Giardiniera – The King of Pickled Veggies

My day job involves managing a bakery cafe for Panera Bread. We had, for a long time, a huge sandwich called an Italian Combo – It was, frankly, completely pedestrian – cold cuts, cheese, veggies – been there, done that, t-shirt is an oil rag… I was personally thrilled when that lead weight was replaced with a really good version this fall – With wine salami, hot sopressa, aged provolone, house made basil mayo, and a nice layer of Giardiniera, the King of pickled veggies, on a fresh baked hoagie roll – that’s a damn good sandwich, indeed.

And that got me thinking about that giardiniera, (Jar-dhi-nare-uh), a pickled vegetable mix, either done up as bite sized pieces or a relish. Redolent of fresh veggies and good olive oil, wrapped around lip smacking brininess that rivals a great cornichon – This is something we all need to be making at home.

Pickling foods to preserve them hardens back thousands of years and crosses numerous boundaries – almost every society does and has employed it. Everything from veggies, to meat, fish, fruit, nuts, and even eggs can end up in the pickle jar, much to our advantage. Pickling not only helps preserve things through the dark months, it adds a vital zip to what can otherwise be a rather bland time of year.

Giardiniera hails from Italy, and means literally, ‘from the garden, (also called sottacetto, or ‘under vinegar.’) While variants come from all over the boot, the versions we’re most familiar with has southern roots, down where the mild Mediterranean climate fosters a wide variety of veggies, the best olive oil, and great sea salt. That’s where those colorful jars filled with cauliflower, carrot, olives, onions, peppers, and chiles hailed from.

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You’ll likely find jars of the bite sized version of giardiniera in your local grocery, with the fancy olives and other pickled goodies. While some of the commercial stuff is pretty good, none of it can match what you can make at home, and to top things off, it’s remarkably easy to do, (And frankly, the relish version of giardiniera is much more versatile, and rarely found in stores).

Seasoned with fresh herbs, maybe even touched with a little hot chile flake, giardiniera is fabulous on sandwiches, (including burgers and dogs), pizza, salads, and as a table condiment with more dishes than you can shake a stick at. Now is the time to be doing up a few batches of your own – it’s fairly traditional for giardiniera to be made in the fall, as a catch all for all those late season veggies we don’t want to lose to the first frost.

The American home of giardiniera is Chicago, where that famous Italian beef sandwich hails from. Slow roasted beef, cooked over its own jus, sliced thin and slapped onto a nice, dense roll, ladled with a generous spoon of giardiniera, a little jus, and eaten in the classic sloppy sandwich hunch – a little slice of heaven.

Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera
Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera

Making giardiniera is a real treat. Your first and foremost issue, naturally, is what to put into the mix. The blend I outlined earlier is generally recognized as the classic base mix, but pretty much anything goes, (I should note that peppers and chiles were not in the original Italian versions of the dish, as they didn’t show up in European cultivation until the 1700s.) firm veggies, like carrots, celeriac root, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus do well. Peppers and chiles will do well too, though really soft stuff like tomatoes tend to break down quickly.

Making giardiniera couldn’t be easier. While some recipes call for cooking or fermenting, (both processes are perfectly fine), the simplest version is, for my mind, best – Just brine your veggie mix for a day or two, until you reach the degrees of zip and bite that you like, and that’s it. You’ll find recipes that call for the mix to be stored in brine, oil, vinegar, and a simple vinaigrette – My money is in the latter option – that will provide a nice stable medium, and a great taste as well.

There are typically mild and spicy (AKA Hot) versions, and extensive regional variety, like the Chicago style that includes sport peppers and an accompanying degree of heat. Down south, the version that goes with a muffuletta sandwich is mild and heavier on the olives. Those are great, and worth your time to build, but really, look upon giardiniera as a launching pad for creativity – You really can’t go wrong if it’s made with stuff you love – For instance, I didn’t have celery when I made up the relish version, but I did have fresh celeriac root, and it turned out to be a wonderful substitution.

You can use any oil and vinegar you like for the base vinaigrette. Seasoning can be as easy as good salt, olive oil, and vinegar. When you feel like adding additional spices, be conservative in both number and ratio – The rule of three is a good thing here.

