Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)

Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)Consommé Madrilène is a crystal-clear soup that is pure and clean-tasting, typically flavored with tomato, and served chilled. But getting this crystal-clear liquid requires fat-free stock and hamburger patties!

I remember eating Campbell’s Consommé, made famous by Andy Warhol, for dinner when my mom was on her Weight Watcher’s kick. I actually enjoyed it with egg noodles, but I wonder if she knew how much sodium was in a small serving of this soup: 890 mg or 37%! Homemade consommé is definitely the way to go to avoid all that sodium, and it’s not as hard to make as its reputation suggests.

"…your soup should be light, piquant in flavor and temptingly appetizing – a bland prelude to the feast. Campbell’s famous French chefs are "at home" in making such delicate and difficult blends, giving to them just the proper strength and flavor, yet keeping them delightfully light and dainty."
-1923 ad for Campbell's Consommé Soup-
Consommé, which means "to consume", is a classic soup and "one of the most highly regarded and appreciated soups in the world" (Wikipedia). In fact, Consommé Olga was served as a second course to the first class customers the night the Titanic sunk.

The Base: Stock

Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)The first step is to make the stock. Again, since I'm not in my own kitchen with access to all the stock in my freezer that I made for previous lessons, I had to make a new batch of chicken stock. By making this a day before the consommé, I was able to skim off the layer of fat that congealed on top after it cooled in the refrigerator. The less fat in the stock, the clearer the consommé.

The next day, it was time for consommé. I seasoned the stock with salt, which I found perplexing since most seasoning is done to taste after simmering and just before serving. After seasoning, I brought it to a boil.

The clarifier and flavor booster: Raft

Raft for Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)The mixture of egg whites, lean ground beef {the less fat the better}, and aromatics to flavor the consommé such as leek, celery, carrots, and herbs is known as clearmeat. It slowly coagulates and rises to the top and forms a crust that’s known as the "raft".

Egg whites coagulate between 144 and 149°F. (Link)
Salt lowers the coagulation temperature. (Link)
The purpose of the raft is to clarify the stock. The fresh blood in the ground beef and the egg whites both contain albumin, an important protein that transports lots of things to various parts of the body, and in a raft for a consommé it acts like a natural filter or net, collecting all the impurities in the liquid as it coagulates. The egg yolks contain fat, which you don’t want in the consommé, and the egg whites contain proteins. Some chefs use just egg shells in the raft since they contain albumin. {I would love to know who came up with the idea that fresh blood and albumin clear a stock!}

"The idea of making goop that looked like a ground-beef milk shake and dumping it into perfectly good stock offered childish pleasure‑‑like making mudpies or dropping very large melons from very high places or seeing how far apart you and a friend could play catch with a raw egg before it smashed in one of your hands. And yet, despite these crude pleasures‑‑indeed, because of them‑-the end result was one of ultimate refinement."
-Michael Ruhlman in The Making of A Chef-
I cut the vegetables in the clearmeat in a fine dice, practicing my brunoise skills, so that more flavor gets extracted in a short amount of time. However, the addition of vegetables is controversial.

"It will be seen that I do not refer to any vegetable for the clarification. If the [stock] is well carried out, it should be possible to dispense with all supplementary flavoring, and, the customary error of cooks being rather to overdo the quantity of vegetables‑‑even to the extent of disguising the natural aroma of the consommé‑‑I prefer to entirely abandon the idea of vegetable garnishes in clarifications, and thus avoid a common stumbling block".
Leaving Escoffier behind, and getting back to Le Cordon Bleu at Home, I chopped the tomatoes. Tomatoes give the consommé its rich color and the acidity in them helps form the raft (similar to adding vinegar when poaching eggs) and makes the clear soup look shiny.

To the clearmeat, I added some water and hot stock to bring the temperature of it up. Then, I added the clearmeat to the hot stock and stirred it around. Before the mixture came to a boil, I stirred the consommé so that the egg whites didn’t stick to the pot and burn and to ensure the protein was distributed evenly. After it started to boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer and left it alone to do its magic (making sure everyone in the house knew not to touch the pot or burner!), since stirring would make the consommé cloudy and boiling causes any fat in the mixture to emulsify. As well, I kept checking the pot to make sure the raft had a chimney so that the liquid could bubble through.

