Food Cornichons Are the Best Not-Very-Fancy Fancy Snack
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There’s something a little tacky about cornichons. They’ve been a quintessential cocktail food for decades, speared atopand nestled within premade coldcut platters—but they’re one of those foods, like sundried tomatoes, that once held a tenuous air of luxury due mostly to good marketing, only to quickly faded into the category of passé bourgeois foodstuff. Cornichons are haughty. They’re easy to mock. And cornichons with pearl onions? Even haughtier.
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In reality, there is nothing fancy about cornichons despite their Gallic pedigree. A jar costs a few bucks and you can find them pretty much anywhere. And the fact is, they are an extremely good snack, and I am a steadfast fan, these days more than ever.
The gustatory pleasures of a fermented baby cucumber, specifically those made by the widely-available French brand Maille, are manifold. Firstly, their small size means they’re a low commitment. A whole pickle can be a wet, juicy obligation, and unless you are a monster, saving a half-eaten gherk for later is just not doable. ~Un petit cornichon,~ however, is a one-and-done bite. For a shelf-stable cucumber (when unopened, at least), they are by far the least mushy option you can find, due to their small size.
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And then there’s the flavor: Cornichons are typically seasoned with mustard and tarragon. Tarragon, while not as versatile as some herbs, is powerfully aromatic, making whatever it’s added to seem like a fully-realized food. Pearl onions are the guest stars, adding another layer of taste and texture. Through the harmony of these elements, cornichons become a complex little niblet beyond what you can find in a standard-issue jarred pickle. They are a complete flavor experience that needs little else.
That being said, cornichons are great chorus members in many composed dishes. I chop them up and mix them into tuna salad, or stir them into mayonnaise alongside grated garlic to dress a bowl of steamed vegetables, akin to. Sharing my enthusiasm, my colleague Lauren says that cornichon and pearl onion sprinkled atop a liberally buttered slice of toast is one of her all-time favorite drunk meals.
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Cornichons elevate even the most crude forms of pantry cooking, especially when you have absolutely. At several points during this annus horribilis I can bet that you, like me, have prepared a couple of meals in a mixed state of desperation and apathy. Sure, you might have everything to make a pot of lentil soup, but the thought of cooking is draining enough, let alone actually doing it. Many days, a jar of cornichons is what makes my cobbled-together meals feel complete. No, an entire jar is definitely not a full meal, but when I am having an abject charcuterie board for dinner, made of baby carrots, grapes, and spoonfuls of peanut butter, a couple of cornichons (and a pearl onion or two) are a welcome and refined comfort.
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