Demi-glace is the ultimate, deep, rich, brown sauce to serve with roasted meats and steaks, and it's one of the pillars of the culinary arts.
But let's be honest about something: You're probably not going to make it from scratch.
Not that you shouldn't make it at least once in your life. If you're interested in the process of turning beef or veal bones into a smooth, rich, flavorful sauce that can't be equaled, we recommend doing it.
But realistically, for the typical home cook trying to put dinner on the table, it's way too many steps:
- Roast beef bones along with mirepoix and tomato paste.
- Cover the bones and mirepoix with cold water and simmer for 6 hours.
- Strain the resulting stock through cheesecloth and cool.
- Saute more mirepoix and then add flour to make a roux.
- Whisk in the stock.
- Simmer for about an hour.
- Strain through cheesecloth and cool the resulting Espagnole sauce.
- Now combine the sauce with more stock.
- Simmer until reduced by half.
- Strain through cheesecloth.
Voilà—demi-glace. And it only took you two days.
Even if you're planning a special dinner party, you probably have better things to do with your time than spending half a day skimming scum off the surface of a pot of simmering bones.
Still, this doesn't mean you need to resort to using those packets of brown gravy mix when you want to serve a sauce with your filet mignon. There are a few shortcuts you can use when making demi-glace so that you'll be able to say "I made this" and actually keep a straight face.
The best shortcut you can take is to skip making your own stock and use a good quality store-bought stock.
In the culinary arts, we speak of brown stock, not beef stock, because the same procedure can be used for making stock from beef bones, lamb bones, venison bones or whatever. At the store, though, what you're mostly going to find is beef stock.
Check the ingredients. Don't buy anything that contains MSG (or one of its pseudonyms), and definitely choose the kind that's low sodium, reduced salt or even no-salt, if you can find it.
The reason for this is that you'll be reducing the stock quite a bit, which concentrates the salt. You don't want the finished demi-glace to be too salty.
Probably the ultimate shortcut is buying a demi-glace base, or concentrate. These products are a sort of paste or glaze that you reconstitute by adding water. They're good to use if you're going to be making a secondary sauce based on the demi-glace—sauces like the mushroom sauce or red wine sauce. But they're fine to use on their own, too. If you're really short on time, and you want to serve a nice sauce with a meal, we say go for it.
Ready to give it a try? Here's a shortcut recipe for demi-glace.