When they’re done straining the consommé , some chefs toss the used raft with pasta and serve it to the dishwashers! (Link)
After an hour, the raft had done its important jobs: flavoring and clarifying the consommé.

The result
To remove the consommé from underneath the raft is difficult to do. I used a trick from my homemade-wine-making days. I picked up a piece of tubing from the hardware store, and I siphoned the clear consommé from one pot on the table to a cheesecloth-lined strainer in a pot sitting on the floor. It worked like a charm. I had a pot full of clear consommé.

"Consommé has to be done perfectly, or not at all." (Link)
Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)
"Rule of thumb: you can read the date on a dime at the bottom of a gallon." (Link)
Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)
This isn't a gallon (only 4 cups), and you can't read the year on the dime, but you can read the recipe!

How much time will it take
Some people might be intimidated by this recipe since it seems to require a lot of time. However, most of the time the stock or consommé is simmering on the stove and requires little of your time.

The stock required about 30 minutes of preparation time. Cooking time was 3 hours (but required only a little babysitting.)

The consommé required about 45 minutes of preparation time. Cooking time was 1 hour (but again only required a little babysitting). And to finish the consommé, the garnish required about 30 minutes.

Total time: about 6 hours, but only 1½ hours of hands-on time since the rest was just babysitting.

Here’s a video of how to make consommé. Here’s a great article on how to make consommé. And here's one on the history of consommé.

Mise en Place for Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)You can find the recipe for Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)Tasting Notes
The consommé had a mild but flavorful taste with a subtle herbal hint. The garnish of tomatoes and red pepper cut into a brunoise added color and bite to this refreshing soup. It was cool, clean, and light for a hot, summer day.

"It’s cool! It’s refreshing! It’s delicious!"
1947 ad for Campbell's Consommé Jellied Soup
Next Week (August 13)
• Soupe à l'oignon gratinée (Onion soup) pages 48-49

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $604.24 + $21.11 (chicken stock) + $8.13 (consommé) = $633.48

Butter used so far: 6 pounds, 26 tablespoons

Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)

Consommé Madrilène is a crystal-clear soup that is pure and ...

See Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes) on Key Ingredient.


Anonymous said...

You have done what I thought was impossible: you've made even consomme look and sound yummy!

Michelle said...

WOW...WOW...WOW! The consomme looks great in the dessert dishes! Super presentation...bravo!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the lessons you give with each week! I look forward to every post! Your consomme` looks stunning, as all of your dishes do!

Jenny said...

Just found your blog and really enjoy reading here. I'll be back often to visit.

Picky Palate

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post Shari! And your presentation is beautiful.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Wow! This is such an interesting post, i love learning some food trivia. Hats off to you for making this, I don't hink I would have the patience...

Anonymous said...

It looks absolutely wonderfully beautiful and tasty. Great post detailing everything...I am so crazy trying to get back to the kitchen and do these soups...soup queen that I am and all. Great photos, great presentation, great write-up, great looking soup, okay...success again! This is so why we bow to you each week, oh fearless leader!

Anonymous said...

Shari, I love reading your posts! You do so much research into the dishes! I confess...I depend on you for that piece! It leaves me free to spread 3 or 4 cookbooks out to compare ingredients and techniques! I truly love this little gathering of culinary souls!
Best wishes! Glennis

michael, claudia and sierra said...

you are my hero
that was an awesome post

very cool

Leslie said...

I always wondered how they got this soup clear! Now I know..thanks!
I does seem like a bunch of work!

NKP said...

I can't believe what a great job you are able to do when away from home! The pictures are great and your soup looks amazing.
I really appreciate the background information that you provide.

A_and_N said...

mmm the soup looks delightful! Actually at first I thought the name sounded fancy so it must be an alcoholic beverage. It was that 'clear' i guess! Lovely post :)

Anonymous said...

6 hours was too much of a commitment for me last weekend, but your post is magnificent. I learn from you each time I read yoruposts, and your research is hands down, amazing.

Jacque said...

Very impressive! Kind of amazing that such a clear liquid comes from all of those ingredients.

Keep up the great work!

LoveFood? said...

I am glad I stopped by... What pieces of work have you got in here? Simply beautiful. Love the clean and crisp favour notes. I am new to the world of food blogging... absolutely inspired by your blog! I'd be glad to have you over my side of the fence at
I will be back soon :)