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Fish 4 Friday: Can You Spell Gribiche?

Baked Fish

Gribiche is one of those little-known words that almost make you chuckle when you read it. The first time I saw it, I didn’t know if it was a new model, gas-efficient Honda or some dreaded pandemic. How to pronounce? Well, you can mangle it in many ways. For instance, you can say it something like cribbage, the card game. Or you could say it like ceviché, the Latin form of sushi (only marinated). I’ve heard it sounded out like “gribbish,” rhyming a bit with “blemish” and “blimpish.”

My French isn’t so good these days, but I suspect Gribiche rhymes best with Corniche . (Not Cornice , which is an architectural adornment; but Corniche , which is a narrow ledge of rock, usually along a coastline, with a winding road on it.) This is ironic, because the best Gribiche recipes (in my humble opinion) all call for Cornichons in them. What’s that, you ask? Dictionary.com says it’s “a tiny tart gherkin cucumber pickle, a traditional accompaniment to pâté.” It means “little horn” in French as well. Or gherkin, if you prefer. Cornichons are usually crunchy-salty-savory, rather than crunchy-sweet, in my experience.

Now that we have the language lesson out of the way, what exactly is a gribiche? It’s a sauce for fish or meat. Then again, so is mayonnaise, Sauce Béarnaise, and many other French flavor concoctions. According to this article, though, the main difference is emulsification. (Can you spell emulsification?) A gribiche is more like a vinaigrette than, say a mayonnaise. I like to think of it as a salsa with special ingredients, but then, I prefer Spanish interpretations of food over French. (That’s just me.)

That said, there are lots of recipes out there for “sauce gribiche” that are cooked (mine aren’t), or are based on mayonnaise. Why use mayo, though, and call it a grebiche? Why not a flavored mayonnaise, or a remoulade? I think the confusion comes about because gribiche is not at all common, so many cooks (and even good chefs) haven’t met one yet.

Well, now you can be ahead of your snooty cook neighbor, can’t you? For when you fix the recipe below, you will have made a bona fide Grebiche, with a capital G.

You can leave out the Serrano chile if you want, but who wants to live like that? It would be a milder dish, of course. As for the fish, you can use almost anything. I think staying with a milder white-flesh fish is ideal. Freshwater fish like catfish, bass, perch, sunfish, even trout and pike will work. From the sea, there’s flounder, haddock, sole, grouper and orange roughy, to name a few. I don’t think the dish will work well with the firmer, stronger-flavored fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel or mahi-mahi. Those fish have other uses; but if you like it, give it a try.

After all, the only thing you have to lose is the need to know how to pronounce Gribiche

Enjoy the (Funny Sounding Salsa) Heat!


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