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I've been wanting to try to make demi-glace, but it seems so complicated that I don't think it's worth it.

Further - it seems unneccesarily complicated. Accoding to wikipedia, we should

combin[e] equal parts of veal stock and espagnole sauce [...] simmered and reduced by half.

Now, let's check what "espagnole sauce" is:

very dark brown roux, to which veal stock or water is added, along with browned bones, pieces of beef, vegetables, and various seasonings

So... a roux, with veal stock, where you add pieces of bones, beef and vegetables.

Assuming we begin with bones, meat and vegetables:

  • We first make a stock from two thirds of that.
  • We then take the last third, add half of the stock to THAT (+roux).
  • And finally we take the rest of the stock, and add the finished espagnole sauce to THAT.

What't the point of all these steps? I've checked videos, wikipedia and cookbooks - no one explains why one would need it - couldn't one just make a stock, reduce it, and thicken it with roux?

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It depends entirely on how traditional you want to be.

In England many, many restaurants put demi-glace on their menus which in reality has no resemblance to the traditional method. I've worked in these places, with 2-3 rosettes and one with a star. Yet even at that level we still use a "cow boy" method.

If you take the words literally.

Demi = half/inferior Glace = shine

Though my taking on this may be a little skewed I regard it as half a real jus. So instead of reducing your meat stock all the way down from 100 litres to 1 litre (little exaggerated I'll admit). So it's nice and thick and sticky. Take it half way so you end up with 50 litres. Then thicken it in order not to have brown water.

Traditionally roux is used, but in reality most kitchens these days will use gravy powder. Why? It's easier & tastier.

I watched a program by Heston a year or so ago where he was talking about roux when used in chicken pie or cheese sauce. He raised the fact that you make this wonderful tasty sauce then mask it with flour. As soon as you put flour in a sauce in binds to all the flavours and mutes them. Adding gravy powder (good stuff not bisto) with all its meaty flavours in just enriches your sauce rather than toning it down. So he used corn flour instead for his cheese sauce and ... I can't remember the chicken pie (cream I think)

So in answer to your question. Yes there is a way. Just make veal stock reduce it till it tastes good add tomato paste and thicken it with a meat based powder. It'll taste as good as a traditional demi-glace if not better.

BUT

It's a cowboy way and it is far from the traditional method.

You'll just have to weigh your time and resources against your need to do it right. Which is why professional kitchens often cheat.

Disclaimer: not all kitchens cheat but all but 1 of the 11 kitchens I've worked in, have.

  • "Right" or not - are there any actual differences in taste or texture? The fact that it's "as good" is nice, but is it the same? (I'm much less concerned about being traditional than getting the exact same result.) – NiklasJ Jan 15 '15 at 10:46
  • The texture depends how smooth you want the sauce. If make it and strain it through a collinder it'll probably closer resemble the traditional texture. Most high end restaurants will however pass it through a fine mesh so it's perfectly smooth. As I've not seen the demi-glace you've actually tasted/eaten I can't guess how it was made. I'm willing to bet it was done the cow boy method unless you had it in France or did it yourself. – Doug Jan 15 '15 at 10:50
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    As far as I know, "demi" is not in the name because it's inferior, it's there because it's half and half stock and espagnole, or alternatively, because it's reduced until it's half the original volume. – rumtscho Jan 15 '15 at 12:06
  • Type "define: demi" into Google. demi- ˈdɛmi/ prefix 1. half; half-size. "demisemiquaver" 2. partially; in an inferior degree. "demigod" – Doug Jan 15 '15 at 12:11

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