Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent How To - Last Minute Gift Bouquet Garni

One final How TO for the holiday season. And this is perfect for a last minute gift, you can whip these up in just a few minutes with herbs mad materials on hand and yet craft a thoughtful and hand-crafted present.

The term Bouquet Garni refers to little bundles of aromatic herbs and spices used to flavor soups, stews and sauces.  You keep the herbs contained so that the flavor but not the flecks will permeate the food.  You can make the bundles with fresh herb sprigs tied together with string, or with dried herbs whole or crumbled wrapped in cheese cloth bags.

This summer I discussed them as something to make with the fresh herbs from your garden.  Now I want to detail a few recipes you can use to craft a special culinary gift.

Classically bouquet garnis contain parsley, thyme, and bay with any or all of the following: whole peppercorns, whole allspice, whole cloves, celery leaf, tarragon, or marjoram.  The best part about a bouquet garni is you can make them ahead of time.  As a result they make a great gift idea.

For a keen cook you can make a culinary herb gift set. Add a bottle of herb vinegar and a decorative bottle of olive oil, then include a selection of bouquet garni bags that will compliment different types of food.

To make a bouquet garni bag you need a double or triple thickness of cheesecloth (or drip coffee filters or even oversized heat seal tea bags) string and decorative ribbon.

Step 1 - Cut the cheesecloth into squares about 6 inches on each side or lay out and hand-flatten a drip coffee filter.

Step 2  - Measure the herbs into the center of each.

Here are three recipes to try, or craft your own:

For Meat – 1 teaspoon each Nutmeg, Thyme, Chervil and Tarragon.
For Fish – 1 teaspoon each of Tarragon, Dill, Mint and Lemon peel.
For Vegetables – 4 Bay Leaves, 2 teaspoons Parsley and 1 teaspoon Thyme.

Step 3 Gather each bundle and tie with string tightly so the herbs do not escape.  I generally use a rubber band then cover that with the string.  Leave a long tail on the string so the bundle can be suspended in pot tied to the pot handle. 

Step 4 – Label each bouquet garni or gather into a mason jar and add a label to the outside

For gifting --

Gather 3 to 5 bouquet garni and place in a jar with a tight sealing lid and instructions for use.  Gather 3 different jars into a basket with a sauce whisk and a kitchen towel to create a perfect gift for the foodie in your life.  Below are several recipes you can make with bouquet garni.

Include these instructions with the bouquet garni:

When using the bouquet garni, tie the bundle sting to the pot handle and dangle the bouquet in the pot with your cooking meat, soup, stew or sauce.  Once cooking is finished remove the bouquet.

(And do not forget to include an ingredient list – you never know about allergies and sensitivities!)

Here are a couple of recipes that go with bouquet garni you can include in your gift as well.

Garlic Consommé
6 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock
12-15 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Bouquet Garni Herb Bag
1 cup  tomato juice
1/4 cup brandy or sherry (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
Bring the stock, garlic, and bouquet garni to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer 
covered for 1 hour.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine well.  Strain the soup and 
discard the garlic and bouquet garni.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and adjust the seasoning 
before serving.  Serves 4 to 6.

Beef Bourguignon
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup butter
3 slices bacon, cut up
2 lb. boneless beef, cut in 2" cubes
2 Tbls. flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbls. tomato paste
1 1/4 cup red cooking wine
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 Tbls. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 lb. small white onions
1 Bouquet Garni Herb Bag

In large pot, sauté mushrooms in butter.  Remove mushrooms and set aside.  Fry
bacon until crisp.  Remove and set aside. Add meat to drippings and brown well. 
Blend in flour.  Add garlic, tomato paste, wine, bouillon and seasonings.  Add
Bouquet Garni Herb Bag, cover and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add
onions, mushrooms and bacon; simmer 1 hour longer.  Add additional wine if liquid
has evaporated.  Remove Bouquet Garni before serving over rice.

Split Pea Soup
1 ½ c split peas, soaked overnight
3 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 c water
1 pkg. Bouquet Garni Herb Bag
½ c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. carrot, peeled and chopped
¼ tsp. Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients, including Bouquet Garni in a large stew pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 1 to 11/2 hours, adding more water and skimming foam as needed (Carrots should be tender).  Discard Bouquet Garni and puree.  Reheat and serve soup.

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