Tag Archives: reduction

Maple Mousse in a Phyllo Nest with Strawberry and Mango Sauce and a Maple Balsamic Reduction

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After all the years I’ve spent experimenting with recipes I feel I’ve got a decent grasp of which flavors work together, but tend to be a traditionalist — especially in the savory department.  Cilantro goes with onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and citrus.  Basil goes with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  Bell peppers go with celery and onions.  Once in a while, I’ll play around with one of the combinations, but not often.

I scan the ingredient list of an accomplished chef’s recipe and think, really? wondering where their inspiration comes from.  I dissect it with my own familiarity of and opinion about each flavor in an attempt to understand how one works with the other, but know that my simple lack of experience is my biggest obstacle.  It’s a slow process, but it works if I’m in the mood to tackle one of the often complicated recipes.   Again — not very often.  And even when I do, the experience is rarely if ever repeated, so my ability to grow knowledge beyond my traditional ingredient choices peters out.  Well, except for that dense, rich, dark chocolate tart I’ve made a few times with cayenne and chipotles in adobo.  But still.

A good example of my semi lack of awareness would be with maple syrup.  It makes me think of breakfast:  bacon or ham, eggs, hash browns.  I think of Fall for some reason because I think of apples.  Apples + maple syrup + walnuts = great with a German pancake.  Chalk this up to someone who grew up about as far as one can get from maple trees and their accompanying “sugaring-off” season which occurs as winter’s cold temperatures wane into spring.  Sasha Chapman’s article “The Sweet Life:  Maple Syrup Season in Quebec” published this past March in Saveur magazine provided an excellent foundation to restructure my thinking about maple flavored anything — authentically, of course.  I was drawn into Chapman’s nostalgic description of how Canadians gather in the “sugar shack” and work within the family to make syrup, waiting for that first taste of the season.

Why use maple syrup as an example to explain my not so edge-cutting ingredient combining ability?  Because it’s what the Daring Bakers were challenged with this month.  Color me surprised.  The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

I had to do a bit of reading to get my head out of my maple syrup rut and consider what flavors might work with a mousse.

It’s spring…

There are berries everywhere…

…and mangoes.

Resisting the addition of a chiffonade of basil, a piquant maple balsamic vinegar reduction was added, and voila.

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Demi-glace: A Mother of a Sauce

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.

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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.

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