Unless you process your giardiniera in a hot water bath, keep in mind that this is basically a fridge pickle. If made carefully, and packed into sterilized glass jars, it will last a month or two refrigerated. Just keep in mind that they’re not shelf stable unless you go through the canning process. Accordingly, what we offer below are small batches that will make a couple of quart jars of finished product. There are cooked and fermented versions out there, and we’ll leave those for you to explore.

Giardiniera Relish

A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge
A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge

For the base mix

1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 small Sweet Onion
2-4 Jalapeño Chiles
1 medium Carrot
1 Stalk Celery
1/2 Cup Cauliflower florets
1/4 Cup Pickling Salt

For the final mix

1 Cup White Vinegar
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 large Green Olives
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flake
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Rinse all produce thoroughly.

Stem, seed, and devein the peppers and chiles, (leave the veins in the jalapeños if you want more heat).

Cut all veggies for the base mix into a uniform fine dice, about 1/4″ pieces. It’s not important to be exact, just get everything about the same size and you’ll be fine.

Transfer the mix to a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Cover the mix with fresh, cold water with an inch or so to spare.

Add the pickling salt and mix with a slotted spoon until the salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, take a spoon of the mix out, gently rinse it under cold water for a minute or so.

Test the degree of pickle and softness of the veggies. If you like what you’ve got, move on – If not, give it another day.
When you’re ready to prep the final mix –

Remove the base mix from the fridge and transfer to a single mesh strainer. Run cold water over and through the mix, using your hand to make sure that the salt solution is rinsed off.

fine dice the olives, peel, trim and mince the garlic.

Add all ingredients to a glass or stainless mixing bowl and stir with a slotted spoon to thoroughly incorporate.

Sanitize two quart mason jars either by boiling the jars, rings, and lids for 3-5 minutes in clean, fresh water, or running them through a cycle in your dishwasher.

Transfer the mix to the jars, and seal. Refrigerate for two days prior to use.

Giardiniera, bite size
Giardiniera, bite size

For the bite sized version, cut everything into roughly 1″ pieces, )or larger, depending on jar size and predilection), and process as per above. A bay leaf or two is a nice addition.

The French Mother Sauces

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For ease of use and reference, here are links to all five of the French Mother Sauces, as codified by Auguste Escoffier. Master these, and you’re well on your way to not only a working understanding of the heart of classic French cuisine, but to a lifetime of culinary discovery and invention all your own.

If you’ve not tried them, do, and may you have as much fun in your exploration as we’ve had in presenting them.

Allez cuisine.

Sauce Velouté

The classic Velouté - Light and creamy
The classic Velouté – Light and creamy

Sauce Béchamel

Béchamel - Creamy goodness!
Béchamel – Creamy goodness!

Sauce Espagnole

Sauce Espagnole
Sauce Espagnole

Sauce Hollandaise

Sauce Hollandaise - Gentle is the word
Sauce Hollandaise – Gentle is the word

Sauce Tomate

Sauce Tomate
Sauce Tomate

Sauce Tomate

And finally we arrive at the last of the five Escoffiere French Mother sauces – Sauce Tomate.

Tomate fresca
Tomate fresca

Tomatoes aren’t often associated all that much with classic haute French cuisine, but they wee indeed on the scene, as we noted with sauce Espagnole. Here again, we have a clear cut case of adoption of a great ingredient from the neighbors. All that considered, the roots of the tomato plant may not hail from where many of us think they do. I’ve heard a lot of folks claim that the Europeans, specifically the Spanish, brought tomatoes to North America – that’s more or less correct, but in a very round about way – The Aztec people, who ate and cultivated tomatoes as far back as the eighth century, are actually where the Spanish got tomatoes from, in a very nasty manner.

Tomatoes are far more diverse than we might realize. There are tens of thousands of variants cultivated all around the world – there’s even a Siberian one designed to be grown indoors. There are thirteen recognized wild species, and probably well more than that – There is much we do not yet know of their area of origin. Of the known wild species, three will readily cross with domestic varieties, and nine more can do so with certain caveats.

