This is Paula’s brilliantly approachable take on one of the most iconic restaurant dishes ever invented, the gargouillou of chef Michel Bras of Laguiole, France. Paula introduced Bras to the United States in an article she wrote about him in 1987. Like all her favorite chefs, he elevates the humble peasant foods of his region. Gargouillou is traditionally a Laguiole vegetable soup flavored with ham. Bras deconstructs it, blanching the vegetables separately, tossing them with crisped pancetta, and garnishing them with foraged flowers and weeds. That version has since spawned dozens of homages around the world. But when Paula published this recipe in World of Food in 1988, its name was little known, so she called it Spring Vegetables in the Style of Laguiole.
In Paula’s home-cook adaptation, the vegetables are sequentially blanched in the same pot, starting with the ones that need the most water. The process yields a pleasingly intense vegetable stock for the sauce. Don’t let the long list of vegetables intimidate you. In fact, Paula wrote, “There is no precise way to execute the following recipe; the fun is playing around with it.”—Emily Kaiser Thelin
Excerpted from Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade LifeSlideshow:More Vegetable Recipes
2 quarts (2 liters) water, preferably filtered
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
GROUP A: GREEN VEGETABLES
4 slender inner celery ribs
4 ounces (115 grams) Swiss chard leaves, torn into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
2 ounces (60 grams) haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
2 ounces (60 grams) cabbage leaves
GROUP B: ALLIUMS
4 thin green onions or 2 young leeks (3 to 4 ounces/90 to 115 grams total),
4 shallots, halved (2 to 3 ounces/60 to 90 grams total)
GROUP C: ROOT VEGETABLES
2 small carrots (2 ounces/60 grams total), peeled and cut on the diagonal
into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
2 baby turnips (2 ounces/60 g total), quartered
3 radishes (2 ounces/60 grams total), quartered
4 ounces (115 grams) pancetta, cut into slices 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, such as tarragon, chives, flat-leaf parsley,
and chervil, snipped if desired
How to Make It
In a deep 4-quart (4-l) saucepan over high heat, bring the water and 2 teaspoons salt to a rolling boil. Working through each group in alphabetical and listed order (first the celery, then the chard, the haricots verts, and so on of Group A, then Group B, and then Group C), blanch each vegetable until tender. Each vegetable should take 2 to 3 minutes, depending on its size. Use the same water for all of the vegetables groups. As the water evaporates, the heat can be lowered to medium-high or medium, as long as the water remains at a healthy simmer. As each vegetable is ready, use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer to a colander and then rinse under cool running water and let drain. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towel or a dishtowel to rest. Repeat with the remaining vegetables.
When all of the vegetables are cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat and reserve 1/2 cup (120 ml) cooking liquid for the sauce. Reserve the remainder for soup or stock.
Set a 12-inch (30-cm) frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta slices and cook, turning once, just until crisp, about 10 minutes total. Pour off the fat in the pan and reserve for another use. Add the reserved 1/2 cup (120 ml) cooking liquid to the pancetta in the pan, raise the heat to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup (60 ml).
Add the butter and swirl to form an emulsion. Immediately add the vegetables and cook, tossing, until heated through and glazed with the sauce, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then remove the pancetta if you like.
Artfully arrange the vegetables on a platter, drizzle with the sauce, and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve hot.
If you can’t find these exact vegetables, Paula offered many alternatives: Group A, spinach, green cabbage leaves, Brussels sprout leaves, asparagus, snow peas, zucchini; Group B, green garlic, ramps; Group C, celery root, beets. Sturdier vegetables such as the zucchini, celery root, or beets should be cut to 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks that can be cooked to tenderness within 2 to 3 minutes.
For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta (in its stead, add about 1 teaspoon white or yellow miso paste with the butter at the final step).
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