Gastriques, A Unique Finish
My birthday bash a few months ago was a nice quiet dinner at Water & Wall in Arlington, VA, where I stumbled upon my new favorite culinary discovery: gastrique. I ordered a duck confit drizzled with an apple gastrique and it was fantastic, so I naturally had to figure out how to make my own.
They sound very weird, but gastriques are a pretty cool way to dress up a main course. They’re easy, can be varied endlessly and are sure to impress guests, if you happen to have any.
Basically, a gastrique is a sweet & sour sauce that starts with a simple base. It begins with caramelized sugar, to which vinegar is added. The resulting mixture is simmered for a bit, then flavored, then reduced by about half. That’s really all there is to it.
To make the gastrique, I put 3/4 cup of sugar and about three tablespoons of water in a saucepan and heated that with very little stirring, until it turned a nice golden color. Then I added 3/4 cup of vinegar. You’re supposed to add the vinegar all at once, because the sugar is very hot and the idea is to quickly cool it. What happens is about what you’d expect. The sugar crystallizes and looks terrible, but when you let it continue to heat and stir it, that dissolves and the base is ready. To the base, you can add a half a cup of flavoring and let that simmer until reduced by half.
What makes gastriques so interesting is that there are so many ways to make and use them. You can vary the type of vinegar (red wine, white wine, cider, distilled, etc.) and you can combine the base with all kinds of savory or fruity ingredients. I’m already planning to use a cabernet red wine vinegar and dried currants for a roasted duck. The possible combinations are endless.by
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