Veal Demi-Glace: The Basics

In a column for tomorrow’s Frederick News-Post, I rant on the subject of veal demi-glace and its importance to great sauce-making. I made a massive quantity of demi recently (it’s enough time and energy and it keeps well enough that it’s worth making in large amounts). This is something absolutely achievable for the home cook, and definitely worthwhile, and it’s one of the key differences between food most people eat at home vs food you can get in a restaurant. You can buy demi-glace, but it’s far better to make your own.

The most basic things you need to make demi:

1. Time. You need three days, mostly unattended, to get your demi working. A snowstorm is an excellent opportunity to make this stuff; I have a friend who stows veal bones in her freezer just for such golden opportunities to stay at home for a few days. Mind you, this is not three days of constant work–most of the time is involved in things roasting, or simmering, or cooling, or boiling to reduce. It’s a good choice for a weekend when you’re planning to stay close to home. You can even do some of the work while you’re asleep, if you don’t mind having a stove eye running while you’re slumbering. (I do not take responsibility if you gamble on this and your house catches fire. You make your own decisions in this life.)

2. Equipment. You need a roasting pan, a large stockpot, and a strainer. I like to use a big metal roasting pan but you can use those cheap disposable aluminum jobs sold for turkeys if you must. You can also use a few smaller pots if you need to, but I like to get the veal stock working in my giant 5gal stockpot. And any strainer will do, but the finer the strainer the more particles you can remove from your stock, and the clearer and glossier your resulting demi-glace will be. I like a classic chinois like this one from Sur La Table. Actually, I use both a regular AND a fine-mesh chinois to strain my stocks, but you do what works best for you. You will also need a ladle and some containers for holding the completed veal stock and the finished demi-glace. (I have a big Cambro for the stock, and a collection of cheap GladWare for the demi.)

3. Ingredients. The veal bones are the only hard thing to find for this entire process. You also need parsley, black peppercorns, bay leaves, celery, onions, carrots, and some sort of tomato product. Oh, and water. You have water, right? I’ve usually had to special order veal bones–my last ones came from Danny Rohrer, as he occasionally slaughters a veal calf and can get me the bones from the animal. I’ve ordered them from Hemp’s Meats in Jefferson before. A supermarket can also get them for you if you ask the right person. I usually do about 25lbs of veal bones at a time, enough to be worth a special order.

I’ll follow up with more posts about the demi-glace technique over the next week or two. Feel free to post comments and questions along the way.


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