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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Try To Remember

Soubise! Duxelles! Brunoise! Mirepoix! As simple as these classic French vegetable mixtures are, I can't seem to keep them inside the rattletrap I call my head. Maybe I should try to remember them by creating one of those systems that help you remember, but at the moment, I can't remember that either. Ah yes, a pneumatic phrase--no, that's not right--a mnemonic phrase.

A friend and I were trying desperately to piece together the ingredients for each mixture over our New Year's in a remote locale on the Jersey Shore, alternately merging some elements that didn't belong with one another, summoning up generously admitted probable falsehoods and otherwise becoming progressively irritated as we tried googling back and forth with what limited online access we had available to us. None of it sounded exactly right to me. I emailed her when I returned home, having pulled out The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child as I so often do, once again beseeching it to come to any rescue. I've forgotten it all again now, so I'm writing it down with the fervent hope the exercise will help me remember on my own!

Various Mixtures
Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

This is a stuffing of braised rice and onions that JC paired off with the duxelles (see that recipe below) to make Veal Prince Orloff, but soubise is quite good on its own. For now at least, I leave you to track down the Prince yourself.
1/4 cup dry raw white rice
4 Tb butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1/2 tsp salt

"Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Drop the rice into 3 quarts of boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil, uncovered, for exactly 5 minutes. Drain immediately. Melt the butter in a casserole or baking dish, stir, in the onions and salt to coat with butter, then stir in the rice. Cover and cook for about an hour in pre-heated oven...onion juices contain enough liquid to moisten the rice. Soubise is done when both rice and onions are tender and lightly golden. Set aside until needed. (If served as a vegetable rather than a stuffing, you may wish to stir in a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and some cream along with salt and pepper to taste.)" Sounds good to me!

Here we have sauteed mushrooms that make about one cup to serve as a stuffing with a fancy name. How is this hard to remember?
2 cups finely diced fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 lb.)
2 Tb butter
An 8-inch no-stick or enameled skillet
Salt and pepper

"A handful at a time, twist the mushrooms in the corner of a towel, squeezing out as much juice as you can; this is so the mushrooms will be as dry as possible, and will not dilute stuffing. Then saute them in hot butter, stirring frequently for several minutes, until pieces begin to separate from each other and to brown very lightly. Season to taste and set aside. (Any leftover mushrooms may be frozen; use in soups, sauces, or other stuffings.)"

A combination of aromatic vegetables such as this works very well when simmered with a white wine sauce to pour over a light, white fish. While the grocery list of items needed for the brunoise may be a little longer, the preparation time is still very short.
Cut these very thinly, such as a 1/16th-inch dice, making just shy of 2 cups total: 2 medium onions, 2 medium carrots, 1 medium celery stalk, 8 parsley stems
A smallish sauce pan which may be heavily covered
2 Tb butter
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms cut into 1/16-inch dice

"After cutting the first group of vegetables into the finest possible dice, cook them over low heat with the butter, herbs, and seasonings for about 20 minutes. They should be perfectly tender and the palest golden color. Then add the mushrooms and cook slowly for 1o minutes more."

Suggested as an integral part of a roast beef casserole, the final mixture here is the easiest of the lot. I believe the ham is optional.
2/3 cup each of finely diced celery, carrots, and onions, and 1/4 diced boiled ham

"All [ingredients] cooked together in 2 Tb butter until very lightly browned."

Use these mixtures as a base for your favorite dishes or follow the recipes for Veal Prince Orloff, Sole Filets de Sylvestre, or Roti de Boeuf Poele a la Matignon found in the extraordinary pages of The French Chef Cookbook. What ever you do...try to remember!