What makes a great French dish a great French dish?

How can you make your own attempts at French cooking stand out with that deep, rich flavor that puts it above the rest? Two of the keys are how you treat the vegetables in your dish and how you infuse your sauce with herbs.

Our chef Todd Mueller, for example, who prepared our Chicken Fricassee Tuesday night, took special care with the mushrooms to ensure they tasted as fine as they did. First, they get a treatment with lemon juice to retain their white color; then they receive a bath of flavor from the white wine and chicken stock. Although Julia Child recommends either dry white wine or vermouth, Todd likes to use a combination of both for more richness of flavor; a dry Chardonnay is an especially good complement to the mushrooms.

For our Potage Parmentier, potato-and-leek soup, texture was important. Mashing the potatoes with a hand blender provided a more rustic consistency than would pureeing them in a food processor, leaving small pieces of potato and leek intact for a more interesting feel and taste.

As for flavor infusion, the key to depth of flavor in a slow-cooked dish like our Chicken Fricassee is the bouquet garni: a gathering of herbs, spices and other aromatics tied together into a bundle of cheesecloth. (At Bistro 185, of course, Todd can gather fresh sprigs of thyme and other herbs right from our rooftop garden.) The bouquet garni is submerged in the pot while the dish cooks and removed before serving, by which time it’s permeated the sauce with a tremendous depth of flavor.

Of course, the alternative to cooking these dishes on your own is enjoying them with us. (Then again, we may just serve as your inspiration!) Come by tonight and taste for yourself.