How to make a Perfect Demi-Glace
For those of you who aren't familiar with using demi-glace or don't know what it is, it's an incredibly rich stock made with roasted calf bones or beef knuckle, mirepouix and various herbs and aromatics. Also called Sauce Espagnole, demi-glace was catagorized by 19th century Chef, Antoine Careme as one of the four "mother sauces", had been prized for it's flavor and versatility for many centuries before, and is still valued by Chefs today. Just a small amount of demi-glace can add intense flavor to your meats, soups or sauces and with it's nappe consistency, reduces the need for off-flavor thickening agents such as flour or cornstarch.
What you'll need...
Demi-glace is surprisingly simple to make but does require some professional kitchen equipment you may not find in your home kitchen.
- 22 Quart Stock-Pot (Make sure to choose one with a heavy bottom to prevent scorching)
- 16 Quart Stock-Pot (Again with a heavy bottom)
- Conical Strainer or "China-Hat"
- Fine Mesh Sieve or Chinois
- Large Wooden Mixing Spoon
Now that you have all the equipment, it's time to go shopping! You can find all these ingredients at your local supermarket with maybe the exception of the bones. You can find these at your local butcher and they are usually relatively cheap.
- Appr. 25 Lbs of Calf Bones or Beef Knuckles (Preferably split. Your butcher can do this)
- 5 Lbs Peeled Carrots
- 5 Lbs Peeled White Onion
- 5 Lbs Celery
- 1 Cup Whole Peppercorns
- Appr. 20 Whole Bay Leaves
- 2 Bunches Fresh Whole Thyme
- 2 Bunches Fresh Whole Parsley
A lot of restaurants will make demi-glace one or more times a week and will save their vegetable scraps to throw in. Things like tomato tops, mushroom stalks, squash ends and various herbs that are to old to garnish with can all end up in the demi but many a Chef will refuse to use the ends choosing to keep the purest demi-glace possible. I've cooked demi in several different kitchen and have both used trimmings as well as not using them and while I pride myself as a purist, I couldn't really taste a difference. There are certain ingredients I WON'T add to my demi but each Chef is different...
- Garlic (I would NEVER use garlic in demi-glace but some Chefs swear by it)
- Green Onions
On to cooking...
The first thing you'll have to do is roast the bones. Some Chefs like to toss them in olive oil and season them but this is an unnecessary step in my opinion. Just lay them out on heavy duty sheet-pans and pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. You'll want to flip them a few times during the roasting process to evenly brown them using tongs. Meanwhile, cut your carrots, onions and celery into manageable chunks (they don't have to look pretty) and set aside. Once the bones are done roasting, add all ingredients including the bones to the stock pot and fill almost to top with water. For extra rich broth, deglaze your sheet-pans and pour drippings into the stock pot as well. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn heat to a low simmer. Allow to cook for about 6-12 hours stirring occasionally or until reduced by approximatly 1/4 volume. Now, carefully strain the mixture into the 16 quart stock pot using the conical strainer discarding everything but the liquid. Return the 16 quart stock pot to a low simmer for another 2-4 hours and skim any foam that may rise to the top. Once finished, strain the liquid into a plastic container or clean bucket using the fine mesh strainer and allow to cool. Fat solids will rise to the top and if desired, can be spooned off for a lower fat demi-glace. If stored in the fridge, the demi will gelatanize (perfectly normal) due to the pectin in the marrow. If you wish to store in the freezer, I recommend using smaller containers or even ice trays so that you won't have to defrost a large amount every time you use it.
So there you have it!
Demi-glace - just like that! Other than the fact that it takes a very long time (don't try to rush it) to cook, demi-glace is very easy to cook and it's easy to cook with. Demi makes a great sauce by itself but here are some ideas to try cooking into the finished demi-glace to make some other superb sauces:
- Red wine
- Shallots or Garlic
- Apple Cider