Victoire’s Verjus Part III

Earlier, in August, I made verjus (verjuice) from juicy immature grapes that grew in my garden, creating three different versions of this condiment. Two of these versions came from an old recipe by Victoire, an Auvergne woman who is one of the women in When French Women Cook, the brilliant gastronomic memoir by Madeleine Kamman. Of course, Victoire’s original version used her native Armagnac instead of a pomance brandy (like Greek tsikoudia, Italian grappa or French marc), but Kamman’s instructions in the book suggested using this alternative form of alcohol to preserve the fresh sour juice pressed from immature grapes. I made both: two batches, one using Armagnac and the other using tsikoudia. Any leftover sour grape juice was frozen in ice cube bags – more like the verjus that is commercially available and subsequently adaptable to the many recipes that lists verjus.

The Armagnac-infused verjus was tested with great success with my Armagnac Verjus Chicken with Dried Fruits. How to best use my tsikoudia-infused verjus proved to be a bit more problematic. However, I reasoned that what went best with the raw liquor would probably work well with this verjus, even though the maturing process had transformed the liquid into something quite different from its constituent parts. For tsikoudia, fish and seafood came immediately to mind.

salmon_cerviche_feature

Salmon Cerviche with Verjus
The verjus replaces the traditional citrus in the marinade for this perfect appetiser for a special holiday meal or part of a party buffet. (Very apropos given the upcoming holidays!) Of course, you could substitute small scallops, tilapia, fresh tuna, or any other firm-fleshed fish for the salmon if you wish, but I wanted to create something that was reminiscent of gravlax: a cross-cultural South American-Scandinavian dish that combines the flavours of gravlax with the quicker “cold-cooking” technique of cerviche.

Makes approximately 6 to 8 portions for a starter.

  • 1 fresh salmon fillet, approximately 300g
  • large bunch of fresh dill
  • 200ml tsikoudia verjus (or substitute commercially available verjus)
  • 4 spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 fresh red chilli (optional)
  • an additional 60ml (1/4 cup) verjus
  • cucumber

Slice the salmon fillet into thin slices, cut at a slight angle, just like smoked salmon slices. It is best done with a very sharp knife while the fish is very chilled, or you can ask your fishmonger to do this.

salmon_cerviche_prep1

Place the slices in a shallow non-reactive casserole, big enough so that the slices only overlap slightly. Cover the fish with chopped dill.

salmon_cerviche_prep2

Boil and reduce the verjus by half to concentrate the flavour. If you are using the tsikoudia-infused verjus, the alcohol will be evaporated off in this reduction process. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped spring onions and the optional red chilli, deseeded and sliced thinly. While still warm, pour the verjus liquid over the salmon and dill. And, since the cooking down process will reduce the acidity level of the verjus, it is necessary to sprinkle on additional verjus to make sure the fish is coated completely and the acidity level is brought back to a point where it will react with the raw fish flesh – a process known as “cold-cooking”.

salmon_cerviche_prep3

Cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The acid in the verjus will cause the fish to lose its translucency. When you are ready to serve, remove fish (along with the dill, spring onions and chillies) and serve cool with cucumber – thinly sliced, chopped or julienned. Plate up on individual plates or on a platter for a buffet. If you would like, top with a some creamy mustard sauce (below).

mustard_sauce

Creamy Mustard Sauce
A cheat version of Swedish hovmästarsås, the sweet mustard-dill sauce traditionally served with gravlax. If you opt to use this sauce, it is best when the flavours have time to mature, so make it around the same time that you marinate the salmon.

  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon verjus
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) crème fraîche

Whisk together the mustard, sugar, verjus and crème fraîche until smooth. Place in a jar in the refrigerator and let it meld. Chopped dill can also be added if you are using this for another fish dish.

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Note to self:
Make much more of Victoire’s verjus next year! Both the Armagnac and Tsikoudia versions have exceeded my expectations. Another staple for my pantry shelf.

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17 comments

  1. Sounds like a successful verjus venture. I usually use vodka when I make gravlax and always feel guilty feeding booze to the young ones. Verjus is the perfect alternative!

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    • I can see that verjus would be the prefect alternative to vodka when making gravlax. I usually use a Scandinavian aquavit, but that poses the same boozy problem. What I like about this cerviche is that it cuts down on the time required in the making. As I recall, my gravlax took several days to make. I am eager to try this technique with another type of fish. Tuna perhaps? Might also alter the herbs.

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    • I was amazed at how good the verjus I made really was. The two I made with alcohol (Armagnac and Tsikoudia) really did meld and mellow with the resting period and didn’t taste at all like the alcohol, though you could detect their presence. The dishes I made with them were fantastic. I fully intend to make more next year.

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  2. Wow another amazing recipe. I’ve been meaning to make gravlax for a while and seeing a version like this with Victoire’s verjus is so cool. I really love the time and attention you pay to the kitchen. I had a dish similar to this last night in an italian restaurant and I would love to recreate it. Thank you!

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    • It was a very good dish and quite easy to make – particularly since I had Victoire’s verjus! I’m sure it can also be made with regular store-bought verjus or perhaps even lemon juice (without boiling the juice down though). It is on the menu for a special holiday meal appetizer. Also great since it can be made the day before and simply assembled when needed. Makes it easier having things made ahead when things are hotting up in the kitchen.

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    • I planted the grape vine (a Cabernet variety that my garden centre assured me would grow in Northern England) in order to create a “green” natural screen between my garden and my neighbour’s. I didn’t expect grapes, but they grow every year – just not fully ripe. So, I’d been looking around for a while for uses of the immature grapes. Verjus was the perfect solution. And, you are right – I’ve never seen the commercial stuff in any of the shops around here. I am lucky.

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  3. That looks really tasty and yes, very timely for the coming season, especially here where we have more cold food and seafood for Christmas. I love the little mustard sauce too. Might add a Maggie Beer verjuice to the list.

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    • It was really good and very easy to do. It made a little salmon go a long way, so also economical. Definitely on the list of things to make for the holidays. You have to make some of Victoire’s style verjus this year – that is, if your grape vine cooperates. But, failing that, you are so lucky in Oz to have readily available supplies of Maggie Beer’s verjus.

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      • I would love to make some verjuice except for the blowout cost of the Armagnac and the temptation to just drink the latter.
        Quite a local few wineries are now also making verjuice as well.

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      • I hear you! Luckily I can get cheaper Armagnac and even cheaper Tsikoudia (the latter often given to us by friends or students from their father’s/brother’s/uncle’s still in Crete/the Peloponnese/elsewhere in Greece). You are very lucky in Oz that you can get good commercial verjus straight from the vineyards, which I difficult to get here. But, I am going to continue making mine as I’ve fallen in love with this condiment. Whatever the case, you won’t be disappointed with the fish cerviche made with whatever kind of verjus you use.

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    • Verjus is not a common condiment on the supermarket shelves here. And, since I had all those juicy green immature grapes growing in the garden in August, it seemed the best thing to do. I was so glad that I tried it. Cold-cooking the salmon this way with verjus is definitely something I will do again. Am also keen to try it with other fish.

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