But I digress – Back to the Spanish. The horror show that was Hernan Cortez and the Spanish campaign destroyed all things Aztec from 1519 to 1521. Cortez took seeds from what was called, in the Nahuatl (Aztec), language ‘xitomatl’ seeds back to Spain, where they were called tomate, and the European introduction was made. Spain’s relatively temperate Mediterranean climate agreed with the tomato, and cultivation began forthwith. Yet for roughly a hundred years, tomatoes were grown purely as an ornamental crop – the Spanish though they were pretty, and adorned their tables with bowls of reddish fruit – It would not be until the early 1600s that they began to actually eat them.

Tomatoes spread quite rapidly across Europe. Italy began tomato cultivation in the mid 1500s, but didn’t eat them until the late 1600s. England, and subsequently the North American colonies, received seeds around 1600, but wouldn’t eat or cook with the fruit until the mid 1700s. The problem, of course, was the tomato’s family ties.

Solanum lycopersicum, AKA the tomato plant, belongs to the family Solanaceae, AKA Nightshade. When we hear the word Nightshade, we assume bad things, but the fact is this family is incredibly broad, sporting everything from herbs and vines to shrubs, trees, and even epiphytes. Many variants are cultivated, (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and chiles, for instance), even some of the ones that contain potent and highly toxic alkaloids. Others, like Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna), not so much.

In any event, once folks got the clue that tomatoes not only could be safely eaten, but were downright delicious, culinary experimentation got underway. It became readily apparent just what the tomato was especially good at – Their high liquid content, coupled with a natural ability to thicken when cooked without the need for adjuncts, (like a roux, or bread crumbs), made them a shoe in for sauces. Care to give that a test? Chop up some good fresh tomatoes, preferably from your garden, and sauté them over medium heat with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, until the raw tomato smell dissipates. Eat them warm, maybe with a hunk of fresh bread and a glass off decent red.

Boom – Any questions?

Some 300+ years later, tomato sauce in one form or another is found everywhere, and widely claimed as indigenous dish, or a favorite import. A veritable cornucopia of good things are added to the root fruit to make sauces – water, wine, stock, veggies, other fruit, nuts, meat, poultry, and fish, bean curd, and many more – a veritable pantheon of tomato versatility.

The French version, as championed by Escoffier, is quite different from most other variants you might be familiar with – In addition to the usual suspects, Escoffier included pork belly, veal stock, a ham bone, and a roux. Those deceptively simple adjuncts yield a sauce of surprising depth and complexity. It’s not a sauce you want to use all the time, given the added calories and potential for clogged arteries, but it’s a real treat for a special occasion.

For our recipe, I’ll call for canned tomatoes, since that’s what we have to work with most of the time. I prefer whole tomatoes, because it’s my belief you get more flavor from them. If you don’t have a stick or conventional blender, (Gods forbid!), then you can certainly sub crushed or diced. If it’s that time of year for fresh tomatoes and you’re of a mind to use them, you’ll want 8-10 cups.

If you get a sudden wild hair to make this stuff and don’t feel like a trip to the store, bacon will work just fine as a sub for belly and bone; just add a tablespoon of good olive oil to compensate and you’re good to go.

Sauce Tomate
2 28 ounce cans Whole Tomatoes, (or 8-10 cups fresh)
4 Cups Veal Stock, (Chicken is fine)
2 Cups diced Onion
1 Cup Diced Carrot
1 Cup diced Celery
2 Ounces Pork Belly
1 Ham Bone
1 clove Garlic
2 tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
8-10 Black Pepper Corns
3-4 sprigs fresh Parsley
1 Bay Leaf, (Turkish preferred, California is fine)
1 sprig fresh Thyme, (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
Sea Salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 300° F and set a rack in the middle position.

Combine the pepper corns, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine – This is your bouquet garni.

Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni

Cut pork belly into 1/2″ cubes, (lardons).

In a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the pork belly until the fat is liquified and rendered free.

Pork belly renders much more fat than bacon
Pork belly renders much more fat than bacon

Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté until the onion is translucent but not browned,about 3-5 minutes.

