I was thrilled to see that The Daring Cooks were challenged to make consommé, because ever since my trip to San Miguel, consommé has been on my list of foods to recreate. Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the difference between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear consommé if we so chose to do so, and we were encouraged us to share our own delicious soup recipes!
Why was I so thrilled?
In San Miguel, I was presented with this bowl.
And when I asked, “Que es?” I was answered with a beautiful word pronounced in an even more beautiful Spanish accent, “Consommé.”
Although the word was beautiful, that answer didn’t help me, because I didn’t know what consommé was. It looked like chicken broth, but apparently there was something special about this soup that set it apart from broth. Thanks to the Daring Cooks, now I know what it is.
Here’s the short version: someone spent an entire day in the kitchen to make the most amazing broth ever. In my eyes, that’s consommé.
In San Miguel, after we were served this consommé, this beautiful platter was passed around the table.
Thankfully, I was able to watch the host to see that this gorgeous assortment was to be used as toppings for the consommé.
And the warm, crispy corn tortillas were to crumble on top.
I dream about this soup.
And I fully intended to make this soup when I heard about the Daring Cooks’ Challenge.
While going through consommé recipes, I found a vegetarian recipe that I thought would work perfectly. It did. In fact, it worked more than perfectly. When I took the stock to the consommé step and the tasted the deep, rich flavor, I knew it was all wrong for my San Miguel recreation. I followed Peta’s recipe for Vegetarian French Onion Consommé, and this consommé was too sweet for a spicy Mexican soup, but it was incredible! I’ll have to save the San Miguel challenge for another day.
I’ll share my process of making consommé, and I’ll end with Peta’s recipe.
Step one: Chop, chop, chop.
Step Two: Sweat the vegetables.
Step Three: Cover with cold water and simmer for 1-2 hours. I ended up simmering for two hours since it took so long to do steps 5, 6, and 7!
Step Four: Strain the broth from the veggies. (The recipe says to discard the veggies, but there was no way I was going to throw away pounds of organic vegetables! See my solution at the end.)
Step Five (or in my case…meanwhile): Caramelize 2 pounds of onions. This took over an hour, but the result tasted like candy! After deglazing the pan with white wine, add thyme, bay leaves, mustard, and the stock.
Then strain the soup AGAIN.
(It’s a good thing I have lots of strainers. But what I don’t have is counter space. I had a makeshift dish rack on the floor made from a laundry basket lined with a towel. I thought my solution was ingenious!)
Step Six: Fry field mushrooms and let them cool.
Step Seven: Create the “raft”. I learned that the raft is the key to making consommé. Peta explained that “a raft is a mixture of finely chopped vegetables and egg whites whisked vigorously into simmering broth and cooked over a low heat so that the proteins coagulate and form a ‘raft’ on the surface that traps the impurities (but not the flavor) of the broth thereby clarifying it.”
Step Eight: Whisk the mushroom mixture into the stock, and allow the raft to form. Skim off the bubbles and foam that arise through the hole in the raft.
My raft was partially successful.
It was successful in that I was able to ladle out and filter a bowlful of the most delicious, clear soup nectar that I’ve ever tasted. But I think around hour five I had just about tapped my patience reserve. I used a coffee filter to make sure that the very last impurities were removed from my bowl of consommé, and I was not about to repeat that process with the contents of the entire stock pot.
So I ended up making three different soups. First, I have amazingly pure French Onion Consommé that tastes incredible. Second, I replaced the caramelized onions in leftover consommé to create another French Onion Soup. And third, I used the “discarded” stock veggies to make a Creamy South Asian Vegetable Soup.
We were also challenged to make an accompaniment for our soup. Since I’m not eating baked breads, I thought this was a good time to try a raw bread recipe by Ani Phyo that my friend, Diane, shared with me. This subtly flavored bread complimented the flavorful consommé perfectly.
Creamy South Asian Vegetable Soup
- Leftover stock vegetables
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 T. garam masala
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
1. Puree all vegetables in a Vita-mix. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency. (I did not add any water as there was enough stock in the bottom of my discard bowl.)
2. Add lemon juice, garam masala, salt, and pepper, and blend again to mix through.
And should you ever desire to make the most flavorful consommé ever, try this far more challenging recipe!
