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Faux Demi-Glace

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 
I don't know how many people this will interest, but what the hell.

I like to make, and eat, the traditional French sauces. They have fallen out of favor, and so can be hard to find at all but the fustiest restaurants. And those that you can find are not really so great any more. But done well, they are incomparable, with a depth of flavor and a complexity that no substitute can offer. Plus, I like the way they liven up cheaper cuts of meat that lack the intense flavor of the expensive stuff.

For a long time, once or at most twice a year, I have made my own at home. This is an expensive and time consuming process. Just tracking down all the materials is hard. (Bones, in particular, are just not saved and sold to the extent they once were.) Then it takes three days of, if not solid work, at least constant attention to make the real recipe. Day one: stock. Day two: espagnole. Day three: demi-glace. The result is awesome, however. I save and freeze it in one cup portions and use it until it runs out. Plus, I make more stock than I need, and the excess is great for soup or any other recipe where stock is called for. 10,000 times better than canned broth.

But what if you don't want to go to all the trouble? Is there another way? Yes!

It's not as good; it does not yield as much. But then: it costs a lot less, and takes a lot less time. So, after much trial and error, I present the recipe for "Faux Demi-Glace." This is something to make, maybe, to accompany a holiday roast, or a leg of lamb, or when you want to impress someone, or just when you feel like it. My own impression is that it is plenty good enough to be rewarding on its own terms, even if you can tell the difference between this and the real thing.

Basic ingredients: carrots, yellow onion, celery, garlic, tomato paste, wine, herb bouquet, meat and/or bones and (optional) a concentrated stock. Those are, essentially, the same ingredients as demi-glace (with one important exception), but our cheat sauce will use them in a different way.

Demi glace begins with stock. To make stock, you roast bones and (cheap) meat until well browned, and then simmer these, along with carrots, yellow onion, celery, garlic, and herbs, in a lot of water. Over a period of hours, the water takes on the flavor of what is in the pot. But for faux demi-glace, water is both too thin and too flavorless. We don't have enough time or enough ingredients to make it good. So we substitute wine. I use a whole bottle. Sounds profligate; but not an expensive bottle. Certainly, nothing over $10. A $7 or $8 merlot will do nicely. I wouldn't go cheaper than that. I have found that merlot works best, because its fleshiness and (relative) lack of tannin and acidity help the wine break down more easily. In other words, the very same contemptible softness that makes cheap merlot aggravating to drink are assets here.

Next, the meat. Now, first I should say that this step is strictly optional. If you want to save some cash, leave it out. If you do so, what you end up with will essentially be a Sauce Meurette, one of the "lesser" French sauces, but quite good on its own terms. Nonetheless, to truly qualify as a faux-demi-glace, some meat and/or bones will be required. Not much: half a pound, or one pound at most (we'll get to that). And make it cheap stuff, the dregs of the meat counter, the stuff used to flavor soups, stews and broths. There is absolutely no point in wasting rib-eye for this. If there is some bone attached, don't worry: that shaves a bit off the price and bone adds a nice flavor all its own. Just make sure it is cut into chunks. Also, the meat should match the sauce's intended use. If the sauce is for beef, use beef. If for lamb, use lamb. The extent to which this matters to you will vary. If you want something as all purpose as possible, use beef. I have done this for beef, duck, lamb, venison, pork, and veal. Only veal, I think, is a waste of time and money. Veal makes a wonderful stock and a true demi-glace, but it takes a lot of long-simmering to bring the flavor out. Its flavor is just overwhelmed and lost in the faux demi-glace, in my experience. The flavor of the others comes through, however.

Finely chop the carrots, onion and celery. How much you need depends on personal taste, and whether you are going to "moisten" twice (I'll get to that, too; bottom line, I recommend it). You'll need at least two tablespoons each of onion and carrot, and one of celery, for EACH moistening. So, if you know you're going to simmer the liquid twice, chop all that stuff ahead of time, and set aside. Whatever amounts you use, make sure that you use twice as much of EACH carrot and onion than celery. Celery is important to the sauce, but too much makes it taste vegetal and bitter. It's hard to use too much carrot or onion, however. Peel and smash (but don't chop) two garlic cloves.

