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Ask a Foodie: Can I Use a Bouillon Cube Instead of Court-Bouillon?

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Q: Can I use a bouillon cube in a recipe that calls for something called court-bouillon?

— A.B.

Bouillon cubes

Bouillon cubes

A: Court-bouillon is “a flavorful, aromatic liquid used for poaching fish and shellfish,” according to “The simplest court bouillon consists of nothing but salted water, and some traditional recipes call for a mixture of half salted water, half milk.”

Does that sound like a bouillon cube? Yes and no.

A bouillon cube, of course, is salty. If you read the ingredients, salt is generally the most common ingredient in the cubes. But there’s also a lot of bold flavor to most, which means they could swamp the flavors of your seafood.

Sure, you could water down that cube, but what are you left with? Not much.

So, do yourself and your family a favor and make your own court-bouillon. Most recipes are simple in the extreme, such as the following for Poached Salmon in Court-Bouillon, which comes from “The Mediterranean Slow Cooker” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22) by Michele Scicolone. That’s right, it cooks itself in your crock pot.

“Poached salmon steaks have many uses,” Scicolone writes. “Serve them plain with some of the cooking broth, or chill them for seafood salad. My favorite way to serve this salmon, either hot or chilled, is with tzatziki, citronette (recipe follows) or pesto.”

Poached Salmon in Court-Bouillon

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
6 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cups water
6 salmon steaks, at least 1-inch thick
Freshly ground pepper

mediterranean slow cookerIn a large slow cooker, combine the onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley, a pinch of salt, the vinegar and the water. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

Sprinkle the salmon steaks with salt and pepper to taste and place then in the cooker.

Spoon some of the liquid over the top. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, or until done to taste. (To test for doneness, make a small cut in the thickest part. The fish should appear slightly translucent.)

Remove the salmon steaks with a slotted spatula. Serve them hot or slightly chilled.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The Mediterranean Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone

Herb and Tomato Citronette

Citronette is the French word for a dressing or sauce made with lemon,” Scicolone writes in “The Mediterranean Slow Cooker.” “This version has chopped parsley and tomato, too. You can also use it to dress salad or steamed vegetables.”

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1/2 cup)

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, shallot, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for up to 30 minutes. Just before serving, whisk again and add the chopped tomato. Correct the seasonings and serve.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

From “The Mediterranean Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone

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2 Responses to “Ask a Foodie: Can I Use a Bouillon Cube Instead of Court-Bouillon?”

  1. Blake Olson says:

    A court-bouillon is an aromatic liquid in which meat, fish, and various vegetables are cooked

    The Larousse lists nineteen versions, none of which are a mixture of water and milk. You might try it but it certainly won’t hit the ‘aromatic’ mark.

    • John Griffin says:

      A quick Internet search of milk court-bouillon turns up a number of variations of using milk in the poaching liquid, the simplest of which is the following, from “Milk Court Bouillon: Can be used to keep the flesh of cod, walleye and halibut white.

      “To every quart of cold water add 1 cup of fresh milk, one tablespoon of salt, and the juice of half a lemon. This liquid is not heated before using; simply submerge the fish in it, bring to boil, then simmer.”