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What is Gastrique (When You're Not Showing Off)?

 What is gastrique?

 Are you trying out for Top Chef, too? Because the more obscure words you use, the better your chances. (Cooking really odd things at odd hours may help, too!)

Gastrique is the French word for gastric, which means "of, in, or near the stomach." That does not offer us much help.

In the narrower confines of cooking, a gastrique is a combination of vinegar and sugar that is cooked down, and then used in the preparation of a hot sauce that will accompany a dish made with fruit. The vinegar and sugar is heated until almost all the liquid has evaporated, then it is added to the sauce, seasoned, and served with the main dish.

We have seen sugar and water used as the gastrique component of some recipes, but have not seen the word gastrique associated with anything other than sugar and vinegar.

The most well-known example is Canard à l'Orange, or Duck with Orange Sauce (often given the Franco-American name Duck à l'Orange). Curiously, though, the word gastrique does not show up in any relevant recipe we have found in a number of real French cookbooks. Escoffier, lui-même, does not use the word in his cookbook.

Certainly there are a few people who use the word correctly, and innocently, and humbly. In general, though, the use of the word signals a level of pretension that the meal you are to receive almost certainly cannot live up to. (We humbly end this sentence with a preposition. We will almost certainly hear about it from our children.)

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