Vegetable French Onion Consommé
by Peta, of Peta Eats
Step 1 – Stock
- 5 litres (5 quarts) water
- 400 gm (14 oz) onions, about 4 medium
- 400 gm (14 oz) carrots, about 6 medium
- 200 gm (7 oz) celery, about 4 large ribs
- 2 leeks
- 50 gm (13⁄4 oz) dried mushrooms, about 12
- 250 gm (9 oz) tomatoes, about 2 medium
- 200 gm (7 oz) broccoli stalk, two large stalks
- bouquet garni
Step 2 – enriching your stock to a bouillon
- 80 gm (51⁄2 tablespoons) (3 oz) butter (I used olive oil.)
- 1 kg (2 lbs) brown onions, sliced in rings
- 20gm (11⁄2 tablespoons) (3⁄4 oz) brown sugar (I used agave nectar)
- 60 ml (4 tablespoons) cognac or port (I did not use any.)
- 200 ml (3⁄4 cup + 1 tablespoon) red or white wine (I used 1 cup of white wine.)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 30 gm (2 tablespoons) (1 oz) Dijon mustard
- 2 litres (2 quarts) mushroom/vegetable stock
Step 3 – Consommé (Using the egg white raft technique)
- 1 clove garlic – finely minced
- 500 gm (1 lb) dark coloured field mushrooms (I used portabella.”
- 2 large egg whites – beaten
- 1 cup crushed ice
Step 1 – Stock
1. Sweat the vegetables in the oil or butter until soft. Add the dried mushrooms.
2. Cover with cold water.
3. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, skimming foam from surface, for 1-2 hours.
5. Strain stock through a muslin-lined sieve. Discard solids.
Step 2 – Soup
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and add the onions.
2. Add sugar and a little salt to help the caramelization process.
3. Cook over medium to low heat until the onions caramelize to dark brown. Stir regularly. This can take hours so don‟t be tempted to increase the heat to speed it up.
4. Deglaze the pan with cognac, port and wine and then pop in a couple of sprigs of thyme, bay leaves and the mustard and cook together.
5. Pour in the stock and reheat.
6. To make this soup into a consommé proceed to Step 3.
7. For the soup – taste it and adjust the seasonings.
8. It is now time to either strain out the solid bits or blend the whole lot or if you like chunky bits don’t bother. Ladle into hot bowls.
Step 3 – Consommé (clarified with egg whites)
1. Fry the mushrooms until brown and cooked. Allow any juices to cook off.
2. Add garlic and cook gently for 1 minute. You don’t want any burnt bits it will make your stock bitter.
3. Strain off any fat or remaining juices.
4. Allow the mushrooms to cool. (This is so your egg whites don’t cook.)
5. Strain the soup to remove onions etc.
6. Place egg whites in a bowl. This is the time to taste your stock and decide if it needs salt and pepper. Add seasoning to the egg whites.
7. Whisk the whites to a bubbly froth and add the crushed ice.
8. Add the cooked mushrooms. Mix together.
9. Add this mixture to the simmering stock. Whisk for a slow count of three.
10. Let it heat slowly back to a simmer. Don’t stir it again.
11. The raft is a delicate thing. It is vital it doesn’t break apart. (If it breaks apart it will all mix back into the soup, and you’ll have to start again with the egg whites.) You want to bring it up to a simmer very slowly. Keep a close eye on it. I try to push the middle back so I get a good hole. Once the raft is substantial, break a little hole in it if there isn’t already one.
12. As the consommé simmers, you will see bubbles and foam come up through your hole. Skim it off and throw it away. When the bubbles stop coming and the consommé looks clear underneath, then you’re ready to take it out. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes.
13. Removing the consommé from underneath the raft is another nerve racking procedure. You want to break as little of the raft as possible, but you have to get underneath it to remove the liquid.
14. Enlarge your hole with a ladle and spoon it all out as gently as you can.
15. You can strain it if you want to, but hopefully the liquid is clear. Once you’ve removed all of the consommé from the pot, discard the raft. If you have never made a consommé before ,Victory dances and loud cheering are totally appropriate.
16. Now you are ready to serve.
What a wonderful challenge! Thank you, Peta!
Have you ever made consommé? I’d love to hear about it!