Mire poix - 50% onion, 25% each carrot and celery
Mire poix – 50% onion, 25% each carrot and celery
Onions just turning translucent
Onions just turning translucent

Remove tomatoes from cans and pulse with a stick blender in a non-reactive mixing bowl until they’re evenly crushed but not liquified, (or process in a conventional blender). If you’re using fresh, just rough dice everything you’ve got, removing tops and bottoms, of course.

That's a lot of fresh tomatoes...
That’s a lot of fresh tomatoes…

Add tomatoes, ham bone, stock, a pinch of sea salt, and the bouquet garni to the Dutch oven, and mix with a large spoon to incorporate. Stuff the bouquet down into the middle with your spoon.

Sauce Tomate ready for the oven
Sauce Tomate ready for the oven

Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.

Add butter to a microwave safe measuring cup and melt. Add the flour and combine to form the roux. Ladle a cup of liquid from the sauce into the measuring cup and blend thoroughly with a fork. Add this to the sauce and stir to incorporate.

Transfer the Sauce to the oven. Reduce oven heat to 250° F, and cover with the top just slightly cracked. Roast for 2 hours.

Roast for 2 hours, top slightly cracked
Roast for 2 hours, top slightly cracked

Remove the sauce from the oven and uncover.

Sauce Tomate
Sauce Tomate

You can leave the sauce rustic, or give it a few pulses with a stick blender if you prefer a smooth consistency – just don’t forget to fish out the bouquet and the bone in either case!

You can now use what you need and allow the rest to cool to room temp prior to freezing.

Use the sauce straight, add additional stuff, or create a daughter sauce if you like – Barbecue, calamari, creole, Espagnole, and a la Vodka are all made therefrom. Here are a few of those to set you on your way.

Penne with Sauce Tomate
Penne with Sauce Tomate

Sauce Creole
2 Cups Sauce Tomate
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup fine diced Green Pepper
1/2 Cup diced Green Onion
2 Tablespoons fresh Basil leaves, cut a la chiffonade
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 shakes Tabasco Sauce
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
Sea Salt to taste

In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil and butter and heat through.

Add the green pepper and onion, and season lightly with salt. Sauté until the onions start to brown slightly.

Add the tomate sauce, stock, basil, thyme, oregano, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, and stir to incorporate.

Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat to just maintain that.

Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed or desired.

Serve hot.

 

Sauce a la Vodka
2 Cups Sauce Tomate
1 Cup heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Vodka
1/4 Cup fresh Basil leaves, cut a la chiffonade
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through.

Sauté the garlic until it begins to brown lightly.

Add the vodka to the hot pan and scrape all the little dark bits free with a fork.

When the booze smell has dissipated, add the sauce tomate, and basil and stir to incorporate.

Season with a pinch of sea salt and 2-3 twists of pepper.

Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

Bring heat back up to medium. When the sauce is simmering vigorously, add the cream and stir to incorporate.

Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Sauce is now ready to be ladled over and tossed with fresh pasta, or cooled to room temperate and frozen for future use

 

Sauce Calamari
2 Cups sauce Tomate
1/2 Cup Red Wine
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red Chile
Sea salt
Black Pepper

In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil and heat through.

Add the garlic and sauté until it become to brown slightly.

Add the Ted wine to the hot pan and scrape all the little dark bits from the pan with a fork.

When the raw alcohol smell has dissipated, add the sauce tomate, and crushed chiles.

Season with a pinch of sea salt and 2-3 twists of pepper.

Reduce hat to maintain a bare simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Serve hot, or allow to cool for freezing.

Sauce Hollandaise

Onward with the Mother Sauces – Today, it’s Sauce Hollandaise. Note how, thus far in our quest, these legendary pillars of classic French cuisine seem to all hail from elsewhere? That’s not a slight or a slam. It is, rather a paean to ingenuity, and to wholehearted adaptation of good things to eat.

Hollandaise, like many of its sisters, has somewhat veiled roots. The name implies Holland, of course, and one school of thought has the original version brought to France from the Netherlands some time in the 17th century, where it was used a sauce for fish. My Larousse Gastronomique, on the other hand, claims it as French from the get go, and printed French recipes are found as far back as the mid 1600s; some are quite close to the modern iteration, while others come from farther afield – There are even green versions mentioned, flavored with fresh parsley. The recipe that yields Hollandaise as we now know it, employing a rich emulsion of egg yolks and butter, was institutionalized in the late 1800s, commensurate with Auguste Escoffier’s reign. Regardless of from where and when it stems, it’s delicious, decadent, and something you just gotta have every now and again.

