Sauce Vierge

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I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel GuĂ©rard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.


Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.


I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.

Burgers

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My husband cooks one thing – burgers. And I happily let him because they’re that good. In fact, people come from miles away to eat his burgers.

I didn’t grow up eating burgers and I’ve never cooked them myself. Even though I was born and raised in the U.S., I don’t crave hamburgers and fries like most. But when it comes to my husband’s burgers, I’m first in line.

We planned to have them on Memorial Day recently. Then I got the brilliant idea to document what he does in order to share his recipe. He said he didn’t mind if I followed him around with my camera, but that “there’s really no recipe.” But there is.

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Here’s what he does.

Before the burger-making process begins, he adds hot water to a 32-ounce cup filled with hickory chips.

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The ground beef he uses is grass fed, 80% lean, 20% fat.

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He makes the burgers all 8 ounces each, and 1″ thick.

The patties are formed by gently pressing the meat into shape. He presses a “well” on the tops of the patties.

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A generous amount of Worcestershire sauce and coarsely ground pepper are added. Let them sit at room temperature until it’s time to begin grilling.

Then he starts the fire. He will only use charcoal for grilling, and he’s patient with the fire. Neither of us like “charred” or “flame-kissed” burgers.

Only after all of the charcoal is grey, after about 45 minutes, he spreads out the coals and sprinkles on the soaked hickory.

The patties are placed on the grill carefully and cooked for 7 1/2 minutes on that side.

The lid is propped open so that the fire doesn’t get too hot, yet the hickory smoke stays inside the grill.

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After the burgers are turned over, more Worcestershire sauce and pepper are added.

After another 7 1/2 minutes, the burgers are ready to eat.

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I like mine with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, ketchup and yellow mustard, but they would be fantastic any which way!

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So, I don’t really know what makes these burgers so delicious. I think the hickory smoke is part of it, the Worcestershire sauce and pepper are part of it, using real charcoal, plus cooking only to medium-rare is also part of what makes these so good.

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Chicken Biryani

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It’s funny how you can forget about certain recipes, even when they’re fabulous. But I had forgotten about an Indian recipe called biryani until I came across egg biryani on a blog, which sadly I can’t locate to share.

So I dug out an old standby Indian cookbook to check out my recipe from way back when. Although I have newer, more well-known Indian cookbooks, this is one cookbook I still refer to on occasion because these tried-and-true recipes can’t be beat.

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Chicken biryani is a lovely combination of spiced rice and chicken. The wonderful thing about a biryani is that you can use leftover chicken. Heck, you can use leftover rice also. Here is a photo from the recipe page from that cookbook.
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According to the author, Khalid Aziz, “When the great Mogul emperors wanted to put on a really lavish feast, great plates of Biryani, sometimes requiring two people to carry them, would be the centerpiece of the feast.”

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So even though this Indian dish utilizes leftovers, it’s still a dish of emperors!

Chicken Biryani
Murgh Biryani

1 pound chicken leftovers*
8 ounces Basmati rice (I used brown Basmati)
1 pint chicken stock
1 small onion
2 ounces ghee
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces sultanas
2 ounces blanched almonds
Orange food coloring, optional
2 hard-boiled eggs, optional
2 tomatoes, optional
1 green pepper, optional

Here is what the author says about the chicken: Separate the chicken meat from any bones and remove any fat or skin. Break the chicken up into fairly large chunks; I say break rather than cut – the idea is that the pieces should be large enough to still be recognizable as chicken by the time the cooking process is over.
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I don’t think I’ve ever read such a detailed description before, but I get it!

Wash the rice well and drain. Put it in a saucepan and pour over the chicken stock, leaving to one side 2 tablespoons of stock for use later.
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Boil the rice for about 20 minutes until it is al dente. (This will really depend on what kind of rice you use, so make sure it’s cooked before you follow through with this dish.)

Meanwhile, peel and slice the onion thinly. Fry it gently in the ghee in a large frying pan. Peel and slice the garlic and add that to the onion and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
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Now add the spices – the chilli powder, cumin, garam masala and salt – and stir in well.


Add the chicken to the curry sauce and stir well so that it is well coated. Now pour in the remaining chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.

The next stage involves combining the rice with the chicken and the sultanas and almonds. Once the two are combined, add a little orange food coloring to turn the whole mixture a bright orange. (I did not do this.)

Place the Biryani on a large dish.

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Garnish with slices of hard boiled egg, tomato and green pepper.

Serve immediately.

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As you can well imagine, biryani reheats well in the microwave or on the stove with a little bit of broth.
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* Alternatively, you could always buy a rotisserie chicken if you don’t have leftovers.