Miracles and such

Sous vide is amazing, maybe even revolutionary. But sous vide is not intended to replace other methods of cooking. Sous vide SUPPLEMENTS other forms of cooking. It simplifies, preserves, pasteurizes, it tenderizes, it prevents moisture loss, it does lots of things. But sous vide will not make its own sauce in the bag any more than any other method will.

Sous vide will not caramelize, or Maillardize. As the popularity of sous vide grows, more and more people are developing an interest in all aspects of cooking. I am thrilled to see people taking an interest in sauces, for a number of reasons. First of all, chefs have achieved a certain level of job security by convincing people that you cannot make sauces at home and must therefore depend on a high priced professional.

Second of all, sauces are the difference between some cooked meat and a hearty, satisfying and wholesome stew. There is no reason that people cannot make sauces at home, other than the fact that they have been convinced that they can’t.

The devil you say

High among these sauces are deeply darkened ones–Espagnole, Demi-glace, even just your basic beef jus bewilder home cooks, try as they might. Recipes in cook books tend to start off with discouraging precursors like “pick a cool and breezy day” or “instruct your butcher to provide you with some veal and beef knuckle bones, sliced, if possible.” As these recipes proceed to demand complicated bundles of bouquet garni and other incomprehensible terms and methods, the cook gets discouraged and gives up–mission accomplished.

This is not necessary, and thanks to social media, evil though it may be, it is now easy for home cooks to get the inside scoop on all kinds of knowledge that were impossible to acquire before. This sauce is one of those. I will tell you that I timed myself when I made this, and it took just less than half an hour. Not because I am fast–I am slow, I work out of a chair. Even if I COULD hurry, my stove can’t. My stove is no faster than anyone else’s stove, and I use the same overpriced, mediocre pans that everybody else either got for Christmas or picked up on sale. No teflon in my arsenal, a story for another day.

Let’s get started!

Any primal cut can be used to acquire the meat to make demi-glace. You can’t just use fat, but there is always gristle and unusuable. So, I went to the local big box “Wholesale for the Public” store and bought a whole beef tenderloin. Pretty easy to acquire these days.

I took it out of the bag and went to work removing all the stuff that doesn’t belong on there. I have another article that explains breaking down the tenderloin from beginning to end, we will pretend you either already know or already read my article. Taken out of the bag, it looks pretty straightforward and it is. Butchers would have us believe that great skill must be acquired to clean a filet, when actually it is one of the easiest cuts to ready for cooking.

I proceed to remove all the fat, even the chain, which sometimes I use for sauce. The chain is a long strip of gristly meat that you can kind of see in the pic above–it runs the full length. In the old days we cleverly left it attached to the filet, but this practice was eventually discontinued. This time I saved it for sv processing, maybe we will make some brochettes out of it.

So, now that it’s all cleaned up, I have at least a couple of pounds of trim. I preheat the largest skillet I’ve got to about 250 F/121 C, spray on a little Pam or whatever and stage the meat into the pan. I never “throw” things into pans or ovens or tanks.

Many of you have heard me say this before. LISTEN. We all look, we all smell, but we don’t like to touch and our anxiety turns off our ears.  It should sizzle, but it should not pop. Stirring cools off the pan, so resist the urge. Brown well on the first side, then stir/flip.

Continue this process until there is no more visible red. I mean like all the way through. The meat should be “cooked.” It might not be tender, but it has achieved at least 165 F/74 C internal.

Not yet, be cool, it’s only been a few minutes. I kept the pan on “8” for what that is worth. You can slow it down and multi task, but I just focused on this to see just how fast we could pull it together. Patient, but hot.

Getting there. Fat is melting out. That’s good. And I will tell you why here in a minute.

Okay, this dog will hunt. Add some celery and carrots–four stalks and one each, cut up. Don’t peel the carrot, throw the ends in there, etc. Sometimes there is sand in the celery, wash that off, d’oh. Even the celery knob, the root end–perfect for this. No onions just yet.