Make your herb bouquet. I always do this the "correct" way with fresh herbs and kitchen twine. I'm told it matters. It may not, but I still do it. You could also just drop the herbs directly into the pot. Purists say they give off a better flavor if they are bound together. Could be crap, who knows. Anyway, I use (fresh) thyme, flat leaf parsley and bay leaves. Parsley is like 99 cents a bunch, so there is no point in skimping on that. If you don't want to spring for fresh herbs, and use dried instead, use A LOT less. Instead of two or three sprigs of fresh thyme, use a pinch of dried. Instead of three fresh bay leaves, use one dried. Obviously, you can't tie up dried thyme leaves, so just dump them in when the time comes.

Time to brown the meat. I use a 4-qt. sauce pan, with a regular surface (NOT non-stick; you want to develop a fond, those sticky bits). Use a neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point. I prefer canola for this. Others do just as well; just stay away from high flavor oils like extra-virgin olive. You want the sauce to have the flavor of the meat, not the oil. If you have a pound of meat and bones, add half; save the other half for the second moistening. If you have half a pound, dump it all in once the oil is nice and hot. It should really crackle and sizzle when it hits the pan. Brown thoroughly. Don't worry about overcooking or tenderness. You are not going to eat this; you just want to extract as much of its flavor as you can. Take care not to let anything burn, but a nice deep color is what you are going for.

When the meat is browned, take it out and set aside. Tip out whatever reaming oil is still in the pan (but keep all those browned bits). Turn heat down to medium or medium low (or even lower, if necessary), add one tablespoon of unsalted butter. It's important that it be unsalted. You never want to add any salt to this sauce, until the very end (if then). Sodium does not evaporate, and it does not reduce. Every fleck in the sauce stays there until the bitter end. If you are not careful, all the nice flavor will be hidden behind ... salt.

When the butter is melted, add (one batch of) the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Using a wooded spatula, scrape up the browned bits stuck to the surface of the pan. Cook the vegetables slowly. The color of this stuff will brown because of the left over browned bits from the meat, but you don't want it to brown in the butter. The idea is to slowly caramelize them, to release the sugars. After 10 or 15 minutes, you will smell that, and then they will start to really cook.

That's when you add the wine (the whole bottle) and the herbs, and the tomato past (say, one or two tablespoons). With this step, we are essentially conflating the making of stock with the making of espagnole sauce. (The latter is what takes tomato paste, not the former. Espagnole also takes a roux, which we are skipping at this point, only to add a substitute later, if necessary.)

Now, if you have some decent concentrated stock, add it at this time -- one or two cups at most. DO NOT add any canned broth. You might as well add a bag of salt. I'm talking about the stuff sold as a hard gelatin, that needs water to become what it once was. "More than Gourmet" sells these little one-use packets for about $4.50 each. Not every store has them but many do these days. There other brands which I think are better, but much harder to find. I would use one of the ones marked "Glace de Viande" before their actual demi-glace, though the latter will do in a pinch. Again, use the one made from the meat you want your sauce to go with. They make them all. (Oh, and if someone should ask, "Why bother with this hassle when I can just get concentrated demi-glace?", I reply: do a side-by-side taste test and get back to me.) So, if you have this stuff, dissolve it in water over low heat, and begin that process before you start chopping (it takes a while) and whisk occasionally. Then add it in at the same time you add the wine.

Turn the heat up. You have just added a lot of cool liquid. You don't want to boil it (avoid that at all costs) but it will take some heat to get it up to a nice simmer. Once achieved, leave it on low for 30 minutes at least. An hour is better.

Remove from heat, and take out the meat with a slotted spoon. Reserve. Then strain the liquid. It would be nice if you have a chinois, a very fine strainer used for making sauces, but don't sweat it.

Now, technically, you don't have to do what follows. But it does make the sauce better. Basically, you repeat the entire process, reusing the liquid that you've already simmered. (Don't add new wine, and don't add new stock.) Even if you don't want to re-do the meat step (for cost or any other reason), it's worth doing the veggie step, and that won't cost much at all. So clean the pot, add the butter (two tablespoons this time, as there won't be any residual oil), and cook the veggies. This time they will not brown from the meat residue; be careful not to brown them yourself. Deep golden is all you want. The smell from the carmelization will be different, more intense, less masked by the browned bits. Whether or not you use meat the second time affects the flavor of the finished sauce. Neither way is better or worse, just ... different.

This time, however, when you add the liquid and a new herb bouquet, also add the reserved meat from last time and its accumulated juices. Up the heat until you see a consistent simmer, then reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain again. Throw all the crap away. Or maybe give the meat chunks to the dog.

Let it sit for ten minutes or so. All the remaining gunk will either float to the top or sink to the bottom, depending on what it is. If you have a hand skimmer, use that to skim off the surface gunk.