Hollandaise is an emulsion, which means one of two things in cooking – either fat dispersed into water, or water dispersed into fat. Hollandaise is the former, and that’s important to understand when considering that it’s made with egg yolks. While both yolk and whites are protein rich, it’s the cooks ability to unravel and mesh those proteins that allows us to turn a bunch of fat into an emulsion, (perhaps more importantly, one that will hold long enough to use in a dish without breaking). In this regard, yolks present a distinct disadvantage over whites – They have almost no water, and their proteins are wound far tighter. The best illustration of this is provided by separately whipping yolks and whites in order to increase their volume, as you would for Belgian waffle batter.

Egg yolks need water to expand
Egg yolks need water to expand

While egg whites will whip and expand quite readily, virtually no amount of whipping will appreciably increase the volume of yolks with nothing else added. This happens because the proteins in egg yolks are too dense to expand when they stand alone, even when coaxed by mechanical beating – water is what is needed to do the deed – add a tablespoon to the yolk of a large egg and it’ll expand with vigorous whipping, but the resultant foam will be quite short lived. Those yolk proteins are so tightly packed that, even though you’ve introduced a bunch of air and force expansion, they’re still fundamentally disinclined to truly relax. In light of this fact, you might be surprised at the fact that most recipes for Hollandaise don’t call for water, and frankly, I don’t get that, either.

Acids, like lemon juice or vinegar, will also relax yolk proteins to some degree, but the most effective catalyst is gentle heat, with an emphasis on gentle. To the chagrin of many a home cook, (and plenty of Pros, truth be told), if you heat those yolks too fast, you get scrambled eggs, and nothing will take the wind out of a cooks sails faster. Overcooked hollandaise is easily the Number One Fail for home cooks. My solution, (and believe me, it’s as much for my peace of mind as it is for yours), is to use far less heat than most recipes, and no direct heat at all. Doing so solves the overcooking problem, and the overall fussiness of preparing Hollandaise. The simple truth is that indirect, (mostly steam), heat within a double boiler, coupled with the latent heat from the melted butter, is more than sufficient to get the job done. Here’s how you do it.

Sauce Hollandaise - Gentle is the word
Sauce Hollandaise – Gentle is the word

Painless Hollandaise

4 large, fresh Egg Yolks

1/2 Cup fresh Butter

1 Tablespoon Cold Water

2 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice

2-3 shakes Tabasco Sauce

Separate eggs. Place whites in an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze for future projects.

Put about 2″ of water in a sauce pan sized such that a mixing bowl or double boiler will fit within. You want the bottom of the bowl you’ll work in to be above the water by a good 2″. Not doing this right is a primary cause of failed hollandaise – Too much heat, and/or heating too fast.

Turn heat to medium low.

In a separate sauce pan, melt butter over medium low heat.

When the water starts to simmer, turn off the heat.

In a small mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, water, and lemon juice.

Whisk briskly by hand to combine, until blend thickens and the volume has increased notably, about 2 minutes.

Place bowl over the hot water pan.

Gently but steadily whisk the egg yolk mixture to heat it through, about 1 – 2 minutes.

Begin slowly adding butter in a thin stream; add a few seconds worth, whisking gently but constantly, until the yolk mixture has incorporated the butter, then add a little more, and keep doing so until all the butter is absorbed.

The sauce will thicken somewhat, but possibly not as much as you like it to end up, but don’t sweat that point; as the sauce sits while you prep the rest of the dish, it’ll thicken a bit more.

Whisk in the Tabasco, then set the whole double boiler rig on the back of your oven, and cover with a clean towel.

traditional Eggs Benedict
traditional Eggs Benedict

With that, you should make, if nothing else, Eggs Benedict, and fresh asparagus, right?

