Chef Paley starts off by describing consommé as an "intensely flavored clear broth." He explains that it can be made from any kind of stock you might be using, from beef stock to crab stock. What makes consommé unique and special is the manner in which it's made.
You make consommé by adding a mixture of egg whites, egg shells, protein (like ground beef), mire poix, and aromatics to a stock. As the stock heats, this egg mixture binds together and forms what is called a "raft" on the top of the liquid.
This odd-sounding raft works as a filter to strain out impurities in the stock. As it simmers, the stock percolates through the strands of protein in the raft. These strands catch and hold particles and fats while also adding flavor back into the stock. The whole process takes about an hour.
The result is something that has to be tasted to be believed. The flavors in a consommé are so pure and distinct that regular broth tastes muddy in comparison.
Chef Paley also loves consommé because he feels that it really brings cooks back into the kitchen. This isn't the type of dish that can be left on its own for hours. It requires constant care and attention in order to turn out well.
If you're up for a challenge during the last few days of Soup Month, have a go at making your own consommé!
• Hear a more detailed description of the process from Chef Paley and get a recipe for consommé on the Good Food website. While you're there, check out the other great segments in this episode!