Classical Garnish

In classical cooking, the terms garnish and garniture have been used the way we use the term accompaniments. In other words, garnishes are any items placed on the platter or plate or in the soup bowl in addition to the main item. It happens that these accompaniments also make the food look more attractive, but that is not the emphasis.

The classical French chef had a tremendous repertoire of simple and elaborate garnishes, and they all had specific names. A trained chef, or a well-informed diner, for that matter, knew that the word Rachel on the menu meant that the dish was served with artichoke bottoms filled with poached marrow and that Portugaise meant a garnish of stuffed tomatoes.

There were so many of these names, however, that no one could remember them all. So they were cataloged in handbooks to be used by chefs. Le Répertoire de la Cui-sine,first published in 1914 and one of these handbooks,has 209 listings in the garnish section alone,not to mention nearly 7,000 other preparations, all with their own names. The garnishes may be as simple as the one called Concorde or as complex as the one called Tortue, quoted here to give you an idea of the complexity and elaborateness of classical garnish.

Concorde (for large joints)—Peas, glazed carrots,mashed potatoes.

Tortue (for Entrées)—Quenelles, mushroom heads, gherkins, garlic, collops of tongue and calves' brains, small fried eggs,heart-shaped croutons, crayfish, slices of truffles.Tortue sauce.

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