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March 30, 2014: Making a Bouquet Garni

March 30, 2014

Bouquet Garni1When one wants to add whole spices into a dish, yet have a convenient way to remove those spices after the dish is cooked, the easiest method is to make a bouquet garni (French for “garnished bouquet.”) This is simply a bundle of spices wrapped in cheesecloth and tied up with neutral kitchen twine.

I added a bouquet garni to both the beef bourguignon and the ratatouille niçoise, two weeks ago for Katie’s French Dinner. I made a separate one for each so that I was able to differ the spices slightly between the dishes.

Bouquet Garni2

First I cleaned and cut a long stalk of celery in half. In one half I layed parsley stems; a Turkish bay leaf; peppercorns; and French thyme. For the beef bouquet garni, I added juniper berries. Then, I placed the other half of the celery on top, fitting the two groves inside one another. I then rolled the celery-wrapped spices in a short sheet of cheesecloth and tied the ends with kitchen twine. For both dishes, I added the bouquet garni at the beginning of the simmering process. After the dish was cooked, I removed the bouquet garni with tongs and composted it.

Bouquet Garni3

My version is little fancy and only slightly time-consuming. My mother used to simply tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag and snug the end closed with twine. It’s a tiny bit of extra work at the prep stage, but a bouquet garni pays off, allowing you to add specific flavors to a dish and then being able to quickly remove the bundle at the end of cooking. It is especially handy when you are rushing to get several elaborate dishes to the table quickly.

I never bother making a bouquet garni for stocks, as I am always filtering out the components of the stock anyway, but after the stock is made, a bouquet garni is ideal for later adding specific flavors to a complex soup like Bouillabaisse.

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