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What Is Consommé?
Consommé is a clarified and concentrated stock or broth that is either usually served on its own as a soup or when cooled, used as gelatin. There are a number of methods for making a beautifully clarified consommé. All involve using egg whites, which help form a raft of solids at the surface of the stock or broth. Those solids are then skimmed off, and the broth or stock strained.
What Is the Difference Between Consommé and Broth or Stock?
Consommé is often confused with broth, but it’s actually a product derived from clarified broth or stock. Visually, the difference is apparent: Consommé is a clear liquid, while broth and stock are often opaque.
Consommé starts with a stock or bone broth made with plenty of collagen-packed bones and connective tissue—this yields a smooth-textured consommé that turns to jelly when chilled. Ground meat, vegetables, aromatics, and, importantly, egg whites, are added to the stock or broth. Once the stock mixture is boiling, the egg whites create a floating filter that can then be skimmed off, leaving a very clear and flavorful soup. Since consommé isn’t meant to be overly salty, it’s best to stick with homemade stocks and broths, not the kind from the grocery store.
5 Varieties of Consommé
Since a consommé is a filtered soup, the flavor depends entirely on the broth or stock that you begin with. Some of the most common varieties are:
- Veal consommé, which is made from veal stock and darker in color. Try using Chef Thomas Keller’s Roasted Veal Stock as the base.
- Beef consommé, which is made from beef broth or stock and darker in color. Use a combination of meat and bones, like this beef stock recipe, as the base, and fortify with ground beef.
- Chicken consommé, which is lighter in color, and made from chicken broth or stock. Use Chef Keller’s Chicken Stock as the base, and fortify with ground chicken giblets or other ground skinless chicken parts.
- Fish consommé: lighter in color and made from fish stock.
- Tomato consommé, which is made from tomatoes and other vegetables, and almost colorless. Make a tomato soup, then clarify using the same egg-white method you would for a meat consommé.
How to Use Consommé
Consommé is a completely transparent liquid, and it’s usually presented in a way that shows this aspect off—being served either on its own or with minimal additions to the soup. A small cup of hot consommé makes a lovely appetizer or snack all on its own.
If adding herbs and garnishes, they should be added at the very last minute to preserve the consommé’s transparency. Consommé is sometimes served with something floating in it: chicken or fish quenelles, a poached egg, pasta, finely diced vegetables (called brunoise), or sliced chicken breast are all classic options.
Chilled consommé becomes aspic, a cold savory jelly. If the consommé is not gelatinous enough on its own, pour hot consommé over gelatin to make aspic.
Another fun trick for consommé? Poaching delicate, quick-cooking fish tableside, by pouring the hot consommé over the fish.
How to Make Consommé
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To make consommé, start with flavorful stock or broth. If your stock isn’t very flavorful, try reducing it before making a consommé. Remove the fat by skimming and/or cooling your stock—when chilled, the fat will solidify and can easily be removed. (Save the fat for another use.) In a large stockpot, slowly bring the cold stock to a boil while whisking in egg whites.
- Whisk egg whites until frothy.
- If adding ground beef, mirepoix, and aromatics like whole black peppercorn, parsley and thyme sprigs, bay leaves, add them into a large stockpot along with egg whites, mixing it all together.
- Add cold stock to the stockpot and bring to a boil.
- Simmer the consommé for about an hour, during which time the “impurities” (tiny bits of meat, bones, or vegetable) can percolate up through the stock and into the egg-white filter, sometimes called a raft.
- Use a ladle to make a hole in the center of the raft. This acts as a vent, allowing the consommé to simmer without damaging the rest of the filter.
- Continue to simmer for 30–60 minutes.
- Using the ladle, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve and serve.
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