Asparagus with Hollandaise
Asparagus with Hollandaise

Sauce Espagnole

Onward with the Mother Sauces! Today, it’s sauce Espagnole. As intimated by the moniker, this mother sauce has its roots in Spain. As with Béchamel, Espagnole is another example of French innovation, adapting and refining the neighbor’s good works. The roots of this venerable sauce were documented in Spain in the late eighteen hundreds, and several derivatives are noted in regional cookbooks from back then.

Espagnole is potent stuff – While you certainly can enjoy it straight, it’s more often used as a base for derivative sauces, like Bourguignonne, (Espagnole, with red wine, shallot, and a bouquet garni), sauce charcutière, (Espagnole with chopped cornichons), and sauce Africaine, (Espagnole with tomato, onion, bell pepper, basil, thyme, and bay leaf), to name a few.

In a very real sense, the preparation of espagnole mirrors what is done to make dark stocks – bones, veggies, beef, and seasonings are allowed to get quite dark, which effectively magnifies the strength and breadth of flavor in the final product.

There are, of course, dueling origin stories for this legendary stuff. One popular version has Spanish cooks preparing the wedding meal for Louis XIII and Queen Anne, adding tomatoes, (introduced from Spain), to a typical French brown sauce. Another claims that the Bourbon kings time in Spain created the necessary amalgamation, and brought it back to France thereafter. However it appeared, Espagnole has never left, to our great benefit.

Making Espagnole is not terribly difficult, with one glaring exception – The true, classic version requires veal or beef demi-glacé – And that presents a bit of a catch 22. See, to make classic demi-glacé, you need – you guessed it – sauce Espagnole. Neat, huh? On top of that, you’ll also need somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 pounds of bones, a gallon of water, a quart of red wine, and many, many cups of prepped veggies – Oh, and 7 to 8 hours of cooking time to boot – Sound like fun? Actually, it is, and more importantly, making demi-glacé from scratch has much to teach us about patience, reduction, and chemistry, but that’s a lesson for another day. Therefore, we’ll need a sub or a reasonable cheat – fortunately, both are easy to come by, and either will work just fine.

The first option is a substitute, of which there are many. The current resurgence in home cooking has spawned a lot of gourmet accoutrements, and as such, bottled or boxed demi-glacé is abundant. That said, they’re not all created equally, so read your ingredients carefully – One of the most popular dried products includes all this bounty – ‘Wheat flour, corn starch, natural flavour, sugar, beef fat, salt, tomato powder, hydrolyzed soy/corn/wheat protein, monosodium glutamate, white wine solids, maltodextrin, onion powder, colour, guar gum, citric acid, spice, yeast extract, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, silicon dioxide and sulphites. May contain traces of milk ingredients.’ Yummy, huh?

If you’re of a mind to buy demi-glacé, I’ll recommend Williams-Sonoma. It’s not cheap, but it’s organic, and there’s no bullshit in it – It’s made right, from good stuff, hence the cost – That said, a little goes a long way, so it’s worth the splurge.

The second option is a cheat, and for my mind, this is your best bet. The version I like is what the venerable Julia Child called a “semi-demi-glace,” which cracks me up – Fact is, it works great, and is easy and quick to make. Here’s the drill.

Element Fe Forge and Ganesh Himal - Good stuff Maynard!
Element Fe Forge and Ganesh Himal – Good stuff Maynard!

Semi Demi Glacé
4 Cups Beef Stock, (homemade is best, good quality bought is fine)
2 Tablespoons Red Wine, (Burgundy does nicely)

In a heavy sauce pan over high heat, combine the stock and the red wine and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting you’ve got, and allow the stock to simmer gently for 3-4 hours, until the stock has reduced to roughly 1 cup in volume. When it’s done, the demi-glacé should nicely coat the back of a spoon.

Skim any scum that rises to the top off and discard.

Remove from heat and allow to cool in a non-reactive bowl.

Demi glace will last refrigerated in an air tight container for a couple of weeks. If you want to go longer, freeze it in an ice cube tray. Just pop out a cube to add to a sauce, and you’re good to go. For our use, we’ll reconstitute it in water – That may seem sort of silly, but all that reduction has changed the flavors mightily, so fear not. When you use demi-glacé in that manner, a ratio of 1:4 glacé to water will do the trick. You can adjust with more water or glacé as you see fit, of course.

