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Four techniques for boosting flavor in stocks, sauces and soups
Some Kinda Good
vegetable beef soup
Using a bouquet of fresh herbs during the cooking process enhances the flavor of homemade soups and chowders, such as vegetable beef soup or shrimp and corn chowder. - photo by REBEKAH FAULK LINGENFELSER

During winter, a comforting and flavorful soup or slow-simmering stew on the stovetop is a welcome way to bring calm to a busy day’s end. Served alongside a bright salad and a crusty loaf of Italian bread, the warmth and aromas of a good soup throughout the home can heal and soothe, like food for the soul. 

Today, I’m sharing four cooking techniques that will add tons of flavor to your stocks, sauces and soups. Standard Bouquet Garni, Sachet D’Epices, Oignon Brule and Oignon Pique are traditional French aromatic preparations called for again and again in recipes. Meant to enhance and support the flavors of a dish, they add subtle undertones of earthiness to stocks, sauces and soups by gently infusing the liquid with their aroma. Try one of these techniques next time you set out to make a stock from scratch or a pot of soup, and your friends and family are sure to be impressed. 

You’ll need some kitchen twine and cheesecloth. You can find these at craft stores, such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. 

1. Standard Bouquet Garni

A bouquet garni, literally translated “garnished bouquet,” is made up of fresh herbs and vegetables tied into a bundle. Rinse leek leaves thoroughly, then use the leek leaves as a base for stacking and wrapping the remaining ingredients. Tie a piece of kitchen twine around the bundle, and be sure to cut a piece of string long enough to tie the bouquet to the pot handle for easy removal. (Note: Parsley leaves are stripped from the stems because they will impart unwanted color in your dish. You can always chop them up and use them for garnish.)

Ingredients include:

  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 3 or 4 parsley stems 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 or 3 leek leaves and/or 1 celery stalk, cut in half lengthwise 
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 parsnip, cut in half lengthwise (optional)  

bouquet garni
The bouquet garni is tied to the handle of the pot with kitchen twine for ease of discarding once the soup has finished simmering. - photo by REBEKAH FAULK LINGENFELSER

2. Sachet D’Epices

Sachet D’Epices (pronounced “sa-SHAY DAY-pees”) translates to “bag of spices.” Containing ingredients that would otherwise get lost in the sauce, so to speak, such as peppercorns, cheesecloth is used to form a makeshift sack. Bundle the ingredients in a small rectangle of cheesecloth and secure the sack by tying it together with kitchen twine. As with the garnished bouquet, be sure to cut a piece of string long enough to tie the sachet to the pot handle for easy removal. Drop the sachet directly into the pot.

Ingredients include:

  • 3 or 4 parsley stems
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cracked peppercorns
  • 1 garlic clove (optional)   

For small batch soups, stocks and sauces (less than 1 gallon), sachets and bouquets should be added in the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking. For batches of several gallons or more, add them about one hour before the end of the cooking time.    

3. Oignon Brule

The Oignon Brule has got to be my favorite technique. Translated “burnt onion,” an Oignon Brule is made by peeling and halving an onion and charring the cut faces in a dry skillet. This may be the one time that you intentionally burn something while you’re cooking! This technique is used in some stocks to provide a golden brown color. I used it while preparing vegetable stock, and the outcome was delightful. 

Peel an onion, slice it in half, then place both halves face down in a dry skillet over high heat. If you have a gas oven, the onion may be placed directly on the flame. Be sure to burn the onion halves until they are black. Place the burnt onions directly in the pot while your soup, sauce or stock simmers, and remove them when the dish has finished cooking.

4. Oignon Pique

Oignon Pique, or “pricked” or “studded onion,” is prepared by studding an onion with a few whole cloves and a bay leaf. Attach one or more bay leaves to an onion by pushing whole cloves through the leaves and into the onion, using the cloves like thumb tacks. Much like with the Oignon Brule, the Oignon Pique is added directly to simmering liquid during the cooking process.

Try these techniques with recipes on! You’ll find lots of inspiration there like my Hearty Hamburger and Roasted Root Vegetable soups, and Wild Georgia Shrimp and Corn Chowder. It was French Chef Louis P. De Gouy who said, “Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”