Several thoughts run through one’s head when they think of French cooking. Visions of buttery goodness, heavy creams and fancy displays. There is much more to French cooking than that; France isn’t just Paris after all.
French food has several fundamentals, such as the mire poix, the bouquet garni or herb satchel and chicken stock.
A mire poix is 3 parts onion, 2 parts celery and one part carrot. You’ll find this in most French dishes with the exception of fish and a few other recipes.
The bouquet garni is a collection of herbs sometimes put into a cheesecloth. The typical ingredients are: Bay leaf, pepper corns, thyme and parsley stems.
The chicken stock: Never throw away your bones and vegetable trimmings again! This is a useful way of using parts you might ordinarily toss. Another thing is, with this fundamental ingredient, you get to use two other fundamental ingredients, yes… the mire poix and the bouquet garni. Don’t add the liver, put that aside for a pate or something, livers are even good sautéed in butter. Check out the recipe below.
Chicken Giblets (NO LIVER!)
Add all ingredients to a stockpot, cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil and let simmer. Stocks can simmer for over an hour. It depends on the strength you wish to have.
Drain and let liquid cool.
So how do I use these ingredients?
Check this next recipe out. We’re going to use all three fundamental ingredients! Soup, hey it’s the first thing I had to make in culinary school. With this basic recipe, you can substitute the main ingredient with just about any vegetable. For now we’ll keep it simple, Cream of Asparagus Soup.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Asparagus (about a pound will do)
Mire poix (keep it simple, use 1 large onion, 3 celery stalks, and one medium sized carrot)
2 russet potatoes
Salt and Pepper
Sweat the mire poix (this means cooking on low heat until the vegetables are translucent). Toss in your bouquet garni and season a little being careful not to over salt it. De-glaze (this gets any caramelized yummy goodness off the bottom of the pan) with a little white wine and cook it down.
This next step is optional, but I think it adds a little flare. Cut the tops of the spears of asparagus off and set them aside. Blanch these in a bit of hot salted water until they turn bright green. Quickly remove them from the heat and run cold water over them. This is going to be your garnish.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus and the potatoes into manageable pieces and toss them on top of your mire poix. Pour in enough stock to cover your ingredients by at least an inch. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potato and asparagus are both tender. Remove the bouquet garni!
Next step: Puree. I find that it is easiest to do this in installments. Add a bunch of the vegetables into a blender or, even better, a food processor, and then add a bit of stock. Take your pureed soup and run it through a strainer into another pot, this takes out any of the overly fibrous material.
Return your pureed soup to the stove and bring it to a gentle simmer. Add a little cream and stir it in. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Don’t forget your garnish! Ladle some of the soup out and put a few of the spear tops on top of the soup.