I just did a whole lot of entertaining. Bouquet garni was my feature. Bouquet garni is to flavor what wonderbra is to wishing for more. To get the full punch from the pack, you can’t leave anything out–a bundle of fresh thyme sprigs, parsley, a few leek tops, celery fronds and a bay leaf. I stuffed it into a whole seasoned and seared chicken before I roasted it, surrounded by pearl onions. I used it to put some perfume (along with French butter) in the braising water for my brussel sprouts. When the brussel sprouts were ready, it didn’t hurt to finish them in a tiny bit more butter with a little bacon grease from the morning’s breakfast. The same start of butter and bacon for the gravy with the chestnut colored crust made by the chicken in it’s pan scraped into the pot along with a sprinkle of flour, toasted, then a pour of a lovely stock, and red wine. Went along with roasted squash, deconstructed stuffing (toasted bread crumbs, mushroom, onion and celery saute and butter.)
Next day I used my bouquet garni for white bean soup started with a mince of carrot, celery, onion sauteed til they make your heart beat just a little faster, with a few garlic cloves, finished with a tiny chop of peeled potato and fresh tarragon.
And I used it for the ratatouille. I haven’t made ratatouille since that rat won rave reviews. But I tell you the bouquet garni is the secret. Cut the eggplant in medium slices, the zucchini the same, the peppers seeded, and roughly cut, tomatoes the same–all roasted separately, or at least on their own ends of the sheet pan. Add a few cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of tarragon to the eggplant; everything else, just olive oil, salt and pepper. In a saute pan, butter, olive oil, bouquet garni and sliced onions with pinch of salt, pinch of sugar and grind of pepper. When everything is just done and not a moment later, combine them in a beautiful gratin dish, layered if you have the patience, with the onions and their bouquet nestled in. Drizzle over a few tablespoons of the tomato juice left over from the seeding and a teeny weeny bit of your stock. Cover for ten minutes in a 400 degree oven and uncover for five. Serve after the white bean soup with the best little goat cheese rounds you can get your hands on. Salad finished. Simple happiness spread like spilt milk.

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