Bouquet garni

IMG_9318A bouquet garni is a bundle or sachet of herbs that you assemble and add to something you’re boiling or stewing for a prolonged period of time like a soup, stock, or stew. The bundling or sachet allows you to remove the herbs quickly and easily once what you’re making has enough flavour – not unlike a tea bag. French stocks in particular strive to be crystal clear, and so the bouquet garni is key in helping to achieve this.

Ingredients:

What you include in a bouquet garni will depend on what you’re making, but generally, thyme and bay leaves are used as a base. Other herbs that can be added or asked for in a recipe include:

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Tarrgon

Some recipes also ask for certain vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions to also be included in the bouquet garni. For those recipes, it’s better to use a sachet method as the vegetables can break down over the course of cooking. Some also wrap everything up inside a few layers of leeks that have been halved lengthwise and tie it together.

Preparation:

Assembling a bouquet is very easy. There are two main methods:

1) Stack and bundle your herbs together and tie it tightly together with a string

2) Place them into a tea bag or cheese cloth and tie that tight with a string

Voilà, You’re ready to go!

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Choosing and seasoning your wok

Choosing and seasoning your wok

Choosing a wok can be an overwhelming task. They come in a multitude of different materials, sizes, and makes. Rather than reviewing each type, I’m just going to cut to the chase. The best woks for the average household are 14″ in size (not too big or small), made of carbon steel, and hand hammered. Check that the sides are thick and strong enough that they don’t bend when you push on them. Luckily, that combination of wok is actually quite inexpensive (I got mine for $13 CAD), despite being hammered out by hand. Depending on the kind of stove you have, you  may also need to get one with a slightly flattened bottom so it sits on your stove range. That said, you can get circular wok burner rings for the traditional round bottom woks. It’s also best to avoid the non-stick woks. Not only are you usually paying a lot for these pans, the non-stick surface doesn’t do well under high heat, which is one of the biggest benefits of cooking with a wok.

For a more comprehensive break down of the different types of woks, I really like the overview written on Serious Eats.

Once you have your wok, it needs to be seasoned. There are different ways to achieve the same result. This is the method I like best.

What you need:

  • scouring pad or steel scrubber
  • lard or a high smoking point oil

Optional:

Stayin’ Alive

What not to do with lobsters. (Photo credit: Vivian Chan)

The other night, we decided to go big and brought home two live lobsters and fresh manila clams. Since we’re a household of die-hard seafood lovers, what could possibly be better than picking up fresh, live seafood for dinner? Our challenge, of course, was to keep it all alive until it was time to cook.

Intuition told us that lobsters and clams are ocean dwellers, so naturally, the best tactic would be to immerse them in water for safe-keeping, right? Wrong. Regardless of whether the water is fresh or salted, it’s a bad idea to fully immerse shellfish in water for storage. Within probably 15-20 minutes, the two previously very energetic lobsters were still.

Luckily, the clams could still be saved, and we had discovered the lobsters’ premature deaths quickly enough that our dinner could also still be salvaged. (We immediately brought about an inch of gently salted water to boil and steamed the two lobsters in covered pots right away.)

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