A ‘Demi-Glace’ is a very rich sauce that is itself used as a base for other sauces in traditional classic French cuisine. At one time, it would be expected to be one of the essential skills for a chef to master but it seems to be far less commonly employed than was once the case. Indeed, back in the day, when I had quite a few jobs in the food service industry, I can recall only one chef actually making his own. A few kitchens used commercially prepared concentrates in lieu of the real thing, and the rest seemed unconscious of its existence.
Part of the reason for the decline in usage is, I am sure, that the traditional preparation is so dauntingly complex as to be intimidating, and actually requires such time and expense to make it impractical for the home cook. The basic form is the result of blending reduced brown stock with an Espagnole Sauce (which is itself based on brown sauce), and then further reducing it to a thick ‘half-glaze’. The result can then be used as the basis for many classic French sauces such as Bordelaise, or Sauce Robert, or else added to stews or ad hoc sauces for a major flavor infusion.
Anyway, the ponderous and complicated process of Escoffier’s day is now frequently supplanted by methods that dispense with the traditional Espagnole sauce and either thicken the basic stock with a light starch, or else rely entirely on reduction to concentrate and thicken. Today’s post is an experiment I tried in my own kitchen using the latter process, and which produced a pretty decent result ….
Veal stock was, I think, the traditional basic stock, but recipes for demi-glaces often use a beef stock, or even chicken stock. In either event the stock you use needs to very rich, not only in flavor, but body. I won’t go through the various steps I used to make my stock for this experiment, but suffice it to say, I roasted beef bones and vegetables, and then added chicken, as well as chicken wings and a couple of pig trotters to make a very thick broth that turned to jelly in the fridge…
An Espagnole Sauce is basically a brown stock that is thickened with roux and has a little tomato paste added, and the traditional brown stock is generally (although not invariably) made with red wine and sometimes finished with a little sherry or port. Here, I sautéed some beef, carrot and onion for a little extra flavor and deglazed the pot with red wine before adding a little tomato paste for color and taste.
I started with about 2 liters of stock and to this I added a cup of red wine (a Burgundy), and a cup of port. The degree of reduction is something of a matter of preference but the basic idea is that you end up with a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon and have a good rich flavor.
I let my sauce reduce for a good four hours and ended up with just a little over two cups of demi-glace (which is shown a bit more closely in the introductory photograph).
I saved some of my demi-glace in a little jar for immediate use but another trick you can do is to chill the product in a shallow receptacle and then cut the gel into squares for storage.
Here are some squares of my demi-glace that I froze for later use. Thus far, I have used some of the batch to add to a nice beef stew I made. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the result, but it was generally pretty decent … I shall post any interesting further uses in due course …