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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Cornichons – Crisp, Crunchy, Vinegary, Slightly Salty, Miniature Cucumbers (Gherkins). Cornichons in French Cuisine.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman

Fresh cornichons.
www.flickr.com/photos/twisted-string/7377314814
    
Cornichons are small members of the cucumber family, 4 -7 cms (1.5 - 2.5") long, and while they may be eaten fresh, they are usually seen when pickled.  Pickled cornichons are at the heart or close to the heart of a number of French sauces and salads and, additionally, along with mustard, and pearl onions (oignons grelot), nearly always accompany charcuterie (cold meats (cuts) and sausages) as well as many cheese plates. What makes a cornichon special, apart from its taste, is its crrruuunch.

Cornichons are small gherkins, and while a baby cucumber may look somewhat like a cornichon upon closer inspection, they have different shapes and skins.  Pickled cornichons come in different sizes with the smallest, “extra fine”, costing the most.
  

Cornichons ready to eat.
   
Today, only 10% of France’s cornichon needs are locally grown. Most of the fresh and frozen cornichons come from Morocco while the largest supplier of the pickled variety is India where the original cucumber first appeared.  Nevertheless, fresh French cornichons will be in seen in farmers' markets from July through September. 

Malossol cornichons

Malossol cornichons are pickled with less vinegar; consequently, while they are less vinegary, their taste is a little saltier; also they are usually made with slightly larger gherkins. Despite their name, they have nothing to so with Russian or Malossol Caviars though their original recipe is said to be Russian.
  
Maille Malossol cornichons.

Cornichons in French Cuisine:

Cornichons in Sauces.

Sauce Grébiche, or Gribiche  – A mayonnaise-based sauce made with hard-boiled egg yolks and cornichons prepared with a sharp mustard accent. 

Oeuf Poché, Asperges, Sauce Gribiche, Parmesan An entrée, the French first course, of a poached egg, asparagus, Sauce Gribiche and shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Tête de Veau, Sauce Grébiche -  Tête de Veau is the bound meat and skin, often including the tongue, from the head of a calf; it is usually served in slices and traditionally accompanied by Sauce Grébiche. Tête de Veau is a Franch comfort food and will be on many Michelin starred restaurant menus as well as those of nearly every traditional bistro and brasserie.  
    
Tête de Veau, Sauce Grébiche.

Sauce Ravigote – A thick vinaigrette sauce made with olive oil, wine vinegar, hard-boiled eggs, shallots, cornichons, capers, tarragon and chervil. Sauce Ravigote will flavor many fish, shellfish, poultry and meat dishes.

Aile de Raie, Sauce Ravigote, Purée de Pommes de Terre - Skate, the fish, served with sauce ravigote and accompanied by mashed potatoes.

Langue de Boeuf Sauce Ravigotte - Beef tongue with sauce ravigote.
  
Sauce Ravigote
 
Sauce Rémoulade - A mayonnaise, anchovy, and hot mustard sauce made with capers cornichons, parsley, chervil and tarragon.
 
Cabillaud Pané à la Mie de Pain Frit, Sauce Remoulade – Fried, breaded cod filets served with Sauce Remoulade.

Les Goujonnades de Carpes, Frites, Salade Verte et Sauce Rémoulade – Small pieces of fried carp accompanied by French Fries (chips), a green salad and served with Sauce Remoulade.
 
Sauce Tatare  - Tatar Sauce.  A mayonnaise-based sauce with capers, parsley, shallots and cornichons with additions that vary with every “authentic” recipe.  Sauce Tatare is often served with fish, but it may also be on the menu with cold roast beef and vegetable dishes.  Despite its name, this sauce has nothing to do with the Tatar soldiers associated with steak Tatar.
 
Truite Fumée, Sauce Tatare – Smoked trout with Sauce Tatar.
 
Filets de Perche Sauce Tatare – Filets of perch, Sauce Tatar.
  
Goujonnettes de Sole Panées Sauce Tartare
Breaded, fried, goujonnettes (small pieces) of sole with Sauce Tatar.
Photograph: Studio / Sucré Salé

Cornichons in Salads:

Salade Piémontaise - Piemontese salad.  This mayonnaise-based salad comes with diced ham, potatoes, eggs, cornichons and tomatoes and despite being an Italian recipe is popular all over France. The Italian region of Piemonte runs alongside the French department of Provence just north of Liguria on the Mediterranean.

Salade Russe – Russian salad. While the original recipe was said to include freshwater crayfish tails and grouse breast today's recipes will be diced, cold, boiled potatoes, peas, olives, cornichons, boiled eggs, sour cream or crème fraiche, and mayonnaise. The original recipe was created by a Belgian or French chef named Lucien Olivier who the 1860s  ran a top-flight French restaurant in Moscow called the Hermitage.  This salad is still a favorite in Russia where it is known as Olivier Salad.  Olivier is said to have been taken to the original recipe to his grave when he died aged 45 in Moscow.
   
