August 20, 2013

Home Cooking: Gargouillou

Just to prove I won't go away quietly, another blog post happens. This time, a home cooking exploit. I recently became obsessed with a single dish. It is no ordinary dish, mind you. It's not a dish I've ever tasted, and there is a damn good chance I never will. This fact, my friends, did not dissuade me from trying to recreate said dish. The dish is called gargouillou, and it is, rather directly, a melange of various vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. It was given the name by the reticent genius of a chef, Michel Bras. Bras has been at the helm of his namesake restaurant Bras, in south-central France in the Aubrac mountains for the last thirty years.You can find an inspirational post on eating at restaurant Bras at A Life Worth Eating. Gargouillou is one of Bras' signature dishes, a dish he has meticulously prepared daily for the last thirty years. Below is a video of Bras's son Sebastien preparing gargouillou:
When Bras makes the dish, it involves upwards of seventy-five ingredients, basically any or all of the freshest vegetables, herbs, and flowers he sources at market each morning. My prep plate is pictured below with some of the forty or so different ingredients I used.
Each item is prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Some are simply boiled in salted water, others sauteed in a little butter or pork fat. And, equally important to the spirit of the dish, any usable part of any given product is used. For example, carrot greens and cauliflower stalks are part utilized in the dish, as are spinach stems and radish leaves. The vegetables are par-cooked hours in advance, making the actual execution a bit easier as all items are warmed in some butter and ham fat just before plating.
So...what was I to do with my pedantic obsession over this dish? I called some of my food and wine buddies who would not be ashamed or put-off by my geekery to share in the preparation and consumption of said dish. The finished product. A bit messy, maybe a little less wine consumption before and during plating would help. Along with the vegetables, a series of sauces are served as accoutrements. I made a pepper puree, garlic aioli, parsley oil, and black olive tapenade. In the end, it was a fun and educational way to prepare a diverse set of vegetables. It was difficult to not think of each component and flavor as playing a role, which led to a very deliberate preparation, as well as a thoughtful consumption of the dish.
As we are want to do when we get together, we drank some great wines. And ate more food. There was a delicious and fatty porchetta that cancelled out any of the health benefits from the plate of veggies pictured above. 

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