Mignonette

Mignonette is a traditional accompaniment to chilled, raw oysters containing a mix of pepper, shallots, and vinegar the name is thought to come from a traditional spice mix of peppercorns, cloves, and other spices.

Chilled Oysters Mignonette
Traditional Oysters Mignonette

 

Mignonette

75 ml quality White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar

1 medium Shallot, peeled and very, very finely diced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Stir together all ingredients and allow the flavours to infuse for thirty minutes before serving.

If you like things a little fierier, add one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce.

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Master Sauces

There is a long history of sauce in French cooking, dating back to the Middle Ages. In classic French cuisine or ‘cuisine classique’ through to ‘nouvelle cuisine’ in the nineteen seventies and eighties sauces were a major component of most savoury dishes and many of these sauces are derived from what we call the five Master Sauces. In a traditional kitchen brigade, a ‘saucier’ or sauce cook is the most senior chef after the Head Chef and Sous or second chef. The saucier prepares all of the sauces, and casseroles as well cooking dishes to order.

Demi-glace reduction
A Demi-glace reduction

In the early nineteenth century, the chef Marie-Antoine Carême created a list of sauces, many which were his own recipes. Carême made many of these recipes using four base Master SaucesEspagnoleVelouté, Allemande, and Béchamel. The chef Auguste Escoffier developed the list of sauces in his book ‘Le Guide Culinaire’ or A Guide to Modern Cookery, he removed Allemande because of its similarity to Velouté and added Hollandaise, the emulsion of eggs and butter and Tomato Sauce. This list became the five Master Sauces with the substitution of Demi-glace for the heavier Espangole.

Tomato concassé

Tomato concassé is the flesh from fresh tomatoes that have been peeled, de-seeded and chopped into a dice. It is a staple of many professional kitchens used in sauces, omelettes, with olive oil, garlic, and basil as a topping for bruschetta and when added to Béarnaise sauce to make Choron sauce, served with fish and seafood. We remove tomato seeds and skin from Tomato concassé as in large quantities they can be tough, do not soften during cooking and leave a bitter flavour. If you can get hold of a moderate amount of ice it is very useful when cooling off the blanched tomatoes. Use fully ripe but firm tomatoes for the best results. The process may seem to be quite an effort but the end results for Tomato concassé are very pleasing and worthwhile.

To make tomato concassé

Bring a large pot of water, deep enough to generously cover your tomatoes, to a rolling boil.Take each tomato and using the tip of a small sharp knife or paring knife ( see picture ) remove the pith or tough part of the tomato where the stem used to be cutting out a circular hole.

Turn the tomato over and on the other end mark a small cross in the skin with the knife.

When all your tomatoes are prepared, place a four or five at a time into the pan the boiling water. As soon as the water returns to a boil cook for one-minute longer and then remove them using a slotted spoon or spider.

Immediately plunge the blanched tomatoes into a large bowl of very cold water to arrest the cooking process. If you have ice, use iced water. The cooking process depends on the size of tomatoes you are using, small tomatoes may only require thirty seconds simmering. A good rule of thumb is if you see the tomato skin beginning to peel off then take out and cool.

The next step will take a little practice. Drain the blanched tomatoes then using the sharp knife again gentle tease and peel off the skin. Start by slowly sliding the tip of the knife under the cross you made in the skin earlier and work down. When peeled quarter the tomatoes and remove the seed with a small spoon or the back of the knife. Chop the quartered tomatoes into large or small dice as required.

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence.jpg

Herbes de Provence is a simple mix of herbs one would typically associate with the flavours and cooking of the Provence region of Southeast France. There is no real prescribed mixture and so the mix may contain some or all or the following Savory, Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme, and Oregano*. Herbes de Provence are used to flavour grilled foods such as fish and meat, as well as vegetable stews. The herbs used in Herbes de Provence are all quite robust particularly compared with the other classic French herb blend ‘Fines herbes’.

*In America Herbes de Provence often contain Lavender leaves.

Amuse-bouche

An amuse-bouche or more correctly in France an amuse-gueule is literally translated as “mouth amuser”. They became popular in restaurants in the nineteen eighties as a showcase of the chef’s skills. Normally a small intensely flavoured dish presented to all diners before their ordered dishes. In high-end classic restaurants such as those with Michelin, stars amuse-bouche are now an integral part of the meal.