Salade Russe
www.flickr.com/photos/toddandina/3154142939/
  
Cornichons with charcuterie
  
Charcuterie – Plates, of dried, cured, and smoked meats, and salami type sausages usually accompanied by cornichons, pearl onions and mustard.
 
Viande Séchée, Lard Sec, Jambon Cru, Saucisse Sèche, Fromage à Raclette, Cornichons et Oignons Blancs –Dried beef, dried bacon, cured ham, salami-type sausage, a raclette (serving of cheese), cornichons and pearl onions.
 
Jambon Cru, Saucisson Noisettes, Coppa, Pancetta, Viande Séchée, Salade Sucrine, Pain De Campagne, Beurre, Cornichons Cured ham, salami-type sausages with hazelnuts, coppa, pancetta, dried beef, baby Romaine lettuce, country bread, butter, and cornichons.
  
Charcuterie with cornichons.
www.flickr.com/photos/scaredykat/3506591152/

 
Tatare de Boeuf, Steak Tatare -  Steak Tatar. A steak in the manner of the Tatars, the famous and formidable soldiers who rode to war under the direction of Genghis Khan beginning in the 13th century.   Twentieth-century folklore has the Tatar tribesmen riding to battle with raw meat under their horses' saddles cutting off pieces as they rode as they only stopped to sleep.  Despite the name, Steak Tatar is far from any real Tatar culinary tradition and the idea of storing fish and vegetables under a saddle is bizarre.
  
Steak Tatare -  Hand-cut or ground fillet steak to which will be added onion, parsley,  cornichons, capers, herbs, and, in France, Cognac.  All versions of Steak Tatar will have Tabasco or Worcester sauce added for spice.  If you are unsure about steak Tatar, but willing to try, begin with an entree of steak Tatar; you will be hooked.
  
Steak Tatare, with a quail's egg and French fries,
   
Tatare de Crabe à l'Aneth et Saumon fumé, Crème de Persil - Crab meat Tatar prepared with smoked salmon, added dill and cream of parsley sauce. (The crab meat will have been cooked but served cold).

Tatare Thon – Tuna Tatar  –  Chopped raw tuna (think of sushi), crunchy vegetables, cornichons and spicy mayonnaise.

Tatare de Légumes - Vegetable Tatar. Crunchy fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, beetroot, possibly along with radishes or fresh horseradish for spice. Holding the vegetables together will be a spicy mayonnaise, along with cornichons for their taste and crunch. In France, the mayonnaise will nearly always be fresh mayonnaise.
 
Cornichons and Hamburgers.

Outside of the French McDonalds many restaurant menus will also offer hamburgers; their menus will note what, hopefully, makes their burgers unique.
 
Hamburger,  Viande Hachée, Salade, Tomate, Oignon, Cornichons Malossol, Sauce Thousand Island  - Minced meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, malossol cornichons and Thousand Island dressing.

Cucumbers are native to India.

Cucumbers were brought to France by the Romans who had recipes for them raw and cooked.  The Romans settled in France (around  121 BCE ), and they stayed for over 500 years until the Visigoths, Franks, and Burgundians absorbed some among themselves and kicked the rest out. Then, for a few hundred years cucumbers were growing wild until they entered French cuisine.

The name.

The small. curved cornichon gherkin took its name from the French word for an animal horn, a “corne” and so cornichon translates as a little horn.

The Potager de Roi – the king’s vegetable garden.
 
The cornichon was first seen in French cuisine during the reign of the Sun King, King Louis XIV, (1638 – 1715). King Louis XIV built the Château de Versailles and its accompanying royal kitchen gardens (the Potager de Roi). 

The landscape gardener responsible for creating the gardens of Versailles, including the kitchen gardens, was André Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre had come to the King’s attention when he viewed the gardens of the Chateaux Le Vaux-le-Vicomte built by his minister of finance Vicomte Nicolas Fouquet. (Nicolas Fouquet had built the beautiful Chateaux Le Vaux-le-Vicomte with the king’s taxes; when King Louis found out Fouquet  landed in jail for life and Le Notre had a new employer).

Le Nôtre brought into the king’s kitchen garden an amazing range of fruits and vegetables that had not previously been cultivated in France. The Potager de Roi is set behind thChâteau de Versailles and remains as it was with greenhouses and finely trained espalier fruit trees, and today it is a working agricultural school. If you visit Versailles and have to wait for a tour, then walk around to the Potager de Roi and enjoy, for a few Euro, a guided tour in English or French, usually without a long wait.  The guides are an excellent source of information on the heirloom fruits and vegetable and the garden’s history; these unique gardens are also worth a special visit.
   
Part of the Potager de Roi at the Château de Versaille.
The king’s vegetable garden at Versailles.
Photograph courtesy of INRA DIST
www.flickr.com/photos/inra_dist/38468621294/
   
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Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2018.

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