Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Tale of The Veal Demi Glace

Okay, I've decided to chronicle my veal demi glace ordeal right here. I have a feeling that the veal demi glace is going to turn out to be an "ordeal" (as opposed to a simple cooking project) on par with some of my other notable cooking ordeals in my past. For example, the time I tapped my own maple trees to make maple syrup, or my semi annual salsa canning experience. The only difference is this time, my former neighbor and fellow cooking ordeal participant Ann has moved away to upstate NY, so I am on my own. I was inspired to do this by Anthony Bourdain - I have just finished his "Les Halles" cookbook and he swears by having a good veal demi glace in your freezer as a "mother" for any kind of sauce you'd like to make. You all should know that I have never successfully made a good stock in my life, so to make a demi glace is risky business for me - it is a stock reduced with wine and shallots - sort of like a stock concentrate. I also have never cooked veal in my life, but he has suggested veal as the universal "mother" base. I admit, I like veal, but can understand why people might be a little squeamish about it.

I got veal bones from Sparrow's Butcher Shop in Kerrytown. I had to order them ahead of time - I ordered 5 lbs. because I thought that's how many would fill my stock pot. When I picked them up, the guy behind the counter, who I think is Bob Sparrow himself, asked if I lived in Dexter This is a neat little bit of info, but the "426" phone number prefix is an old time Dexter exchange, so you can tell someone that's lived in Dex for a while by that number. Someone newer might have a "424". So it's like a Dexter secret handshake or something when you say your phone number. As it turns out, he lives in Dexter, too. I have to hold off from begging him to move his butcher shop/fruit market to Dexter - we so desperately in need of one there. Business is probably better at Kerrytown anyway. So, I have resolved to shop there more often. His beef and veal are naturally raised, not confined, etc., so it takes some of the squeamish "veal factor" away from my demiglace.

So, Chef Bourdain says to roast the bones with some tomato paste and flour on them, so that is what I am doing now. Stay tuned for more of my ordeal - this could be a mutli day affair! I am sure that I will be thinking "Why am I doing this?" several times during the event. I consider this like hitting the wall while running or working out, or going through transition while in childbirth. Every time I have a cooking ordeal, I hit the wall. It is not that Chef B. hasn't warned me - he said to make demi glace and stock a couple times a year, because you definitely won't want to be doing it more often than that. Hmmm, this sounds suspiciously like canning salsa to me.....

...several hours later...

I have roasted the bones. Chef B says not to have any blackend parts, but I do have some. I think I will peel them off before I put the bones in the stock pot. I am now carmelizing my vegetables - another roasting pan, lightly oiled, with peeled carrots (25%) celery (25%) and peeled white onions (50%) - this should be enough to fill 1/3 the stock pot. By the way, I am thinking of using my canning pot instead of my stock pot because it is bigger. Don't know yet. Chef B is right - it makes your house smell wonderful! As soon as I get the pot on the stove started with a flame tamer under it, I am thinking of leaving the house for a while. This makes me slightly nervous, but in theory it should be okay. The stock has to cook for 8-10 hours, it says! Yikes!

Okay, so how browned do the veggies need be to be caramelized, I wonder? I have checked and my stockpot will work, except I have one bone too many. I have put that in a big saucepan to make extra. I am wondering what water to use - we have hard water where I live - should I use hard, I am wondering? I never cook with softened water. Anyway, I've decided to use bottled water, because demiglace is supposed to be clear, not cloudy.

I've started the stock pots on the stove while I am awaiting the carmelization. Supposed to add a spring or two of thyme, some peppercorns, some bay leaves and the vegetables. Then, it is 8-10 hours of making stock.

After the stock is done, then the demi glace starts. That will be tomorrow's adventure, I think.
......

.... did finish it finally. It yielded about 4 ice cube trays worth. I had to buy the ice cube trays, because I did get rid of the ones I had. They are in the freezer. I am still not sure if I reduced it enough. What you are supposed to do is use a cube or two of it when you are making any one of a number of sauces, or to liven up the taste of soups or stews. I haven't used any yet, but I did taste it and it tastes pretty good. Since finishing, I've been making real gourmet food like Boboli pizza (today) or frozen enchiladas (yesterday). Maybe I will try to use it this weekend. All in all, it probably wasn't worth the effort. Demi glace can be bought.

6 comments:

Adrienne said...

wow! nice. Its intersting to read about people's real-life kitchen experiences. and damn-it I want to learn to can stuff.

Anonymous said...

Wish me luck, I am in the process of making this, 3 hours into the reduction on the stove top.

Anonymous said...

I too was inspired by Chef B and his stock chapter. I tried making his pork chop recipe, while good, he states that it would be better with some demi. So here I am, two days into the process. I am 3 hours into the last stage of reduction and it is taking forever. Where is the syrup I expected? I am surfing the web to find some help and I found you. I will continue to reduce (without throwing in some roux, as suggested by epicurious) because it worked for you. Thanks for your tale, it provided me patience.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I too was inspied by Chef B. I tried his pork chop recipe which was good but he said would be better with demi. So here I am two days into the process. I am three hours into the reduction and no sticky goodness. So I am surfing the web looking for help. It appears you did have success using the Les Halle method, so I will stick to it and avoid Epicurious' suggestion of a roux step. Thanks for the tale it was entertaining.

Mom said...

Years later...I will respond to recent posts. Veal demi-glace, while lovely, just wasn't worth the effort for me. It reminded me very much of making maple syrup. Lots of effort, lots of boiling, for very little output. I ended up with a half filled gallon sized bag of demi-glace cubes - and I probably should have reduced them further than I did. I would put them in gravy or soup, but the flavor just wasn't that concentrated. Hope others had more success than I did!

campbell said...

I've been doing this for years. It IS WORTH IT! It may seem fairly protracted but most of the time is spent with the stock pots just simmering away all day and they don't need watching. I make big quantities at a time and freeze them.
I use the results with almost any other sauce and the richness and sheen is unbelievable.
Throw a good steak in the pan. Deglaze with red wine. Throw in a few cubes of demi glace - change your life.