Mignonette Ain’t Just for Shellfish

Are you a raw oyster fan? If so, chances are good you’ve tried sauce mignonette. This brilliantly simple concoction adds a perfect tangy, bright note to shellfish. Look this stuff up, and you quickly find that the buck literally stops right there – Google alternate uses for mignonette, and you get next to nothing. I have no idea why that’s the case, because mignonette is fantastic on a bunch of other stuff as well.

Classic Mignonette

A classic mignonette is a paean to simplicity. Just three ingredients – red wine vinegar, shallot, and black peppercorns are all it takes to make the magic happen. With three fairly potent constituents, proper ingredient ratio is critical to preparing great sauce  – for every quarter cup of wine vinegar, you add a tablespoon of shallot and a two to three twists of pepper, about a quarter teaspoon. Combine, let them sit for a bit to marry, and you’re there. 

Tweak things a bit, and you have a whole bunch more options. Change the vinegar to white wine, champagne, cider, sherry, or balsamic – or mix vinegar 50%-50% with wine or fresh fruit juices. Change shallot to sweet onion, or red, or white, or go wild and sub jalapeño or serrano chiles. Change black peppercorns to a fragrant 4 pepper blend, or Tasmanian pepperberry, grains of paradise, or Szechuan. Each variant reveals entirely new flavor notes and combinations – find yours, name it, and share it.

Damn near any simply prepared fresh fish will pair nicely with mignonette, as will chicken, pork, extra firm tofu, and sautéed veggies. Below you’ll find a solid basic recipe to start playing with as well as a great twist for hot summer months, a mignonette granita – freezing and shaving the mix intensifies the sauce, (at least to my palate) – Allow a generous spoonful of that to melt on top of freshly grilled fish or poultry at table side, and you’ve got a truly lovely treat.

Classic Mignonette 

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 packed Tablespoon minced Shallot

2-3 twists Telicherry Pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Combine all ingredients in a small, non-reactive bowl and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Allow to marry at room temp for at least 15 minutes before serving. The longer you allow for marriage time, the better your overall incorporation – you can’t really go overboard in that regard.

Lemon Mignonette Granita

NOTE – Works great with lime, blood orange, tangerine, grapefruit, or pineapple too.

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Cup fresh Lemon Juice

2 packed Tablespoons Minced Shallot

5-6 Telicherry Peppercorns, crushed or ground

1/4 teaspoon sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a vigorous simmer for about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat, pour sauce into a non-reactive bowl and allow to cool to room temp. 

Pour cooled sauce through a single mesh strainer into a freezer safe pan or dish with a flat bottom.

Place in freezer for 2-3 hours until well frozen, scraping the sauce down with a fork every hour to to keep it shaved.

Serve in a small, well chilled bowl.