Studio work: Hand crafted demi-glace

Sometimes studio work spills out of the studio into other parts of the house, property and life. In fact, my wife Kathryn claims that my work as an artist tends toward filling all voids. She may be right.

Creating is an activity in which tools, media and imagination interact and intersect through that wonderful alchemy that is art, resulting in creation – making stuff in other words. Making stuff that I have never tried to make before is what I find the most challenging and rewarding.

Chef mark
Ready to cook.

So this week I have set aside my beret, pulled on my toque, moved from my studio into the kitchen and tried my hand at making demi-glace from scratch. If you have ever bought a small jar of this luscious elixir you know that you will pay dearly for it. Yet it is hard to find a suitable substitute as a finishing glaze for meats, risotto, or any number of other savory dishes.

To begin, I bought about 10 pounds of veal bones – the joints, principally, which are loaded with collagen. These are not to be found at your average grocery store, but only from a butcher at a specialty meat store. Into a large roasting pan they went, and into a hot oven, along with a large pile of mirepoix slathered in tomato paste on a sheet pan. There they were cooked to a caramelized yumminess.

Caramelized yumminess.

I then added the caramelized veal bones and the veggies to a large stockpot, covered the goods with cold filtered water, brought it to a boil then reduced to a very low flame and left it to slowly percolate on the stovetop for about 18 hours or until all of the connective tissue was completely broken down.

After the long overnight simmer I removed the solids from the pot, cranked up the heat to high and the stock was reduced to about two quarts. What remained was filtered through a fine sieve into a container placed in an ice bath.

The stock pot before and after.
The stock pot before and after.

Once the stock had cooled a bit, I covered the container and placed it in the refrigerator to thoroughly chill over night.

Here’s the fun part: I used a frosting spatula to separate the demi-glace from the container, placed a cutting board on top of the container and inverted both the container and cutting board so the whole works sat on the counter top with the container holding the demi-glace, upside-down on the cutting board. The gelatinous demi-glace slipped, with a slurp, from the container onto the cutting board.

All that remained was to carve up the demi-glace into useful sized chunks, place on a waxed paper lined sheet pan, freeze it and store it in a plastic container (or two).

Demi glace cubed
Demi glace carved and ready for the freezer.

With this springboard to many other fine kitchen creations now in the larder, it’s time to doff the toque, slide on the beret and get back to the studio.

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