f you’ve every wondered why all the brown sauces in restaurants are so dense, so velvety, so divine, the answer is likely demi-glace (deh-mee glahs). Not exactly a secret of professional chefs, it’s just the type of detail that home cooks are missing. Which is why our demi-glace will not only save you time, but will infuse your cooking with deep flavor. And have your friends wondering how you mastered the sauce pan.
From the History (Cook) Books
Demi-glace is one of the rich brown sauces from classic French cuisine, made by simmering bones, aromatics and wine for days, which extracts the gelatin from the bones, concentrates the flavors and thickens the sauce. Traditionally it is made of equal parts veal stock and sauce espagnole, which is one of the five mother sauces of French cooking. The basic recipe for demi-glace comes from the father of French cooking Auguste Escoffier, but then, so do most recipes, as he’s the chef who codified the standard French recipes in the early 1900s. The term “demi-glace” itself comes from the French word glace, which means icing or glaze, and “demi” because a 1:1 ratio is reduced in half. D’Artagnan offers two types of demi-glace: a classic veal demi-glace and a combination duck and veal demi-glace (we couldn’t resist!).
Our duck demi-glace is made from duck and veal bones according to traditional methods, beginning with the bone stock. The duck and/or veal bones are slowly simmered until reduced by about half the volume. This process takes 2-3 days (aren’t you glad you don’t have to do that?) and it’s where the depth of flavor comes from. The liquid is strained, then red wine is added, and again it’s reduced by half. Finally, a little tomato paste is stirred in, instead of sauce espagnole (which contains tomato). No additional gelatin is needed because the bones are rich in natural collagen. Nor is any salt or flour added. The result is a very concentrated stock that can be used as a base for other sauces, or by itself.
Storage and Use
Demi-glace is an ingredient that every home kitchen should keep “in stock,” as professional kitchens do, since it elevates every dish it touches. The good news? You can store demi-glace in the freezer for months. If you don’t have time to thaw it out, just use a hot spoon to remove the amount needed for a sauce or to spike a soup.
Just a Few Ideas for Cooking with Demi-Glace
- Get Saucy … First and most basic, demi-glace is for sauces. When deglazing a pan, whisk a few tablespoons into any pan sauce, like we do with our seared duck breast recipe. Try it with buffalo steak or pork chops, too. Demi-glace gets further reduced to make a velvety sauce with truffles in our pasta, mushroom and foie gras recipe.
- Cock of the Walk … Making a classic coq au vin stew is unthinkable without demi-glace, which is the stepping stone from thick roux to rich broth, and a base note of flavor.
- Soups and Stews … Think of demi-glace as seasoning; use it to punch up your soups and stews. Even a few tablespoons stirred in toward the final stage of cooking will impart savory richness to the dish. This classic Cajun-style rabbit stew is redolent with demi-glace.
- Braise Worthy … Any braising liquid will benefit from demi-glace, it adds body and depth to wine, stock, water or beer in the braising pan. Our recipe for braised lamb shanks shows you how it’s done.
- Stir it Up … A vegetable or mushroom stir-fry will sing with flavor when a scoop of demi-glace is added to the pan.
- Stock Shortcut … If you don’t have any chicken stock on hand when a recipe calls for it, you can fake it with demi-glace. Stir an entire container into about a quart of water and substitute for stock.
- I Dream of Beanie … In a pot or slow cooker, a few tablespoons of demi-glace added to beans will thicken up the base sauce and impart meaty flavor. A perfect example is cassoulet, the iconic bean and meat stew of Southwest France.