Sauce gribiche. Sounds French right? Sounds complex? Sounds arcane and impossible to make at home? You could well be forgiven for assuming all of the above, however only one of those points is close to correct - its Gallic origin. Gribiche sauce is not complex, it is not arcane, and above all - it is just a cinch to make at home.
Ever had tartare sauce? (Not tartar - please, tartar is either a crystalline deposit, or an ethnic inhabitant of western Russia - never a sauce). Well, tartare sauce is pretty much the same thing as sauce gribiche. Except for one major detail - emulsification. While tartare sauce is basically a creamy mayonnaise, enlivened with capers, cornichons, onion and parsley - gribiche is a non-bound sauce, or more clearly - the oil, acidulants and flavourings remain separate, much as you would find in a regular salad dressing.
The list of classical French sauces is a very long tale indeed. Without being overly rash, I would say that most of these would be redundant in the modern kitchen. All the same, there are the classics - Hollandaise, Béarnaise, Mayonnaise and the like. These sauces will never go out of date, because they are purely simple elegance and impossible to better.
I was interested to note that a bunch of funky food books and magazines have started to include sauce gribiche on their pages, not to mention a few of the better restaurants around this town. What caused this about-face? Some nostalgic trip down sauce memory lane for jaded middle aged chefs? I mean, this is a seriously old fashioned sauce. Last week I took a few days off work and drove up into the mountains behind Sydney. I took the time to revisit sauce gribiche and see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad I did - it was absolutely delicious. Gribiche contains shallots, parsley, cornichons (baby gherkins) and chopped hard boiled eggs. The flavours are punchier and more forthright than a tartare sauce, even though they contain close to the same ingredients. Most of the old-school recipes will ask you to very finely chop the boiled egg, or even worse - push it through a sieve so it is finely minced. This I see as a travesty. The sauce will be robbed of any texture, and as gribiche is not an emulsification, the egg flavour will come later, as an addition - rather than as a basis such as in mayonnaise. Trust me, keep the ingredients chunky, and you will have a much more appealing sauce on your hands (err - so to speak).
This sauce is the perfect foil for meatier cuts of fish, grilled poultry and even egg dishes such as poached or boiled. At work, we have been dressing fillets of quickly grilled snapper with gribiche, but that is only the first suggestion, go wild. This sauce only takes a few minutes to make and it lasts for up to seven days in the refrigerator - so what the hell, let's get cooking.
Place the egg in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place on a medium to high heat. Once the water has come to the simmer, cook the egg for exactly 5 minutes. Lift out the egg and allow to cool.
Peel the egg and cut in halves. Pull the yolk out and cut into small dice, then cut the egg white into roughly the same size. Add to a mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow the sauce to stand for around 20 minutes so the flavours can really combine. Alternatively, store in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you do this, stir the sauce well as you take it out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature for say, half an hour or so. Serve with grilled fish or chicken dishes, or poached or boiled eggs.