During my sojourn in the City of Lights, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon had to be one of my favored French restaurants. Hands down. After a while, no matter how ravishing the venue or spectacular the food, you had a Ground Hog Day kind of moment – there are so many prodigious restaurants on or off the Strip. But no matter how ubiquitous that thought was, it never included Bouchon.
I’d had the present delight to dine at his world-renowned establishment, The French Laundry when I lived in California. It takes over two years to secure a reservation at this small stone farmhouse, nestled in California’s wine country. In my opinion, it’s Keller’s jewel in his crown and where he’s elevated vegetables into glazed divas, which carried onto Bouchon.
Bouchon, nestled deep in the heart of the Venetian resort, oozes with that old-world French bistro charm making it the picture-perfect breakfast spot for buttery croissants and café au lait. The patisserie delivers the most criminally scrumptious sweets and pastries in Sin City and if you are into crepes and quiche as light as air, then look no further.
But I’ll admit, it wasn’t my objective to go there for breakfast. When I had a longing for glazed vegetables, that was my destination. Call me eccentric or unconventional, but in my opinion to truly sample food, and give it a deserving 5 star rating, you need to fly solo. And after you have reconnoitered the venue and found the fare more than sumptuous, that’s when you bring in the troops.
After many mouthwatering experiences later, I begged one of my good friends, who worked at Bouchon to show me how the “glazed” veggies got their sexy on. I know, I could have just gotten Keller’s cookbook, “Bouchon”, but there’s nothing like watching a chef in action inside a hot, bustling restaurant kitchen, versus reading the technique and direction from a cookbook.
So, what gives with the glazed veg? And why have they become the star that steals the show? Because believe me, after you have mastered the technique of glazing, they will steal the show and everything else you put on the plate will pale in comparison.
Even if you didn’t get the opportunity to watch veggies undergo the transformation in a live kitchen to the glazed marvels I am talking about, you may be thinking it’s probably an arduous task to achieve. Yes and no. Glazing is a French throwback technique that has been dusted off the shelf and it’s become again a food classic, as many foodies and chefs are reaping the benefits of this unique and amazing food prep.
If you’re scratching the proverbial bean wondering what is glazing, it is simply a method of braising which brings out the natural sugar in veggies. Wait! Could it be that simple? Well, not simple per say, because glazing correctly can be a little challenging.
However, if you follow these directions, your family and friends will think that Monsieur Keller himself made you a master glazer. The finished product will be an exceptionally, amazingly sweet, tender glory of a vegetable, ending up with a shiny coating after it has braised, hence the name “glaze”.
STEP 1 > Arrange raw veggies, so they fit snugly in a pan (as snug as possible)
STEP 2 > Add sugar, butter, salt and enough water just to cover them
STEP 3 > Cover them with some parchment paper and simmer until the liquid has become syrupy
STEP 4 > Add seasonings and your favorite herbs
A few other important things to consider.
Choose the right pan – like an 8” with high sides – you don’t want the veggies floating around with too much room to spare – you need them snug, so you have a couple of compact layers.
Cooking them in the correct pan is as important as considering the amount of liquid you are going to use: too much will overcook them before they are glazed; too little will not make them cook evenly – as they are in two layers. Hence knowing how much liquid to add is to just to cover them.
A trick I use to ensure that they come out correctly is tasting them 9-10 minutes after they have braised, uncovered on med/high heat. If you realize that they are cooking too quickly before the liquid is evaporating, remove the veggies and allow the liquid to evaporate to a glaze and then add them back to the pan to warm through and toss in the glaze. If the liquid is absorbed too quickly before the veggies cook, add a bit more water. And last but not least, listen to the bubbling and sizzling that occurs when the glaze has formed. Check out my glazed veggie recipes.