If you’d like to know how to use bouquet garni in a few French recipes whacked up by some famous chefs, feel free to read this article.
Bouquet garni is nothing but a simplistic and lovely posy of ambrosial, healing herbs tied up together, and sometimes, in a dainty cheesecloth bag and an essence of French cuisine. It is used for slow, subtle seasoning in soups, stews, and casseroles. The herbs used for its preparation are thyme sprigs, parsley stalks, and bay leaves. This is the classic style. The herbs are tied together by either a long sliver of leek or a piece of celery stalk, in a muslin bag or its string. Some chefs have been known to use a citrus peel or a sliver of bacon to tie it too.
One can also make other variants using different herbs that would blend well with your recipe – depending upon what the recipe asks for; such as basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary herb, peppercorns, savory, celery leaves, fennel leaves, marjoram, leek, onion, garlic, orange peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg (whichever combinations work with your recipe). Whilst cooking a dish, all these come together in a heartening, bubbling mixture when other ingredients are added. The bouquet garni is taken away, leaving the food with only its opulent and mellow disguised sovereign of flavor, and the aroma that brings the whole dish together.
Ingredients (serves 4):
Preparation time – 10 min
Cooking time – 50 min
Olive oil – 6 tbsps.
Finely-chopped onions – 2
Small, sliced zucchini – 4
Small, skinned, and diced aubergines – 3
Red and green peppers, cut into pieces – 2 each
Large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and divided into quarters – 4
Cloves of finely-chopped garlic – 3
salt and pepper
Bouquet garni: marjoram, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof casserole. Cook onions for 2 to 3 minutes until they’re tender and light brown. Add the aubergines. Toss in the zucchini and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, tossing in the chopped garlic.
- Mix all the ingredients gently and evenly. Place the bouquet garni on top, and cover the casserole. Place the covered pan in preheated oven to 180°C (350°F) and cook for 50 minutes. Alternatively, allow to cook gently on the stove top over a low heat for 45-50 minutes.
- Take the bouquet garni off and serve warm. Ratatouille can also be stored in the fridge overnight, and eaten at room temperature the next day.
Baked Salmon with Sauce Verde
Ingredients (serves 4):
Brown sugar – 4 ounces (approx)
Salmon – 4 fillets
Rapeseed oil (or olive oil) – 5½ fluid ounces
Bouquet garni (fennel leaf, bay, and thyme) – 1
Garlic cloves – 4
Peeled and crushed garlic clove – 1
Drained and dried salt capers (Soaked in water) – 1 tbsp
Anchovy fillets – 2
Fresh flat-leaf parsley – 1 bunch
Mint leaves – 10
Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
Red-wine vinegar – 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper
- For making the salsa, chop by hand (or blend) the garlic, capers, anchovies, parsley, and mint. Toss it into a bowl, and add mustard and vinegar, and olive oil – If serving as a sauce for fish or lamb, make it thicker; thinner for vegetables and season.
- Preheat the oven to 120°C. Rub the sugar and salt over the salmon, setting it aside for about half an hour and then brushing off the excess. Pour oil in a baking dish where the fish fit, add the bouquet garni and garlic, and put in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Lay the fish in the warm oil and roast, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes, until just cooked. Lift the fish from the oil, and serve hot or warm withsalsa verde drizzled on the top and a salad alongside.
Cappuccino of White Beans with Grated Truffles (By Scottish chef, Gordon Ramsay in The Guardian)
Served at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):
Dried white haricot beans, soaked overnight in cold water – 12½ ounces
Peeled onion – 1
Peeled medium carrot – 1
Bouquet garni (sprigs of thyme, flat-leaf parsley, and rosemary tied together) – 1
Vegetable stock – 27 fluid ounces
Double cream – 5½ fluid ounces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Truffle-infused olive oil – 1½-2 tsp
Ice-cold butter – few knobs
Fresh truffle – A few thin slices
- Drain the soaked beans, and transfer them to a large pan. Cover by about 5cm with lightly salted cold water. Push in the onion, carrot, and bouquet garni, and increase the heat to high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for a further 1-1½ hours or until the beans are just soft and tender.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove about 4-5 tbs of the beans, and reserve for the garnish. Continue simmering the remaining beans for a further 10-15 minutes until they are very soft. Drain the beans, discarding the onion, carrot and bouquet garni, but reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
- Put the beans into a blender and whizz to a fine purée, adding a little splash of the cooking liquid to get the beans moving if necessary. You may have to stop the machine, and scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to get a really smooth result. Pass the purée through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp with the back of ladle.