At this point, you should have between two and three cups of liquid. It will be fragrant, but quite runny. We need to concentrate its flavor and thicken it. So transfer the liquid to a small pot; a one-quart saucepan should do. A nice little thing to have is a reduction pot, with the measurements engraved on the inside walls, so you can keep more precise track of the progress. Plus reduction pans are slope-sided, so that the surface area of the liquid declines as the sauce reduces. Again, a nice luxury, but not necessary. Reduce the sauce over medium-low heat -- not boiling, but more than a simmer. You want to see some motion on the surface. Orange gunk will float to the surface and collect. Skim it out periodically. The more of it you get out, the cleaner and fresher your sauce will taste.

You can reduce this as much as you want. The upside is, the more you reduce it, the more intense the flavor will get. Also, it will thicken naturally. The downside is, you will have less sauce. If you want to stop the reduction at a point when the sauce is still runny and loose, you will need to add a beurre-blanc. This is a one-to-one mixture of flour and butter. One TB of each ought to do it. Mash that into a paste with a fork on a small plate, and scoop it into the sauce. Whisk vigorously over low heat. The drawback to this is that the flour will impart some of its taste, which is not so great. Anyway, this is our substitute for the roux which thickens an espagnole sauce. The difference is, that roux is cooked and it behaves differently and tastes better. I also don't like to add fat at this stage. But a beurre-blanc WILL thicken a runny sauce.

When you've gotten it where you want it, take it off heat and let it cool to room temperature. Technically, it is ready to use. However, I have found that the flavor significantly improves by waiting a day. The flavors "bind" or something. Put the sauce in the fridge overnight. The next day, any remaining fat that you have not skimmed out will be solidified and floating at the top, and thus easy to remove. Get rid of it.

Finally, when it's time to use it, put it in a small pot on a low simmer, maybe 30 minutes before you plan to eat. Whatever meat you are making, let it stand on a platter or carving board, tented with foil, for a time (at least 10 minutes, up to 30 for a huge roast). Then turn the sauce up to high, and pour in the accumulated juices from the platter or carving board. Whisk vigorously. Turn back down to a simmer and let the liquids "marry" for about five minutes. Serve.

This can be served as-is, or used as the base for any of the dozens of demi-glace variants. One batch of this will easily serve everyone at a large holiday dinner, most likely with some to spare. If you are feeding fewer people, you can get as many as four or five meals out of it. It freezes indefinitely. I would not keep it in the fridge for more than a week.

There you have it, faux demi-glace for around $20, give or take, and three hours. The three hours is not as bad as it sounds, because for a lot of that time, the sauce will be simmering, and you can do something else.

It's not as good as the real thing. But it's better than all the pretenders I have tried. A modern chef would sniff at it as a second-rate replacement for an out-of-date sauce. But I don't care, because it is goooood.
post #2 of 58

Can you be so kind as to put up the step-by-step process of making the authentic Demi-Glace?

I have been attempting to learn more about french cuisine since my recent trips to Paris.

I will try this faux demi-glace recipe over the weekend.

Thanks for the excellent and truly informative post.
post #3 of 58
I use D'artignan (sp?). It freezes well.

Real demi-glace makes no sense for the home cook from a pure economy of scale. I've always thought this is the epitome of something needing larger production, and D'Artignan is the closest I've come to that.

I applaud you for your efforts at doing this at home: a labor of love.
post #4 of 58
SF should be taken down more often. When manton can't troll the boards he apparently fills his time with useful posts like these!

Seriously though, I love the traditional french sauces. I cook out of Julia's MtAoFC quite often. I'll try this some day.

Let me ask a question though, for bones, are marrow bones the best? Could you use those exclusively? would it be good practice? or do you want bones without the marrow as well? Whenever I've done beef stock that's what I've used, along with some big chunks of meat. it's an expensive way to cook...

Have you tried the D'artignan stuff, Manton? I was considering ordering some. It's got to be better than the Bovril crap at the grocery store, but i wonder how it compares to a real stock...
post #5 of 58
This was really a great post, Manton. Thanks.
post #6 of 58
Originally Posted by Huntsman View Post
This was really a great post, Manton. Thanks.


I'm too often sarcastic. Sincerely, that was a great post, manton.
post #7 of 58
Originally Posted by horton View Post

Real demi-glace makes no sense for the home cook from a pure economy of scale. I've always thought this is the epitome of something needing larger production

I agree. I just mooch it off my chef freinds, though they act like they're giving blood.
post #8 of 58
I've been making a traditional demi every spring for some years, there's nothing like it really.

