Beef consommé is the elegant, simple and purest essence of beef. It is beautiful, flavorful and nourishing. It makes a perfect starter as it is or with a simple garnish of julienne root vegetables blanched in salted water, thinly sliced celery and shredded green onions lightly blanched, fresh herbs or as I like best, an ox tail stuffed ravioli or two. Be sure to keep any additions simple and cook them separately so they do not cloud the consommé or overpower it's flavor.
This recipe is adapted from one in Jennifer McLagan's gorgeous Bones; Recipes, History, & Lore
6 cups beef stock, made from ox tails
1 small carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
6 ounces of lean ground beef
2 egg whites
To begin clarification, stock must be cold, but not jelled. If necessary, reheat gently to liquefy.
Place diced carrot and celery into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the meat, egg whites and 2 Tablespoons water and blend until well mixed. Stir this mixture into the stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the saucepan to prevent the egg white from sticking. As the liquid approaches boiling, it will appear to curdle; don't panic, that is what you want. As soon aas the stock begins to boil, stop stirring, and remove the saucepan from the heat. The whites will form a congealed mass on the surface, which will puff up and then rack as the steam escapes.
Reduce the heat to very low and return the saucepan to the heat, making a larger hole in the egg white mass with a spoon to allow the steam to escape. Simmer very gently - you ant to see the small bubbles of steam break through the hole in the egg white mass - for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Line a sieve with a double thinckness of damp cheesecloth or a dampened thin cotton tea towel or even a double layer of coffee filters and place over a bowl. Using a skimmer or large slotted spoon, carefully lift off as much of the egg white mass as you can and set aside in another bowl. Ladle the consommé into the sieve and allow it to drip slowly through the cloth. As you get closer to the bottom of the saucepan, you might notice that the clear consommé is being muddied by bits of egg white. don't worry, just add it to the sieve. Check the bowl with the egg white debris and pour any liquid that has escaped from it into the sieve. Allow all the liquid to drip slowly through the sieve; don't be tempted to press on the egg whites, as that would cloud the consommé.
You will have about 5 cups clear consommé in the bowl and a mess of congealed egg white to discard. Season the consommé with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Serve hot, or allow to cool, then chill and serve it cold. If serving hot, you can pour the traditional 1 Tablespoon dry sherry into each bowl before ladling in the consommé. If you serve it cold, you will probably need to boost the seasoning as cold dulls the flavor.