Are you familiar with demi-glace? It’s a tasty food that’s big in France but offered at many restaurants here in the United States. You can also find demi-glace in convenient concentrates and mixes, although we have to admit that freshly-made is the way to go.
Demi-glace comes from a French word that’s roughly translated as “glaze,” but it can also mean “icing.” And it’s this glaze that serves as the basis of a wide variety of sauces.
The popular beef demi-glace comes by way of reduction. To achieve this, wine and sherry are added to beef broth until it thickens, thereby improving the taste and consistency. You can feel free to add the perfect amount of liquid to get the consistency that best suits your preferences.
Traditional techniques require vegetables and beef bones, and the entire process may take as much as a whole day. Fortunately, some commercial alternatives can be employed to make substitutes for demi-glace in just a matter of minutes using ingredients that may already be in your kitchen cabinets.
Because traditional demi-glace is such an involved process, many people prefer to use substitutes instead. We’ll share these alternatives with you momentarily. But first, let’s discuss demi-glace a bit further to give you a clearer picture of what it entails.
What Is Demi-Glace?
This classic French culinary component is traditionally made with veal. But here in the States, it’s usually other types of meat that the demi-glace is based on, such as stocks.
You can use demi-glace in different ways, such as a base for other foods or by itself. Although many demi-glace recipes recommend to first add espagnole in the preparation followed by brown stock, this should actually be done in reverse.
As such, you should begin by preparing brown stock. When finished, put it over heat to keep it warm. It’s at this juncture that the espagnole can be prepared. When ready, add equal parts of the stock to the espagnole.
Demi-glace is one of those foods that seems like it keeps forever. As such, you can keep it refrigerated for about six months or frozen almost indefinitely. Because it has such a long lifespan, many people prefer to make a whole bunch at once and will freeze the rest for later use.
Because a lot of effort goes into making traditional demi-glace, some chefs will substitute simple veal stock or create an emulated version. Julia Child famously leaves out the espagnole in what she calls “semi-demi-glace.”
If you feel that there’s simply too much work required to prepare demi-glace, you can find mixes and concentrates that speed up preparation exponentially. And that’s what led us to look for time-saving alternatives.
We found some excellent demi-glace substitutes that you can whip up using ingredients that you probably already have on hand. What’s more, you can prepare these substitutes in just a few minutes, saving time and creating a demi-glace knock-off with half the effort. First, though, let’s talk about the concentrates.
A few companies offer high-quality concentrates that you can reformulate into sauces and the like for recipes that require demi-glace. The rich flavor concentrates consist of real veal and beef stock and come mixed with tomato paste, carrots, celery stocks, onions, salt, red wine, and beef and veal fat.
They can be bought in gourmet shops and online. Most demi-glace concentrates need to be kept cool in the refrigerator after opening. Different brands have different reconstitution ratios. Typically, though, 1 ounce of concentrate equals between four and five liquid ounces.
Due to the ingredients used, the cost of low-end concentrates is less than half of what you’d pay for high-end concentrates.
Modified food starch is the primary ingredient of most concentrates, followed by:
- Partially hydrogenated cottonseed or soybean oil
- Corn protein (hydrolyzed)
- Concentrated beef broth
- Yeast extract (autolyzed)
- Dried beef extract
- Trace ingredients
- Tomato powder
- Cooked beef fat
- Butter oil
Although beef stock does not have the depth of flavor or texture of beef demi-glace, it can be used as a substitute for some recipes. However, this doesn’t include those that rely on the texture of demi-glace, such as sauces.
Boiling the beef broth will thicken the broth and enhance its flavor, making it closer to the true texture of a demi-glace. If you use beef broth, be sure not to add any water as requested in the recipe.
This recipe makes the equivalent of 1 cup of demi-glace:
- Start by simmering 2 cups beef broth
- Add 1 teaspoon of butter until the broth reduces by half
- Dissolve in cold water 1 teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot
- Add it to beef broth while stirring constantly
- Let simmer until the mixture thickens
If the mixture is too thick, add 1/8 teaspoon of sherry or balsamic vinegar. Then, stir after each addition until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
You will find that this recipe works well if you’re craving demi-glace but are limited on ingredients. There’s a good chance you have all or a majority of the ingredients listed above, so you can enjoy a good demi-glace knock-off with minimal effort and in a short amount of time.
Is Demi-Glace a Good Choice for Vegans?
Because demi-glace is based on animal stock, this food is not a good choice for vegans. The good news is that you can adjust the ingredients any way you like, so feel free to use vegan beef broth and vegan butter. Brands like Country Crock have some good vegan-friendly butter options to choose from, but you’re certainly not limited to that brand.
For more information on vegan-friendly ingredients, check out our comprehensive list here. We also discuss various restaurants and whether they offer vegan menu items. What’s more, Cook Gem is your source for excellent vegan recipes that are sure to liven up your meals.