- Meanwhile, boil the vegetable stock for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Mix the reduced stock with the bean purée in a large pan. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the cream and season well. (For a velvety-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine sieve once more.) Add the truffle oil, according to taste, then reheat the soup. Just before serving, whisk in a few knobs of ice-cold butter, using an electric hand blender to froth up the soup.
- Divide the reserved beans between warmed cappuccino cups or wide tea cups.
- Spoon the frothy soup over the beans and serve immediately, garnished with truffle slices if you wish.
The Great Self-Taught French Chef Raymond Blanc’s Coq Au Vin
Cooking Time: An hour
Marinating time: 25 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4):
Olive oil – 2 tbsps
Organic chicken, cut into 10 pieces – 3.3 lbs
Flour – 1 heaped tbsp
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Full-bodied red wine, such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon – 34 fluid ounces
Medium carrots, cut into slanted slices 1cm thick – 3
Celery sticks, cut into slices 1cm thick – 2
Baby onions, peeled but left whole – 20
Black peppercorns, crushed – 1 tsp
Bouquet garni (a few parsley stalks, 2 bay leaves, and 6 sprigs of thyme, tied together) – 1
For the garnish:
Olive oil – 1 tbs
Smoked streaky bacon, rind removed, diced – 10 ounces (approx)
Small button mushrooms, trimmed – 20 ounces (approx)
Fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped – 1 tbs
- To marinate the chicken, bring the red wine to the boil, and continue to boil until reduced by a third. This removes the alcohol and concentrates the color and flavor. Leave to cool. In a bowl, mix the chicken pieces, carrots, celery, onions, peppercorns, and bouquet garni. Pour on the cooled red wine. Cover with cling film, refrigerate, and marinate for 24 hours.
- Place a colander over a large bowl, and put the chicken mixture in to drain off the marinade. Leave for a minimum of 1 hour to remove excess liquid. Separate the chicken, vegetables, and herbs, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the chicken with four pinches of salt and four pinches of freshly ground black pepper. Keep the liquid.
- To toast the flour, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Sprinkle the flour on a baking tray, and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until it is very lightly colored. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/gas 2.
- To fry the chicken, on a high heat, in a large, heavy-based casserole, heat the olive oil, and color the chicken pieces in it for 5-7 minutes on each side. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the drained vegetables and herbs to the casserole. Lower the heat to medium high, and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly colored.
- To make the sauce, spoon out most of the fat from the casserole, add the toasted flour, and stir into the vegetables for a few seconds. On a medium heat, whisk in the wine marinade little by little – this will create a sauce and prevent lumps forming. Bring to the boil, and skim any impurities from the surface. The wine marinade will be slightly thickened and have the consistency of a light sauce.
- Add the chicken pieces, and return to the boil. Cover with a lid, and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- To finish the sauce, if you wish, you can serve the coq au vin as it is. But should you prefer a richer, more powerful sauce, drain it through a colander, and on a high heat, boil the sauce until it has reduced by a third. It should have acquired more body and become a rich, vinous color. Pour the sauce back over the chicken and vegetables.
- To cook the garnish, over a medium heat, in a medium non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil, and cook the bacon for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, and cook for a further 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the bacon and mushrooms into the coq au vin. Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve piping hot, straight from the casserole.
Ingredients (serves 8 to 10)
Bacon, sliced – 1 lb
Pork sausage links – 2 lbs
Onions, peeled and sliced – 2 lbs
Garlic cloves, whole – 2
Large potatoes, sliced thick – 4
Carrots, sliced thick – 2
Bouquet garni (bay leaf, tarragon, whole cloves, whole peppercorns) – 1
Apple cider – about 4 cups
Chopped parsley for garnish
- Place the bacon slices in a large frying pan side by side. (The bacon may be cooked in batches.) Fry over low heat, turning once, until crisp. Drain bacon grease from pan before cooking another batch.
- Drain the pan, and wipe most of the bacon grease out with a paper towel.
- Place sausages in the pan to brown (again, the sausage may be browned in batches).
- Place bacon and sausages in a large pot.
- Drain frying pan again, wipe it with a paper towel, and add the sliced onions and garlic cloves, cooking them over low heat until the onions are softened.
- Add onions and garlic to the bacon and sausage in the pot.
- Add the thick slices of potato and carrot.
- Make a garni: In a 3-inch square of cheesecloth, place 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon tarragon, 2 whole cloves, and 2 whole peppercorns. Tie with twine, and place in pot.
- Cover everything with apple cider (or apple juice).
- Cover, and simmer 1½ hours over medium-low heat. The soup should not boil.
- Serve, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley and black pepper.
It is best to use bouquet garni as there can’t be a garni substitute that would have quite the same effect if you want to make it taste like real French food. There are also bouquet garni bags that you can buy, which can be re-used up to four times. Bon appetit!