Verrines are perfect for entertaining

 Watermelon, cucumber, and feta verrine

I read cookbooks like novels, visit food websites on a daily basis, and obsessively think about my upcoming cooking and baking projects. Despite devoting much of my time to food, I frequently encounter dishes and ingredients that I have not heard of before. That happened today when I spied an article on the Fine Cooking website titled Verrines: Splendor in the Glass. Layered concoctions served in small glass containers (the translation of the French word is 'protective glass' or 'jar'), verrines "combine colors, flavors, and textures in alluring layers," according to food stylist Ronne Day.

Wanting to learn more about verrines, I scoured my 1988 copy of Larousse Gastronomique, but there was no mention of them anywhere. That's because the dish - which can be an appetizer, salad, side dish, or dessert (the most common application)  - wasn't invented until the 1990s by French chef Philippe Conticini.

What sets verrines apart from other layered foods like parfaits and trifles is the careful consideration of the varied textures, flavors, colors and temperatures that combine to make a unique gustatory experience. In the original, three layers included an acidic base ingredient (to prepare the taste buds), a thicker middle layer that contained the main taste structure, and a top layer that was smooth and silky to finish.

Newer versions take liberties with this construct, but the concept remains the same. Serious Eats describes them as "a study in textures, flavors, colors and temperatures. A beautiful glass might be filled with a layer of mushroom flan, sautéed wild mushrooms, a julienne of prosciutto, parsley gelée, wild mushroom emulsion and topped with a potato and prosciutto galette." 

Verrines remain popular in France, where you can find them everywhere from bakeries and bistros to high-end restaurants. They have not caught on in the United States, despite appearing on a handful of menus since the early 2000s. If you want to try verrines at home, the EYB Library contains over 35 online recipes, including Heirloom tomato, burrata, and basil verrines and Watermelon, cucumber, and feta verrines (pictured above), both from Fine Cooking

1 Comment

  • zorra  on  9/1/2017 at 10:08 AM

    Amusing to note that of these, some 28 are desserts, & were they in tulip-shaped glasses, might once have been called parfaits. To quote Peter Allen's old song: Dancin' at church, Long Island jazzy parties Waiter bring us some more Baccardi We'll order now what they ordered then 'Cause everything old is new again

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