OK, with that handled, it’s time to make the mother sauce.

Sauce Espagnole
Sauce Espagnole

Sauce Espagnole
4 Cups reconstituted demi-glacé concentrate
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Tomato Purée
1 medium Onion
1 small Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf, (Turkish is best, California is fine)
Pinch of Sea Salt
A few twists ground Pepper

Rinse, trim, and dice the onion, carrot, and celery.

Trim, peel, and mince the garlic.

In a large, heavy sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter and melt completely.

Add the flour and combine with a whisk. Cook the roux for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the roux has a nice, brown color and a nutty smell.

Begin adding stock in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Let the roux absorb a dose of stock and reheat before adding more – I refer to this as not breaking the roux – it’ll start out like thick mashed potatoes and gradually get to the liquid sauce phase – Take your time and let that happen rather gradually.

Once all the stock has been added to the roux, toss in the veggies, including the tomato purée and stir to incorporate.

Add the bay leaf, and season with a pinch of sea salt and a few twists of pepper.

Reduce the heat to low, maintaining a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes more.

Remove the sauce from the stove, and carefully pour it through a single mesh strainer or chinoise, into a non-reactive bowl.

Allow to cool.

Rockin' my Ganesh Himal fair trade apron!
Rockin’ my Ganesh Himal fair trade apron!

So, what to do with this stuff? Well, how about those derivatives I mentioned up yonder? Bourguignonne is great for beef (or veggies if you tweak the stock – See below), sauce Charcutière is fabulous with pork, and sauce Africaine pairs wonderfully with chicken or veggies. Here’s how.

Sauce Bourguinonne
3/4 Cup dry red Burgundy Wine
3/4 Cup Stock (Beef is traditional, chicken or veggie are just fine)
1/2 Cup Sauce Espagnole
1/4 Cup chopped white button Mushrooms
2 Tablespoons diced Shallot
2 Tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
2 strips thick cut Bacon, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4-5 leaves fresh Basil, (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Turkish Bay Leaf (California is fine too)
1 sprig fresh Thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Pinch of Sea Salt, a couple twists of Pepper

Combine basil, bay leaf, and thyme in a tea ball or tied into cheese cloth – This is a bouquet garni.

In a heavy sauté pan over medium high heat, add the oil and allow to heat through. Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they’re soft.

Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the garlic has browned.

Add the wine, stirring to break up the dark stuff attached to the pan. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, until the wine has reduced by roughly 50%. Add the stock and stir to incorporate.

Reduce the heat to low, maintaining a bare simmer. Add the bacon, a pinch of sea salt, and a couple twists of pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the sauce Espagnole and the bouquet, then increase the heat to medium, and stir to incorporate. Once a simmer has been restored, reduce the heat to low and whisk until the sauce is heated through.

Remove the sauce from heat, and pour through a single mesh strainer, into a non-reactive bowl, (discard the solids and the bouquet).

Serve hot.

 

Sauce Charcutière

2 Cups dry White Wine

1/2 Cup Sauce Espagnole
1/4 Cup diced Onion
2 tablespoons diced Cornichons
1 Tablespoon unsalted Butter
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and sauté for 1-2 minutes until they soften, (but don’t let them brown).

Add the wine and heat through until it starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the wine has reduced by roughly 50%.

Add the sauce Espagnole and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from heat, and pour through a single mesh strainer into a non-reactive bowl.

Add the mustard, lemon juice, sugar, and cornichons, stir to incorporate.

Serve hot.

Sauce Africaine
2 Cups dry White Wine
1/2 Cup Sauce Espagnole
1/4 Cup diced Tomato
1/4 Cup diced Onion
1/4 Cup diced green bell Pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
1 clove minced Garlic
4-5 leaves fresh Basil, (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Turkish Bay Leaf (California is fine too)
1 sprig fresh Thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Pinch of Sea Salt, a couple twists of Pepper

Combine basil, bay leaf, and thyme in a tea ball or tied into cheese cloth – This is a bouquet garni.

