You'll think demi-glace is a thing of magic when you see what it does to steak. Rich and gelatinous, velvety and aromatic, it only takes a tablespoon or two of this richly flavored nectar to transform pan drippings from a steak into a luxurious sauce with a three-star appearance, taste and mouthfeel; and make you look like a seasoned chef in the process. Demi-glace, or the Americanized version, "demi-glaze" -- "half glaze" in French -- is a classic ingredient consisting of reduced beef stock. Making demi-glace is a laborious, time-consuming process, but one that pays dividends in versatility and flavor.
Things You'll Need
- 5 pounds veal bones, cut to 3 to 4 inches long
- Roasting pan
- 10-quart stockpot
- Tomato paste
- Wooden spoon
- Cold filtered water
- Sachet d'epices, or herbs and spices wrapped in cheesecloth and twine
- Regular spoon
- Fine-mesh sieve
- 8-quart stockpot
- Food-storage container
- Sauce ingredients, such as shallots, garlic and mushrooms
- Room-temperature wine, water or stock
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Butter or heavy cream
- Freshly chopped herbs
Demi-Glace Is a Slow Race
Rinse the veal bones under cool running water to remove traces of blood and impurities from them and let them air-dry. You need about 5 pounds of veal bones to make about 2 cups of demi-glace.
Coat the bones liberally with oil and place them on a roasting pan. Place the bones in the oven and roast them until they have a golden-brown color, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
Pull the oven rack out and spread a few cups of mirepoix coated with a thin layer of oil around the bones after the roasting. A 2:1:1 ratio of roughly chopped white onions to one cup each roughly chopped celery and carrots comprises mirepoix.
Roast the bones and mirepoix for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the bones turn a dark, roasted-brown color. Take the roasting pan out of the oven and place it across two stove burners.
Transfer the bones to a 10-quart stockpot and set the heat of the burners under the roasting pan to medium. Add a can of tomato paste to the roasting pan and stir it vigorously with the mirepoix until it turns a dark, rusty-red color, about 3 or 4 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with 2 or 3 cups of water while scraping the fond, or caramelized bits of mirepoix and tomato paste stuck to the bottom of the pan, with a wooden spoon.
Reduce the liquid in the roasting pan by half and add it to the stockpot with the bones. Cover the bones with about 8 or 9 quarts of cold, filtered water and set it on the stove over medium-high heat. You can use tap water, but filtered water makes a clearer stock.
Place 3 or 4 black peppercorns, a few thyme sprigs, a couple of bay leaves and a palmful of parsley stems in the center of a square of cheesecloth and tie the four corners together with kitchen twine. This is called a sachet d'epices.
Drop the sachet d'epices into the stockpot. Sachets add undercurrents of flavor from the spices they contain, without overpowering the flavor of a simple stock, soup or sauce. Wrapping them in a bundle makes them easier to take out when they're spent.
Lower the heat to medium-low when the stock starts to simmer and skim the surface of froth and impurities using a regular spoon. Starting stocks in cold water helps lift the impurities and the last vestiges of dried blood from the bones, where they float to the top for easy skimming.
Skim the stock every 15 minutes for the first hour, then once an hour thereafter. Cook the stock for about 5 or 6 hours and remove the sachet.
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a second, smaller stockpot, maybe 8 quarts or so, and pour the stock, bones and all into it. You should have about 5 quarts of beef stock in the stockpot. Discard the bones and mirepoix and place the new stockpot on the stove over medium heat.
Simmer the beef stock until it reduces to about 2 cups, skimming the surface with a spoon every hour or so. You now have demi-glace to cook your steak with.
Turn the heat off and scrape the demi-glace into a food storage container and allow it to reach room temperature. Cover the container and place it in the fridge until you're ready to cook the steak.
Raise the "Steaks" With Demi-Glace
Pan-roast the steak on the stove or in the oven in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest on a plate while you make the demi-glace-based sauce.
Place the pan you cooked the steak in on the stove and set the heat to medium. Add the ingredients you want in the sauce, such as diced shallots, minced garlic, sliced peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes, along with a tablespoon of oil or a mixture of oil and butter. The choice of sauce ingredients is up to you.
Set the heat to medium and cook until the ingredients caramelize and are fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the pan is nearly dry and sizzles, a state known as "au sec," or nearly dry.
Deglaze the pan with about a cup of room-temperature wine, water or stock; lower the heat to medium; and reduce by half. Add about 1/2 cup of demi-glace, stir to incorporate and taste.
Adjust the seasoning of the sauce with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Swirl in some butter or heavy cream to add some smoothness and refinement to the flavor and appearance, and add freshly chopped herbs to taste. Serve immediately over the steak.
Tips & Warnings
- You can reduce the demi-glace by 1/2 to 3/4 to make glace de viande, a super-concentrated stock that has the consistency of thick rubber and one of the strongest beef tastes you'll ever have. Small amounts, such as a tablespoon, of glace de viande are added to a quart or 2 of water to serve as the base for numerous French sauces and soups.
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