Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Gribiche, gribiche, gribiche: A different take on the sauce that jazzes up everything

Boiled shrimp with four-minute egg gribiche

Last month I wrote about a modern take on sauce gribiche, promising to follow up right away with more about gribiche. Forgive me – I got sidetracked by a startling hummus development

So, back to gribiche. I don't know how long gribiche has been around, but I do know August Escoffier gave a recipe for it in his 1903 Guide Culinaire. You've gotta love the way recipes were written then:

"Crush in a bowl the yolks of six hard-boiled eggs, and work them into a smooth paste, together with a large tablespoon of French mustard, the necessary salt, a little pepper, and make up the sauce with one pint of oil. Complete with two teaspoons of parsley, chervil, and tarragon (chopped and mixed), as many capers and gherkins, evenly mixed, and the hard-boiled whites of three eggs, cut in short, Julienne strips. This sauce is chiefly used with cold fish."

A few notes: First, this is the 1969 American English translation of the French; today it would no doubt say "Dijon mustard" rather than "French mustard." Second, I love the phrase "the necessary salt." Third, by "make up the sauce with one pint of oil," I'm pretty sure he meant whisk the olive in slowly, as in a mayonnaise – though I was surprised not to find vinegar or lemon juice in the recipe. "Gherkins": no doubt Escoffier was referring to cornichons. 

Anyway, the effect would have been like a chunky mayo – and that's what sauce gribiche meant for the better part of the century. (Excuse me while I geek out on culinary history; if I'm boring you, just skip down to the modern part!) 

Fast forward to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which the late great Judy Rodgers published in 2002. In it Rodgers included a recipe for Four-Minute Egg Gribiche. 

"This one is inspired by the mustardy gribiche the Troisgros brothers drizzled over beef carpaccio," she wrote, "and crowned with a pile of crispy hot fried potatoes, as an alternative to the familiar raw-egg steak tartar. " She goes on to describe the grillions of things you can do with it, from serving it with grilled fish or poultry to slathering it on sandwiches to putting it in potato salad.

Her version is much more like a mayonnaise than my modern take is. But it's much zingier, herbal and zesty than mayo, with wonderful texture.  Here's my adaptation of Rodgers' recipe:

It requires more a bit more concentration and technique than my easy modern version; you need to whisk all that olive oil in slowly so the sauce emulsifies (getting that mayonnaise consistency) and doesn't "break." But for some people it'll be worth it: Thierry loved it even more than he did my new-wave version. 

Roasted romanesco with four-minute egg gribiche

Roasted romanesco with four-minute egg gribiche

And if right about now you're thinking it would be fun to live with me because I cook, think again: I must have fed him gribiche twenty times that weekend! That day for lunch we had the gribiche three ways: with boiled shrimp (excellent); with boiled asparagus (wonderful) and with roasted slabs of romaneso (also very good!). Insanely weird all together: We had gribiche coming out of our ears! But that shrimp would be really nice as a main course for a Sunday lunch, or as a starter at a dinner party (the shrimp can be served warm or chilled). Or it would be great with cracked crab. Or roasted ham. Maybe even a roast tenderloin of beef. 

I'm not providing formal recipes for those very simple things, but happy to walk you through the three I made:

Roasted romanesco (feel free to substitute cauliflower): Slice the romanesco into slabs about 1/2-inch thick, place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until just tender. Serve with sauce gribiche – the four-minute egg version or the new wave version

Boiled shrimp: Devein the shrimp, but leave the shells on. Drop them in court bouillon or boiling salted water and cook just thill they're pink and firm, about three minutes or so, depending on their size. Drain and serve. To make a quick court bouillon, fill a medium sauce pan about half way full with water, add a few glugs of white wine, half a sliced onion, a peeled and sliced carrot, salt, a few black peppercorns, celery leaves, thyme and parsley, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 or 20 minutes. Don't worry if you're missing an herb or two. Serious people would tie the herbs and peppercorns in a bouquet garni, but I see no harm in the stuff floating around. To me it's easier to fish out the shrimp than look for the cheesecloth. 

Boiled asparagus: Trim the bottoms, and use a vegetable peeler to peel the asparagus to an inch or three below the tips. Simmer in a pan of salted water until the asparagus are floppy but still firm-ish, about four minutes for average-size asparagus – longer for jumbos and quicker for pencil-thin. Don't want to peel? Roast them instead: 17 minutes in a 400 degree oven, et voilà.

Best potato salad ever – thanks to new-wave gribiche

 

Oh: I almost forgot to mention. I had friends over for burgers last weekend, and made a batch of new-wave gribiche to see how it would do in a potato salad. Success! Here's an actual recipe:

 

 

Judy Rodgers and her New Year's Eve Gougères

My favorite thing to do on New Year's Eve is cook for friends – because I love to cook, I love my friends and I don't really like going out on New Year's Eve, especially to a restaurant. If I entertain at home I can spend a luxurious day in the kitchen chopping and slicing and baking, enjoying the smell of something warm in the oven and the sizzle of onions and shallots on the stove. Then I get to enjoy the company of people I love best, spending hours at the table, sipping wine and eating and talking and laughing, and – bien sûr – popping a bottle of Champagne at midnight. 

And it has to be Champagne. It just wouldn't be New Year's Eve without it.

And every New Year's Eve, I think of Judy Rodgers, the late great chef-owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Her Zuni Cafe Cookbook, published in 2002, is one of my favorite volumes of all time. One of the many recipes I love to cook from it is her New Year's Eve Gougères.

Gougères – French cheese puffs, served warm just out of the oven – are wonderful anytime, particularly with a glass of light red wine, maybe a village Beaujolais or a Côtes du Rhônes.

Sliced open and stuffed with great bacon, arugula and pickled onions, as Rogers suggests, they're a spectacular, and very festive, hors d'oeuvre – on New Year's Eve or any other eve.  Rodgers, who died two years ago this month, wrote in the recipe's headnote,"This was the most successful New Year's Eve hors d'ouevre of the last decade, outselling foie gras, oysters, caviar, crab salad, and little truffle-laden pizzas."

There you go. They are a real treat – definitely something to consider whipping up on the last day of the year.

I treasure my copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, not just because there are so many great recipes and ideas in it, but also because Rodgers signed it for me when I bought it at the restaurant many years ago. "For Leslie," she wrote, "always cook with heart." Rest in peace, Judy Rodgers. You will always live on through your recipes.

Happy New Year!