I’ve read Michael Ruhlman in his book The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America talking about learning to make consommé at the CIA, how he struggled to achieve that elusive level of clarity that would let him read the date on a dime at the bottom of his pot. Yeah. About that.
When I first came up with the idea for tomatillo consommé, I started doing some research. There are no recipes for it. None. Does that mean it’s impossible or does that mean it’s just a challenge? I opted to go the challenge route and adapted a tomato consommé recipe from Epicurious to make a slightly spicy, very tangy consommé.
So technically, it wasn't consommé. I still don't think it would be impossible to produce, but making a perfectly clear, flavorful tomatillo version did prove beyond us this time. But it was, after all, the first consommé either Paul or I had ever made. And yes, we were crazy/stupid/daring enough to make it our first time for a fancy meal to be served to guests.
We served this with a scoop of Dominican-style mofongo to contrast the crisp, starchy texture of plantains and pork cracklings with the smoothness of the soup. It worked well. Well enough that I would go through the effort of the complete process again just to create that amazingly smooth soup.
- 5 pounds tomatillos
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 large egg whites, chilled
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup ice, lightly crushed if cubes are large
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Spread the tomatillos on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes.
- Quarter the tomatillos and grind in a food processor until pureed.
- Cook onions, garlic, and chopped jalapeno in oil in a large heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in puréed tomatillo, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
- Pour the tomatillo mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, pressing hard on solids and then discarding them, and bring the tomatillo broth to a full boil.(I began wondering about the clarity I would achieve at this point. After straining out the solids through a chinois, the broth wasn't a liquid with suspended particles; instead, it was almost creamy. But the flavor was really nice.)
- Whisk together egg whites, cilantro, ice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl until frothy, then quickly pour into boiling broth, whisking vigorously 2 or 3 times. (The egg mixture will rise to surface and form a "raft." If you've ever made egg drop soup, it looks like what happens if you don't stir constantly.)
- When the broth returns to a simmer, find a place where bubbles break through raft and gently enlarge hole to the size of a ladle. I will say here that our raft didn't firm up as much as I had hoped. It made keeping a hole open difficult.
- Cook broth at a bare simmer, uncovered, without stirring (keep raft opening clear by gently spooning out any froth - there wasn't much), until broth is clear, 15 to 20 minutes, or until you decide that it's just not meant to be clear, about 30 minutes. (The raft formed just the way it should, even if it wasn't quite as firm as we had hoped it would be, and you could definitely tell that it pulled out remaining particulates, but the consommé produced wasn't clear. It was a slightly disturbing shade of pale green (think puréed Elphaba), but the flavor was amazingly concentrated, and the texture was like sipping silk.)
- Remove saucepan from heat and, disturbing raft as little as possible, carefully ladle out consommé through opening in raft, tilting saucepan as necessary, and transfer to cleaned fine-mesh sieve lined with a double layer of dampened paper towels set over a bowl or large glass measure.
- Discard raft. (It may sound wrong, but we actually gave the raft to the chickens.)
- If you're not serving it right away, the consommé will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. To store it longer, chill consommé, uncovered, until cold, about 1 1/2 hours then freeze. Thaw completely before reheating.
- Just before serving, reheat the consommé and season to taste with salt.