Consommé is a clarified meat or poultry stock (or a combination of the two, either brown or white), amber in colour and transparent and crystal clear in appearance. It is completed at the point of service with a garnish that may consist of cuts of vegetables, savory egg custards, farinaceous or cereal foods, small meat or fish quenelles, shredded savory pancakes, and many other items. Some consommés are slightly thickened with tapioca or arrowroot; others are served cold or jellied.
Makes: 2 liters. Cooking time: 2 hours.
— 2 egg whites
— 500 g shin of beef, free from fat and gristle, coarsely minced
— 100 g carrots
— 100 g onions
— 100 g leek
— 100 g celery
— 10 peppercorns
— 1 bay leaf
— 1 sprig thyme
— 5 g salt
— 3 liters cold beef stock, brown or white
— seasoning of salt and pepper
(1) Whisk the egg whites briskly in the pan in which the consommé is to be cooked.
(2) Add the minced beef, vegetables and herbs, salt and peppercorns.
(3) Add the cold stock and mix well together.
(4) Bring gently to the boil, stirring the soup at intervals with a wooden or metal spatula to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
(5) Once the consommé comes to the boil allow it to simmer very gently for 12-2 hours.
(6) Strain the consommé through a fine muslin with the minimum of disturbance of the crust that settles on the surface during cooking.
(7) Reboil, remove all traces of far from the surface, season to taste and, if necessary, correct the color, and serve.
(1) Do not use cabbage, potatoes. turnips, swede or parsnips when making a consommé.
(2) If white stock or light coloured brown stock is used the onions — cut in halves across — may be coloured on top of the stove before being added to the consommé during the initial stages.
(3) Do not adjust seasoning until the consommé is completed.
Serve in a consommé cup, soup bowl or soup plate. It is most usually served in a hot consommé cup placed on a saucer with a small dish paper and an underplate.
Assessment of the completed dish:
The quality of the completed dish depends upon the following factors.
(1) The criteria used in judging a foundation stock should apply.
(2) The correct method should be used in the clarification process:
(a) the shin of beef should be free of fat and sinew and be coarsely minced;
(b) good quality vegetables should be used;
(c) stock should be cold when added to the beaten egg whites;
(d) there should be the correct ratio of stock to egg whites, shin of beef and vegetables;
(e) the soup should be stirred occasionally during the initial stages of cooking;
(f) once the soup has boiled it should never be stirred but allowed to simmer gently;
(g) the crust that forms during clarification should never be disturbed;
(h) the pan should never be covered with a lid during cooking; (i) the soup should never be skimmed during cooking;
(j) the correct straining method (see Stage (6)) should be used to avoid disturbance of the crust formed during cooking.
Possible problem, causes and solution:
(1) Consommé has burnt and bitter flavor
— saucepan or stockpot used for making the soup has a thin bottom causing the soup to burn; use only a thick bottomed saucepan as once the soup is burnt it cannot be rectified.
— the heat was too fierce during the initial stages; care must be taken in the initial stages not to burn the egg whites and minced shin as this cannot be rectified
— soup was not stirred whilst bringing to the boil; the soup must be stirred at this stage to prevent the ingredients sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
— soup has been overcooked for a long period; take care to cook the soup for the correct length of time as this cannot be rectified later.
(2) Consommé lacks color
— poor quality brown stock used; add a little lacks color gravy browning at the final stage.
— if using white stock the onions were insufficiently colored; add a little gravy browning at the final stage.
— incorrect proportion of beef to stock; add a little gravy browning at the final stage.
— wrong type of meat used for clarification; add a little gravy browning at the final stage.
(3) Consommé is cloudy
— poor quality stock used.
— stock too hot when added to other ingredients at the initial stages of clarification.
— soup stirred or agitated while simmering.
— incorrect ratio of stock to egg whites and shin to beef.
— beef not minced to the correct degree of coarseness.
— soup covered with a lid during cooking.
— soup skimmed during cooking.
— potato or cabbage added.
— soup not simmered gently.
Consommé that has not clarified properly should be cooled as quickly as possible — larges amounts may be divided up to quicken the process. To re-clarify whisk the cooled soup onto either additional egg whites and finely chopped vegetables, or repeat the whole process starting with more minced shin of beef.
(4) Consommé is too dark
— poor quality stock used; only the best quality ingredients should be used as this cannot be rectified at a later stage.
— soup cooked for too long; care must be taken not to overcook the soup as this cannot later be rectified.
— once completed the soup has been kept too long in its container in a bain-marie; the soup should be made nearer to the time it is required as this cannot be rectified later.
(5) Consommé lacks body
— poor quality foundation stock used; care should be taken when preparing the foundation stock as this cause cannot be rectified later.
— soup undercooked; continue to cook for the prescribed time.
— poor quality meat used for the clarification; only the best quality meat should be used as this cannot later be rectified.
–insufficient meat used for the clarification; the weak consommé may be used to start again.
(6) Excess fat on the surface of the completed Consommé
— finished soup not properly skimmed. Take care to skim off all the fat with a ladle or soak it up with kitchen paper.
— garnish has been stewed in butter or fatty and soft quenelles have been added too soon before serving; care must be taken to avoid these causes.
(7) Particles of egg white still present after straining
— holes in the muslin through which soup has been passed; strain the soup until the particles have been removed.
— soup not cooked for the prescribed period; reheat and simmer for 15 minutes then restrain.