I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

daring cooks, september

I'm late in posting this, and with my camera continuing to be disagreeable, it's lacking in pictures. Which is too bad, really, because this month's challenge had some very good visuals of before and after. The challenge was to make stock and soup, with the option of making a consommé.

Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

A word on consommé. I have a history with it. When a child of around 11 or 12, I opened the fridge one day to see a drinking glass of clear, dark brown liquid. "Coke!" I thought, "someone poured it but didn't finish it. A little drink? Don't mind if I do!", and proceeded to take a healthy swig of the stuff.

Beef consommé. Cold.

I wouldn't recommend it. I do recall a mad dash to the kitchen sink to spew out the surprise, and shuddering at the thought for some time after.

But, years pass, taste change, and consommé gets warmed up (much better than cold, trust me). Or in this month's case, made.

I make stock all the time. If any sort of poultry is roasted, the bones, skin, and some herbs and aromatics get tossed into a pot with some nice cold water, then simmered for hours to make some stock for soups or stews or risottos. Waste not, want not, right? The stock is strained, and used right away or frozen for later use. It's usually flavourful, reminiscent of the original meal: sometimes rosemary and lemon, sometimes sage and savoury, sometimes a hint of smoke and spice from the grill. 

But it's always cloudy. So, this month's challenge to make crystal-clear consommé was an intriguing one; accomplished through some simple kitchen chemistry, it appealed to the science-loving side of me too.

The cloudy particles in the stock, too small to be taken out with my sieve, could be caught in strands of albumen. So, egg whites (yes, really) were whipped up into a froth, then stirred into the warm stock. This simmered for about 45 minutes, the whites floating on top in what is aptly called a 'raft'. 

Sure enough, the liquid under the raft clarified and at the end of the time I was able to spoon out beautifully clear, delicious liquid. Care must be taken not to disturb the raft (or the particles will get back into the soup), but all in all it was a technique I'd definitely use again.

We enjoyed the chicken consommé simply, with fine shreds of carrot and chives floating prettily in the bowl. It's a beautifully elegant starter to a meal. Herb biscuits to go with? Of course! 

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