Gazpacho Shots

At home, an amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule does not have to be an elaborate creation it can be some delicious marinated Spanish olives, a tasty, freshly made dip with breadsticks or a Gazpacho Shot.

Roux

A roux is a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. It is traditionally used to thicken the classical French Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole sauces and in Cajun and Creole cooking. The roux is made from equal parts wheat flour and either butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings or lard which are cooked together with or without colouring. In Cajun cuisine, the roux is almost always made with oil or lard instead of butter, which would burn and is dark brown in colour, adding greatly to the flavour of the finished sauce. In regional American cuisine, bacon is sometimes rendered to produce the fat to use in a roux for extra flavour, in recipes such a sausage gravy. In the case of meat gravies, fat rendered from meat is often used to make a pan gravy.

Roux.jpg

Cooking the roux produces the correct chemical structure to thicken the sauce and starts to remove the floury taste from the finished sauce. A light roux of flour and butter, cooked for two or three minutes without colouring is used in the traditional béchamel sauce. Cooking until the mixture becomes golden in colour and sandy in texture produces a blonde roux the base of velouté sauces. Darker roux can range from light brown to chocolate in colour and add a distinct nutty flavour to a dish. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has, a chocolate roux has about a quarter of the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux.

The golden rules when thickening a roux based sauce is to allow the roux to cool slightly after cooking and use a liquid that is just off the boil to make combining the ingredients much easier. The sauce will then need to very gently simmer for at least thirty minutes to cook out and eliminate any floury taste. The resulting sauce will be smooth, rich and creamy in texture.

 

Espagnole

Classic Espagnole or Brown sauce is a dark, flour-based sauce with a strong taste and is now replaced in many recipes by a well-reduced beef or roast veal bone stock, traditionally it was a Master Sauce serving as the starting point for many derivative sauces, of which there are hundreds in the French repertoire. As Espagnole is the French word for Spanish it was long thought that the sauce was a creation of a chef to one of the two countries royal courts following a diplomatic marriage between the French and Spanish thrones, similarly, Espagnole was a rich marriage of Spanish tomatoes to a traditional French brown meat sauce. However, according to Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, “The name has nothing to do with Spain, any more than the counterpart term allemande has anything to do with Germany. It is generally believed that the terms were chosen because in French eyes Germans are blond and Spaniards are brown.”

Espangole is made from a dark roux, a Mirepoix of root vegetables and tomatoes, veal or beef stock and aromatics. The sauce is very gently simmered over a low heat and skimmed regularly. Espangole was one of the five mother sauces of the French cuisine of Escoffier and was traditionally used to make Demi-glace which is used in turn to make hundreds of secondary sauces. In the modern kitchen, these sauces are made using a reduced stock and a list can be found under the Demi-glace entry.

A Classic Espangole Recipe

As Espangole was a staple of the large classical kitchen the ingredient list includes parsley stems and mushroom trimmings left over from the preparation of garnishes, these are optional or simply replace with a couple of sprigs of parsley and a few mushrooms.

50 gr Butter or Lard

50 gr Fat Bacon

100 gr Plain Flour

2 large Carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large Onion, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 Pigs Trotter

500 gr Shin of beef, with the bone

1 generous sprig of fresh Thyme

1 sprig Rosemary

2 Bay Leaves

A small handful of Parsley stems

A small handful of mushroom peelings and stems

6 Black Peppercorns

1 1/2 ltrs of Beef or roasted Veal Stock

440 gr  tin chopped Tomatoes

150 ml quality Red Wine


Roast the trotter and beef shin in a very hot oven for twenty minutes until brown. In a very large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and fry the bacon, add the mirepoix of root vegetables and cook slowly. Brown the vegetables so the natural sugars caramelise to add flavour and colour to the sauce. Add the flour and cook for at least another five minutes to develop the colour.

Slowly add a quarter of the stock stirring all the time then add the remaining stock, trotter, beef shin and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to the gentlest of simmers and cook for at least three hours. Skim regularly to remove any impurities and excess fat from the sauce which if let to boil into the sauce will result in a cloudy finish. Remove from heat, allow to cool and pass through a chinois or fine sieve.