BEEF CONSOMMÉ WITH FINO SHERRY
This recipe can be thought of as comprising three steps. The first thing to do is to roast the beef and vegetables at a high temperature in the oven for an hour. The next step is to make a stock using the roasted meat and vegetables by simmering on the stovetop for 5 hours. The stock then needs to be refrigerated overnight, before finally, the following day, you are ready to add another set of ingredients to flavour and clarify the consommé.
The clarification process is a little involved – it uses minced beef, egg whites, and vegetables to form a ‘raft’ to which any particles in the soup will become attracted, leaving a beautifully clear liquid behind. The raft will resemble a curdled mass of foamy cloud while it is doing its work, after which it needs to be removed and any consommé trapped inside allowed to strain out. The bits of essential kit that you’ll need for all this are a pair of fine-mesh sieves, a metre or so of muslin cloth, and a mesh soup skimmer – the larger you can find, the better.
For the beef stock –
- 2kg beef shin (or Osso Bucco (veal shanks) if you feel like splurging)
- 2 large carrots
- 1 large onion
- 3 sticks celery
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 dried bay leaves
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme (plus additional to garnish)
- 2 litres of water
- 125mls dry Fino sherry
- Sea salt and pepper
For the consommé –
- 250g minced beef
- 1 carrot
- 1 leek
- 1 stick of celery
- 3 egg whites
- 4 tablespoons Fino sherry extra to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 1 onion, and 3 sticks of celery, season with salt and pepper, and place these in a deep roasting tray. Arrange the beef shins, (or veal shanks if using these), atop the vegetables and place in the oven to roast for 1 hour.
Once the meat and vegetables have roasted, remove to a large pot ready to make the stock. Place the empty roasting tray over a medium heat and de-glaze using 125mls of Fino sherry, scraping the sides of the pan clean with a spatula to form a light gravy. Add this to the stock pot along with 2 litres of water, the bay leaves, peppercorns, and the thyme.
Bring the stock to a boil and, once boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 5 hours. After this time, remove the pot from the heat and strain the liquid into a large bowl. Retain the beef pieces if you wish to use these for the tian recipe, (see below), then allow the stock to cool briefly before placing in the fridge to chill overnight.
By the next morning the strained stock will have become gelatinous and a layer of fat will have formed on top. Remove the fat layer in one piece if possible and discard this. Carefully skim off any additional deposits of fat that you can see. You are now ready to start flavouring the stock using the consommé ingredients.
Roughly chop the carrot, the white part of the leek, and one stick of celery, before adding to a food processor along with the minced beef. Also add the 3 eggs whites to the processor, along with a couple of tablespoons of cold water. Blitz everything together until the vegetables are finely shredded, and everything is well combined.
Now begin to heat the stock in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mixture of mince, egg white, and vegetables to the stock and stir all the while in order to prevent the egg white sticking to the sides of the pan. As the stock starts to boil the egg white will begin to curdle - don't worry, this is what is meant to happen! As soon as the stock has reached a full boil, remove from the heat and stop stirring. The meat and egg white mixture will have formed a large curdled mass and floated to the surface - this is the clarification 'raft.'
Now turn the heat down to the lowest setting, return the pot to the stove-top, and using the stick of a wooden spoon, create a hole in the centre of the egg white raft in order to allow steam to bubble up and escape.
Gently simmer the consommé for 45 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside to stand for 5 minutes – this will allow time for any particles that are still moving free to float to the surface and be captured in the foamy raft of egg white.
Using a large skimming utensil (or slotted spoon), carefully remove the egg white raft to a fine sieve positioned atop a bowl, trying to keep the raft in as to near to one piece as possible as you do so. Continue to skim out any raft pieces that didn't make it out in the first go, adding these to the sieve as well. Now allow the liquid contained in the egg white to run through the sieve slowly without pressing on the whites (as this will re-introduce cloudy particles to the now hopefully clear consommé).
Line a second sieve with a double layer of dampened muslin, positioning this atop a second bowl. Slowly pour the consommé from the pot into the sieve, letting it drip at its own pace through the muslin and into the collecting bowl below. Lastly, add the consommé collected from the bowl beneath the egg white sieve to the muslin-lined sieve and allow to also drip through.
To serve, re-heat the clarified consommé in a clean pot. Do a quick seasoning check and add small amount of additional salt if you feel it necessary - half a teaspoon should be more than enough. Finally, place a tablespoon of Fino sherry in the bottom of each of the four serving bowls and ladle the hot consommé over the top.
Popular variations involve adding a poached egg to the finished consommé, or making a thick omelet with boletus mushrooms and then placing a cube of this in the bottom of the bowl before pouring over the liquid. After all that effort spent getting stuff out of the consommé though, I am loathe to put anything back in! Only a sprig of thyme perhaps, and only because this serves to better illustrate the beautiful clarity of the soup.