People don’t like to say “fry.” It sounds hacky and crude, which it is not. Fry is equal to saute or roast or grill or whatever, it just means there is enough oil in the pan to caramelize stuff, and, by golly, isn’t that what we want?

Stir just enough to get the veggies down into the bottom of the pan, and they will coat with the oil/grease/tallow whatever. Ironically, all that fat will be removed later, so people just need to chill.

Same deal. Don’t stir too much. Let it sizzle. The veggies start getting brown. The meat did not get any browner. Amazing, eh? People think there is a bunch of timing involved, calculations, nah. It makes itself.

Hack up an onion, peel and all, in you go, same thing.

Stir enough to get the onions into the oil. Don’t stir to much. I already said that, right? Right.

Fry. It’s a beautiful thing. This can be done in the oven, too, and then we would call it roasting. Same thing. Just don’t try to do it in a sous vide pouch.

The veggies provide the color, even more than the meat does. You will see.

Listen. Smelling is good now. It’s doing it’s thing. You do nothing.

Yeah, Baby

Okay, schluss, here we go.

Add some tomato paste, I dunno, like half a cup or so. Stir it around with the tongs or whatever so it coats everything.

Continue the same process. After a while, you will get this crust developing on the bottom of the pan…

It usually starts in one spot no matter what kind of stove or pan you have, so rotate the pan. I guess you could hold the pan still and rotate the stove. You know what I mean.

Feel the love.

Now we’re getting somewhere. You don’t have to add wine, and do not use wine to create volume. Wine is for flavor. Water is for volume. Say it after me. People have crazy expectations for alcohol laced grape juice.

Half a bottle of Pinot. Don’t use BAD wine, but it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Some tannin in there is good.

Now you have a thick slurry, and the crust is releasing from the bottom of the pan. Keep simmering, reduce the wine mixture until it threatens to spit at you.

Not yet. We have a choice here. You can remove from heat and add like a cup of flour, stir it in, return to the heat and start adding water 1/3 at a time. It will thicken immediately and you end up with the basic gravy thing. This time we left the flour out so we can reduce it as much as we want without it getting too thick.

It’s already very dark, but the contents have not released the flavor yet. Add enough water to fill the pan–about 2 quarts which is almost 2 liters, as we all should know.

Bring to a boil and you will feel the rest of the crust come off the bottom.

Now you have another choice. You can put a Ziploc gallon freezer bag in a 2 quart plastic pitcher and stage the sauce into it. You might need two bags, but this method is pretty safe. Lower the bags in the 183 F/84 C tank, you don’t even have to seal them, just hang the opening over the edge of your Lipavi vessel and secure it with the lid.

Or you can put it all in the oven, in the pan, in another pan, whatever. Or, you can just do it on the stove, and that’s what we’re going to do. Four hours is good. Take a nap. Watch the game. Fuggedaboudit.

Here comes the thinking part

Keep in mind–we do not want the sauce to reduce in this stage. Another common mistake. As it reduces, the stock gets thicker and clings to the debris. That’s not good. If it simmers down, add water–you should end up with at least 2 quarts, almost 2 liters.

Strain it through a colander, not a strainer. THEN through a strainer. This minimizes loss. THEN you season it lightly, because you may end up reducing it. I don’t even season it at this stage. Salt is salt, it does not develop. Reduce as needed depending on what you want it for. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. Then you have the stuff that you see on most of my plates. I dab it on my wrists, too.

Stand by to launch

You’re not done yet. Take the debris and rehydrate it. You will be amazed to discover that it will still have color and flavor. If you feel like it, add mirepoix or leftover chicken bones or pork ribs or whatever is sitting around. Not fish. Not potatoes. DO NOT REDUCE stocks that still have debris in them. Reduction comes AFTER straining.

The fat rises to the top and is pulled off in one piece after refrigerating. People get fussy about names. This is brown stock, from which is made espagnole, demi-glace, glace de viande, brown gravy and who knows what else. If you really want your glace de viande to be like black rubber, you can leave out the tomato.

Norm King