There are quite a few steps involved with making demi-glace, and it's best if you emulate the classical French chefs of yore and use teams of scullery hands to do the work for you.
Failing that, plan on doing a lot of simmering, reducing, straining. It's not difficult, but it is time-consuming. The fact is, you can save about 8 hours by using this shortcut recipe for demi-glace, with the chief difference being that it uses store-bought beef broth rather than homemade beef stock.
This is not to say that you need to do it all at once. You can make the stock a few days or a week in advance if you like, or even longer if you freeze it.
And yet, other than the fact that it saves time, there is little else about store-bought broth or stock to recommend it — it's more expensive, probably oversalted, and lacking in gelatin which is derived from the collagen in the bones. A good stock should jell when you chill it. But the store-bought stuff doesn't do that. Which means any sauces you make from it will lack body.
Making beef stock is somewhat more challenging than making chicken stock. That's because you have to roast the bones for making beef stock. That roastedness is in the part what gives the stock its color.
Making chicken stock is much more straightforward — it's a relatively a simple matter of simmering chicken bones (feet and wing tips are superb for making chicken stock because they're loaded with cartilage) along with a few aromatic vegetables and herbs.
And now I'm going to give you a tip: You can make demi-glace with chicken stock instead of beef stock. As a matter of fact, the original demi-glace, which was called demi-Espagnole, was made using white stock (veal or chicken) in place of brown. They don't teach it that way in culinary schools these days, but that's the way it was done 100 years ago, and it'll work for you, too. It'll save time while ensuring that your finished sauce is rich and full of body.
Whether you make your own stock or use store-bought (or a combination), you're going to need a lot. You need three cups to make the Espagnole sauce and another 2 cups to make the demi-glace. Rather than crowd up the recipe with instructions for everything, use this recipe for the Espagnole sauce.
Finally, this recipe doesn't call for you to season the finished demi-glace. That's because you might be using it to make another sauce, in which case you should season that sauce, whatever it is, before you serve it. But if you're serving the demi-glace as a finished sauce, go ahead and season it to taste, with Kosher salt, at the very end.
- 2 cups brown stock
- 2 cups brown sauce (Espagnole)
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 3–4 fresh parsley stems
- 7–8 whole black peppercorns
- Wrap the thyme, parsley stems, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with cooking twine to make a small bundle. Leave about a foot of twine so that you can tie the other end to one of your pot handles for easy retrieval later.
- Combine the brown sauce and the brown stock in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat to a simmer, add the cheesecloth bundle and reduce for about 45 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by half.
- Remove pan from heat and retrieve the sachet. Carefully pour the demi-glace through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.