The Uncommon Life

V’reens or Verrines?

September 9, 2010

This French style of cuisine is growing popular among foodies for its ability to bring out not just the taste, but also the texture and color of your ingredients.

What is a verrine? Verrines are layered dishes. Rather than blending or stewing or mixing or baking, when you make a verrine, you layer up all the ingredients.  Verrines give each layer its time to shine, by putting it on display in a special glass.

Last month, Kevin Weeks from NPR did a great piece on the art, science and history of preparing verrines (or v’reens).

A verrine can be an appetizer, an amuse-bouche, a salad, a side dish, a dessert (the most common application) and, I suppose, even a complete meal, with the right combination of ingredients and the right sort of glass.

Verrines are clearly linked to the parfait, a soda-fountain treat popularized in the middle of the last century, as well as other layered dishes, such as the Cobb salad and the English trifle. Verrines, however, are individualized, with a single serving in each glass and yet as carefully arranged as the famous seven-layer salad of Super Bowl Sunday fame.

You might combine — from the bottom up — something green (peas) with something brown (mushroom duxelles) with something golden (sauteed onions) with something white (pureed potatoes). This arrangement also layers — from the bottom up — textures such as slightly mushy peas, grainy duxelles, crunchy onions and silky-smooth potatoes. Each layer provides its own flavors, and all of the flavors, tasted in turn and in combination, bring their own brilliance to the assemblage.

I’m convinced v’reens might be the perfect party dish. They look so complicated, so intricately prepared. But in truth, many verrine recipes are quite simple. Try one the next time you’re headed to a potluck or dinner party. I bet your friends will be oh-la-la-ing over your v’reen creation.

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