish, obviously. But what would you do with the vegetarian? Fortunately, there are vegetable consommés and mushroom broths, which can serve as an excellent substitute. Using unflavored gelatin will mimic the effect of the bones and connective tissue. However, you should know that this is compatible only with vegetarian diet, but not vegan.
Many recipes call for the beef consommé to make more complicated dishes. The problem is, as I already said, home-made consommé takes a lot of time to be prepared, and it can be expensive. So, if you are planning on just using it as a base for some other dish, all the effort may not be worth it.
This is the only situation when I allow you to buy already-prepared consommé. BUT, before you rush to the local supermarket, consider using the home-made stock. It is, in fact, a non-clarified consommé.
Another suitable substitution is the condensed beef broth. The relation between these two dishes is circular. You can replace consommé with condensed beef broth, if necessary, and you can substitute beef broth with consommé. You should use the one that is available to you at the moment of cooking.
However, the stock is a slightly better substitute because of the bones and the gelatinous effect they produce. You'll never get the original strong beef flavor, but you'll save yourself some time. Choosing the right substitute depends mainly on your taste preferences.
I hope now, after all this explaining you understand what the beef consommé is. Also, I think you can now confirm my statement that one consommé will provide you with a lot of necessary nutrients.
It may be expensive and difficult to make, but as you can see, you don’t get just one dish from it after all. If you use all of its potentials, consommé will provide you with the whole lunch.
Play some medieval music, eat the consommé and feel like a real royalty.
Making your dearest hardcore meat eaters happy and satisfied while doing this, is just the bonus side-effect, worthwhile the effort.