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Published: Tuesday, 3/1/2005

Bouquet garni: A little package of flavor

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Tie bouquet garni with kitchen string or use a small cheesecloth bag. Tie bouquet garni with kitchen string or use a small cheesecloth bag.
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Second of a four-part series

Some cooks would consider bouquet garni, which is used in slow-cooked dishes such as soups and stews, much ado about nothing.

Instead of gathering a bunch of herbs and tying them together with kitchen string or placing them in a cheesecloth bag to flavor soups, stews, and broths for easy retrieval, they would say, Why not chop those herbs and throw them in the pot?

You re adding aromatics and vegetables, says Chef Jim Rhegness of Penta Career Center. After 35 or 45 minutes, you ll extract your

flavor [into the soup or stew].

Bouquet garni (pronounced boo-KAY gahr-NEE ) is basic to classical French cooking.

The composition of the bouquet depends on the dish to be flavored.

The classic trio of herbs is parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, but others also may be used, such as celery leaves, oregano, leek leaves, garlic, rosemary, and tarragon. A bouquet garni should include at least one fresh herb. These bring gentle flavors that turn up in classic

recipes. Bouquet garni also proves you can do a lot with

a few fresh herbs.

If you re going to take the time to roast bones for stock, you should use bouquet garni, Chef Rhegness says. By using it, you may not have to strain the broth or soup.

Or if you freeze strained broth, you can use it for any recipe without having residue of a specific herb which is not in the recipe you re going to make.

Here s a tip. Tie your herbs in your leeks and keep the string extra long, and then tie it to the pot handle so it doesn t get lost in what

you are making, Chef Rhegness says. You could simmer

ham hock and black beans with a bouquet garni and still end up with a southwest flavor. It s just imparting good flavor.

A bouquet garni is essential for a beef or veal stock or a bouillon used for flavoring stews, such as boeuf bourguignon a burgundy-style beef stew. Made with a smoky bacon and a full-bodied burgundy or pinot noir wine, has a robust taste. But there are shorter versions, such as Burgundy Beef and Vegetable Stew made with canned beef broth; better yet, use your homemade beef broth (flavored with bouquet garni) stored frozen for these kinds of recipes.

That's the secret of a bouqet garni broth, stock, or bouillon. Make it in advance and freeze it in one or two-cup amounts so that you can pull it out for a stew. Bouquet garni is also used in dishes such as osso buco, veal shanks braised with olive oil, white wine, stock, onions, and other vegetables.

Make Burgundy Beef and Vegetable Stew with homemade beef broth flavored with bouquet garni. Make Burgundy Beef and Vegetable Stew with homemade beef broth flavored with bouquet garni.
Enlarge

Bouquet garni can be used for beef, poultry, fish, or vegetable stock or broth. It also can flavor soups, such as two in Simple Pleasures by Alfred Portale and Andrew Friedman (William Morrow, $34.95): Wild Mushroom Minestrone and Rich Short Rib Soup.

A court bouillon - a broth made by cooking various vegetables and herbs, including bouquet garni - is used to poach salmon or other large pieces or whole fish. Court bouillon can also be used for poaching vegetables. Wine, lemon juice, or vinegar may be added. The broth is allowed to cool before the poached vegetables are removed.

Use bouquet garni to make a fish stock for a fish stew such as bouillabaisse or cioppino. Bouillabaisse is a seafood stew from Provence made with an assortment of fish and shellfish, onions, tomatoes, often white wine, olive oil, garlic, saffron, and herbs. It is ladled over thick slices of French bread. (Cioppino is the San Francisco version from Italian immigrants.)

Bouquet garni flavors Vegetarian Cassoulet made with meatless frozen sausage. The classic French cassoulet consists of white beans and meats such as sausages, pork, and preserved duck or goose. We adapted the vegetarian version from The Spirited Vegetarian by Paulette Mitchell (Rodale, $16.95) substituting the meatless frozen sausage with 1 teaspoon light soy sauce to lower the sodium; it has just as much flavor.

It used to be that the herbs for bouquet garni were tied with string or wrapped in cheesecloth. Today the little cheesecloth bags can be purchased for little cost at places such as the Herb N' Spice Co., 2909 West Central Ave., and culinary equipment stores such as Gourmet Curiosities, 5700 Monroe St. in the Starlite Plaza in Sylvania.

Bouquet garni just proves that great flavors come in little packages.

Next week: Part 3 - parsley.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at:

food@theblade.com

or 419-724-6155.



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