So how long do you think it will freeze for? I've used it up to six months, but after that get a bit nervous.

post #9 of 58
Originally Posted by spence View Post
I've been making a traditional demi every spring for some years, there's nothing like it really.

So how long do you think it will freeze for? I've used it up to six months, but after that get a bit nervous.


Glad to see I'm not the only one who makes his own. I look forward to it initially but about half way through I'm reminded of what a royal PITA it is to make. I've frozen it for close to a year with no discernable ill effects, but since some surgery a number of years ago my taster's been off.

I'll try manton's faux recipe and no doubt it'll be terrific. I generally wait until roasts are on sale at buy one get one free. The other ingredients still make it a rather expensive proposition.
post #10 of 58
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by horton View Post
IReal demi-glace makes no sense for the home cook from a pure economy of scale.
Well, it depends, I guess. When I do it, I use a gigantic 40 quart stock pot. Less than half, maybe a third, of that goes into the sauce. The rest is reserved for other uses. The stock alone is worth the trouble. The difference between home-made and reconstituted demi-glace is vast. The difference between home-made stock and canned broth is so enormous that they are best thought of as different things altogether.

I typically end up with at least 10 cups of demi. So, for three days work (with a lot of down time while things simmer) I have enough stock and sauce to last for a year, or six months of I make a lot of fancy things. It makes sense for me because I can't stand canned broth, and I much prefer my demi to the concentrated stuff.
post #11 of 58
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Have you tried the D'artignan stuff, Manton?

It's OK, a little better than More Than Gormet, but harder to find. Neither of these comes close to real home-made, or even to the faux recipe. Provimi and CulinArte' Bonewerks versions are better.

However, I much prefer concentrated glace de viande to concentraded demi-glace. None of this stuff is good out of the package, in my opinion. You have to do something to improve it. Hence (in part) the faux recipe. The glaces are better because they are simpler. The complexity of demi gets lost and masked in the concentration process, I fear. I would rather use my own mirepoix to flavor the liquid.
post #12 of 58
wow. very cool, Manton.
post #13 of 58

This smiley doesn't get used enough.
post #14 of 58
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Let me ask a question though, for bones, are marrow bones the best? Could you use those exclusively? would it be good practice? or do you want bones without the marrow as well?
For the faux recipe, it's probably best to use all meat and leave out the bones. Bone flavor is a lot less intense. Bones were originally used in stock-making as a cost saving device. Plus, for bones to really work their magic, they have to be well browned in a roasting pan, and that takes 30-45 minutes at least. Plus, given the relatively short time the faux sauce simmers, the liquid will not pull the maximum amount of flavor out of even well browned bones.

Beyond this, the pot is probably too small for marrow bones. Availability is also an issue. Bones are hard to find these days. Rare is the store that always has them in stock. You probably won't have much of a choice as to sizing. If you can find small enough marrow bones, for cheap, there is no harm in using them.

To clarify what I meant about bones in the main post: when trolling the meat counter for cheap stuff, you sometimes see small chunks of meat with little bits of bone still attached. This stuff is insanely cheap because it can't really be used as stew meat, unless you want to sit there with a boning knife and separate every fleck. It is mainly sold as a flavor enhancer. That's the stuff I meant. Sometimes I see it, sometimes I don't. The flavor is still decent, and you save a few bucks.

For a stock, however, marrow bones are definitely the way to go.

It's an expensive way to cook.
Yes and no. When I go whole hog, it costs me $100 at most, and probably less. Most of that is for meat and bones. Yet that $100 (or less) yields a hell of a lot of liquid. Because of the wine, the faux version costs at least $12-15, or $20 if you use a small packet of concentrated glace de viande. On a dollar-per-volume basis, it is probably more expensive. BUT it takes less time.

The other advantage to the faux recipe is that you can make it for different meats. I mean, you could make the full demi-glace recipe from anything, theoretically. But there are practical problems. First, as I noted, finding bones is hard. Beef bones are by far the most commonly available. Veal would be a distant second. After that, they get really scarce. You would have a hard time finding enough lamb bones, for instance, to make a lamb stock and demi. Even harder for other things. Plus, once you made it, what are you going to do with all of it? I need a duck/lamb/venison sauce a handful of times a year at most. When I need it, the faux demi-recipe works quite well. I don't want to end up with a vat of the stuff. Beef and/or veal stock and sauce, however, are endlessly useful.
post #15 of 58
I'm afraid to ask what mirepoux might be...
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