How to Make the Ultimate Umami-Bomb Vegetarian Demi-Glace
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Four 1-pound pieces of veal shank
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger, plus 2 tablespoons finely slivered
20 cilantro sprigs with roots, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
4 star anise pods
2 tablespoons Szechwan peppercorns
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups water
1 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 325°. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the veal shanks, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the shanks to a plate and discard the oil.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic, sugar, onion and chopped ginger to the casserole and cook over low heat until the onion is deeply browned, about 7 minutes. Add the cilantro sprigs, star anise, Szechwan peppercorns and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the water, sherry and soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Return the veal shanks to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, or until the veal is very tender.
Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil. Strain the sauce and return it to the casserole. Simmer over low heat until very flavorful, about 5 minutes. Add the slivered ginger and the veal shanks, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Transfer the shanks to shallow bowls and spoon the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro leaves and serve.