At some point when you've got as much time as I do on your hands, you get around to cooking something that caught your eye years ago when time was quite the precious commodity. But years have gone by since then and time does a good job of layering all the possibilities life tosses in our path, so the urge was buried until I saw the December issue of Saveur last year showcasing traditional meat sauces such as charcutiere and bordelaise — sauces I've made before, but with purchased demi-glace.
There was no reason not to try the demi-glace recipe since time seemed to be the biggest requirement, and it wasn't even focused time. Thankfully. How hard could it be to roast a few pounds of bones and then simmer them for a few hours?
Twenty hours, to be exact, and that's just the simmering time.
It's not often that I see meat bones in the case at the grocery store, so when I saw a couple of packages, I tossed them in the cart wondering just how many I'd need to make my own demi-glace. A second glance at the article after I got home informed me I'd need about ten, so I put the bones in the freezer knowing it may be a while before I saw more.
You're thinking I should have gone to the butcher, right? Yes, I believe I know where one is thanks to a very good friend who purchases lovely cuts of meat there for special occasions. I still haven't been there myself, however, so the idea of actually picking up the telephone to call and inquire about whether they'd have some bones for me at some point in the foreseeable future appeared far more organized than my serendipitous self seems to be these days.
It's a very sad state of affairs.
But I did happen on a few more packages of beef bones in the next few weeks, so decided that I'd give the recipe a go.
Although there seems to be a bit of variation on how one goes about making demi-glace, essentially, it's made from roasting bones with a small amount of vegetable and tomato, then slowly simmering the bones in a good quantity of water for hours before straining, then reducing. Some versions require a Sauce Espagnole to be made first, which requires a thickener such as flour, and then that sauce blended with beef stock before reducing.
In consulting Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, there is no simple recipe for demi-glace. Instead, here is what can be found:
"The classical French brown sauce starts out with a long-simmered brown meat stock that goes into the making of an equally long-simmered, lightly thickened sauce base called an espagnole. The espagnole is simmered and skimmed for several hours more with additional stock and flavorings until it finally develops into the traditional mother of the brown sauces, demi-glace. But as we are concerned with less formal cooking, we shall discuss it no further." (pg. 66, Vol. I)
Evidently, to some, however,the addition of the thickener is sacriledge and far be it from me to sway from a purist perspective on this. Besides, making an espagnole first would require additional ingredients and steps — not something I was interested in. No, I'll save that one for another time.
To make the Saveur recipe, I'd need:
- a very large roasting pan;
- a very large stock pot;
- a chinois; and/or
- a fine meshed strainer.
And I'd need to not mind the scent of roasting beef permeating my house for two days.