Making a raft, needs clarification.Baby octopus appetizer with Jellied Consommé Madrilène

"I’ve never made consommé, so I was excited. Truth be told, I was most excited to make a "raft." Having read about the magical powers of a raft, I was eager to watch my soup clarify before my eyes. I was not disappointed. "Magic!" I exclaimed. Then the little voice on my shoulder whispered, "Science!"" —

Growing up I recall my mother serving a chilled bowl of Jellied Consommé on hot summer days. In those days (1960´s), and in our house, soup came from a can and this one was no exception, although this can was refrigerated before serving up its contents. Back then, I seem to recall the label reading
"Cambell´s". It was her perfect go to when she needed a secret ingredient, it was extremely versatile—used as-is, amped up or as an ingredient in one of her more ambitious pièce de résistance. Times have changed and that mothers son, following in her footsteps, has become fascinated by consommé, the way the raft forms, and the fine art of clarification.I had seen it done on cheffy TV shows and it looked way too complicated, but that wasn't going to get in the way of my adventurous spirit.
A clear, deep amber ​consommé is delightful not only to look at, but tasting it is another story altogether. The flavour is out of this world. Consommé is a luxurious soup that is typically consumed on its own, at the start of a meal. Back in the day, consommés were served with julienne vegetables or a 'quenelle' – a mousse made from meat or fish and cream. And although it sounds fancy, don't let the French name scare you. In French, consommé is literally something that has been `consummated´, that is by boiling down, the flavours of the meat, vegetables, or whatever have become completely concentrated. The word comes from the past participle of the verb consommer, which means both accomplish, finish and consume, in the eating sense, not to be confused with consumer, which means consume in the destructive sense. Consommé does take some time, patience, and attention to detail; it's typically something that chefs must master during their training in culinary school. A vocation I missed out on. However, it's not hard to do once the skill is acquired, one that involves using egg whites to help create a natural filter, or raft, that forms over the soup. First and foremost I had to do a little clarifying (no puns intended) research. When simmering is complete, this raft is then carefully removed and the remaining liquid strained, the ingredients being carefully passed through a well-lined sieve. Madrilène is consommé flavoured with tomato. And here is a tip if you don't feel confident with the raft method. Unlike most consommés, tomatoes have the curious ability to clarify themselves. Use the ripest, lushest tomatoes you can get your hands on. I embellished the finished consommé with some baby octopus tentacles to make a perfect savoury cocktail and a quintessential summer indulgence, while at the same time providing a little theatre for its recipients. There´s no stopping me 
Jellied Consommé Madrilène
(Makes 5 cups)

4 ½ cups beef stock
2 ½ cups chicken stock
3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped spring onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper corns
¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
4 large egg whites plus shells, crushed
2 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin
¼ cup Madeira or amontillado sherry
Fresh lemon juice to taste
White pepper to taste
In a large pan, combine the two stocks, tomatoes, soaring onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns, thyme, and egg whites & shells.
Bring to a boil, stirring; then, simmer, UNDISTURBED, for 1 hour.
Carefully skim raft of fat from the surface.Ladle mixture into a double lined sieve of muslin or cheesecloth set over a bowl.
In a small bowl, soften gelatin with the Madeira. Let soften 5 minutes and stir into hot consommé until dissolved.
Let consommé cool completely. Stir in lemon juice, white pepper and salt to taste.
Chill, covered until firm.
Divide among chilled bowls or glasses and serve with a lemon wedge and any other garnish of your choice


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