In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat add oil, and heat through. Add the onion and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is starting to turn translucent. Add the tomato and garlic! and sauté for another minute or two, until they’ve softened.

Add the white wine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the wine has reduced by roughly 50%.

Add the sauce Espagnole, stir to incorporate, and allow to return to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to the low, add the bouquet garni, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the sauce from heat, and pour through a single mesh strainer, into a non-reactive bowl, (discard the solids and the bouquet).

Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

A NOTE TO OUR READERS –

I’m sure you noted that I did what is commonly referred to as a product plug a couple of times in this post. In the words of Tricky Dick, let me say this about that…

We enjoy a steady readership of something over 10,000 genuine visits a week here. We’ve been picked up by sources as cool as the Basque national tourist board for our work, along with followers from all over this blue marble.

As such, we’ve been approached about things like getting paid for ads, getting free products in exchange for reviews, (with implied favorability, of course), and other stuff from which we could actually generate income from our work here. Fact is, we don’t accept any of those offers and never will.

This is a labor of love, plain out and simple. When we plug or recommend something, it’s because we tried it, own it, like it, and think maybe you will too. We’ve never been compensated for that and will never be. That’s simple not what we’re about. We’re about passion for sourcing, cooking, and preserving great food, and passing those things on to y’all.

Element Fe Forge made all our knives, and for the record, we bartered a little and paid for the rest. Ganesh Himal Trading Co. is the long-term effort of a dear friend to see that folks from Nepal are treated fairly, and you can’t ask for better motivation than that. If you like these things, look them up and honor them with your business.

Gathering Swing

Gathering Swing – It’s what happens once you get here and get into the rhythm of the place.

Music blooms anywhere, any time
Music blooms anywhere, any time

Swing on through. What you’ve come for will be here in spades, be it playing a bunch of hand made instruments, or working on or talking the technical and artistic aspects of building them.

Saturday Night on the Main Stage
Saturday Night on the Main Stage

If none of that is for you, there will be plenty of non-builders here to discuss art, history, philosophy, archeology, geology, and a dozen other things. And if that don’t float your boat, there’s more great food and beer and music than you can shake a stick at.

Yeah, but is it local?
Yeah, but is it local?

Whatever your bailiwick, you can immerse yourself in it, or do as I do, and drift in and out of things as you see fit. Of course, since I’m the Chef, I spend more time on food than anyone else, and that’s exactly how I like things.

Bounty
Bounty

Chef swing – A Chef working a thing like this has to do a lot of planning, but probably not as you might think it’ll go – we plan main courses, sides, and deserts, to some degree – But any given meal may need to feed 12 or 60, and everything in between.

Five minutes old...
Five minutes old…

On top of that, folks will bring stuff – some will tell you they’re bringing it, and some won’t, and their level of concern over how and when the dish gets used will vary as well. Blending all that, making enough food, and having ample contingency plans for leftovers is par for the course, and requires diplomacy, humor, and quick thinking.

Never leave home without 'em.
Never leave home without ’em.

Take the chickens that became the main dish for Saturday night. Somewhere around 20 folks who’d said they were coming didn’t, and all of a sudden, we’ve got a bunch of left overs – No problem… They found  their way into frittatas the next morning, or tarts for brunch after that, and finally into incredible chicken pot pies Sunday night, (if I do say so myself – and I do…)

Chimayo, Turkish, Garlic-Lime-Dill, Lemon & Sage
Chimayo, Turkish, Garlic-Lime-Dill, Lemon & Sage

Here’s some eye candy from the weekend – If anything floats your boat, drop me a line and I’ll give up the recipe for ya.

Dinner Time at the Gathering
Dinner Time at the Gathering

And we can’t forget the vegetarian crowd, either…

Caramelized Cauliflower
Caramelized Cauliflower
Lemon-Garlic-Dill Tofu
Lemon-Garlic-Dill Tofu
Heirloom Apple Plum Crisp
Heirloom Apple Plum Crisp
Prepping Smoked Guacamole
Prepping Smoked Guacamole
Brunch Tarts - Fruit, Mushroom, Bacon & Eggs
Brunch Tarts – Fruit, Mushroom, Bacon & Eggs
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie