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Sauce Gribiche Recipe

Why It Works

  • Our secret for a more foolproof emulsified sauce: Cook the eggs just shy of hard-boiled.
  • You can choose how large and rustic to dice the solid flavorings—there’s a wide range of possibilities for making this sauce “right.”

French sauces are a lot like the pantheon of ancient Greek gods. There are the major ones, biggies like bechamel and hollandaise, Zeus and Hera, and below them the hierarchy descends. But that hierarchy doesn’t indicate absolute superiority in all senses—I’d rather hang out with Dionysus and Pan over Zeus and Hera any day. I think, for example, we’d all agree that we’d be better off if Irene, goddess of peace, got a bit more of the world’s attention. And if we’re talking sauces, I’d argue gribiche is ready for a much bigger spotlight.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Gribiche is a cold sauce in the family of mayonnaise-based sauces. Its closest cousin is tartar sauce, with which it shares many ingredients, from the pickles and capers to a healthy dose of fresh herbs. If I had to describe it, I might say gribiche is what tartar sauce would look like after returning from a holiday on the French riviera, tinged with a deeper golden hue and more overtly Mediterranean vibe. Gribiche is eggier, with a pronounced caper flavor and the anisey aroma of herbs like tarragon and chervil alongside the fresh greenery of parsley.

It’s beautiful with or on just about anything: fish (hot or cold), poached meats (especially off-cuts like tongue and tête de veau, the classic quivering slab of poached veal’s head), vegetables (poached asparagus are divine dipped in it), and as a condiment for fries or spread mayo-like on a sandwich.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Aside from its flavor differences with tartar sauce, gribiche has one other unique calling card. Unlike tartar and so many other mayo-derived sauces, gribiche is made from hard-cooked, not raw, yolks. This fact is significant, and has major consequences for how the sauce is made. There’s a lot to unpack there, which I’ll do in the next section, but let’s get familiar with one basic detail: Sometimes gribiche is served emulsified like mayo and sometimes it’s served broken, more like an oily vinaigrette.

All Yolks Aside: The Consequences and Challenges of Gribiche’s Cooked-Yolk Base

A few weeks ago I was shopping at a food market in New York City when I ran into an old boss of mine, the French chef Didier Virot. It was perfect timing, because I was in the process of developing this recipe and was confused about the whole broken-versus-emulsified thing that I was seeing across a wide array of recipes for gribiche. Much of what I know about classic and modern French cooking I learned while working for Didier at one of his former French restaurants many years ago, and Didier’s cooking pedigree is as impressive as it gets: He worked under the legendary French chef Michel Bras and ran Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s flagship restaurant Jean-Georges for several years.

So I turned the question to him, asking where he stood on the whole broken/unbroken thing. He told me he generally preferred the sauce emulsified as a mayo, but appreciated how it worked when broken in some contexts, like on a serving of tête de veau. Then he asked me why I didn’t just teach Serious Eats readers how to make it both ways. So that’s what I’ve done. Here in this headnote and in the recipe below I will explain both how and, perhaps more importantly, why gribiche takes these two forms.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Let’s make one thing clear: As far as I can tell, gribiche was originally meant to be an emulsified cold sauce, often described in classic French sources as a derivative of mayo, and mayo is by definition not a broken sauce. I can tell you that as a dip for things like asparagus, it works better in that emulsified form. But the broken version has become common enough that it’s worth explaining as well, and would be a welcome addition on many plates.

Why did this happen with gribiche specifically? Almost certainly the culprit is those cooked yolks. You see, when you cook egg yolks, you reduce their emulsifying power, meaning sauce gribiche made with hard-cooked yolks, as it’s meant to be, is much more prone to breaking. As many a wise person has said before, If you can’t beat ’em, break ’em, and that’s why broken gribiche has earned recognition not as a failed gribiche, but an acceptable form of it.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

One obvious question one might ask is: Why use cooked yolks at all? Gribiche’s specific origins are unclear so there’s no way to get an answer from whoever first created it, but I can make a guess: The cooked yolks fundamentally alter the sauce. It’s creamier, the flavor is different in exactly the way a hard-cooked yolk tastes eggier and vaguely more sulphurous (in a good way!) than a raw one.

Perhaps the original intention was to make an eggier sauce, and one logical way to do that was to cook the yolks to enhance that egginess. Those cooked yolks not only taste eggier, but you can also pack more of them into the sauce precisely because they don’t emulsify as well—you literally need more of them. Just consider a classic mayo, in which a single raw egg yolk can easily emulsify a cup of oil and often much more, whereas gribiche needs something like three cooked yolks just to stand a chance at holding a mere cup of oil in a stable emulsion.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Cooking the eggs also offers the opportunity to use the whites differently. In a mayo, the whites are often just whisked in with the yolk, disappearing into the finished sauce. In gribiche, the whites are cooked solid, and are then diced or julienned and stirred into the sauce. This creates a whole different textural dimension while upping the perceived egginess even more.

As you can see, the cooked yolks of gribiche are both one of its defining qualities and also one of its trickiest technical aspects. The good news is that enough cooks have broken gribiche enough times that there’s something of a collective agreement to not be upset about that. With this acknowledgement comes tremendous freedom, and gribiche becomes one of those wonderful culinary creations in which you have lots of latitude to change it up while still being able to call it by its name with a straight face.

The Many Faces of Sauce Gribiche

By now we’ve established that gribiche can come in both emulsified and broken forms, and while emulsified is the more classic, broken is an acceptable alternative. But gribiche is even more variable than that. I was recently in Paris and made a point of eating gribiche every time I saw it on a menu. It was never the same twice.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

At one fancier brasserie, I was served gribiche that was refined and delicate, with muted notes of Dijon, pickle, caper, and herb (that one came with a wonderful little crispy torpedo of fried pig’s head). I was also served a gribiche at a bouillon—a type of old-school eating hall featuring (often) slapdash versions of French brasserie fare at low prices that has become trendy in recent years—that seemed like they’d just grabbed a bucket of mayo and stirred a few bits of cornichon and a memory of tarragon into it. At a popular sandwich shop, I had a fried chicken cutlet on a baguette with gribiche as the condiment, and that gribiche was broken, allowing it to soak into the bread instead of just ride on the surface.

In my recipe below, I offer tips on making both an emulsified and a broken gribiche. To lean into the more rustic nature of the broken one (rustic in the sense that the sauce is more likely to break for people with less technical proficiency in the kitchen and thus doesn’t reflect the work of a precise hand), I added a much more crudely diced array of the solid flavorings. In the emulsified version, on the other hand, I show a truly fine mince of the solids. There’s no absolutely right or wrong way to do it.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

And while my recipe offers set quantities for all the ingredients, you should know that you have liberty there too. If you don’t want a sauce quite so chock full of pickles and capers and egg white, simply add less! Add less Dijon if you don’t want as much of a piquant punch, or more if you do. Really have fun with it, the sauce is yours to play with.

The Secret to Not Breaking the Sauce

Let’s say you want to make gribiche and you’re dead-set on it not breaking. What to do? Well, I can tell you firsthand that with care it is absolutely possible to make an emulsified gribiche with hard-boiled egg yolks. Simply process or whisk the yolks with vinegar and mustard until they have fully become a paste with no firm yolky lumps left and then incorporate the oil very slowly while whisking or processing constantly. Bit by bit, without going too fast, you will get there.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

But you know me and you know this site! We’re not the kind of place that just leaves you with advice like that if we can help it. I’ve seen tricks such as adding a single raw yolk to the cooked ones, but I have what I think is an even better one: Just don’t cook the yolks hard-hard. Instead of making hard-boiled eggs, you can make semi-jammy yolks by cooking the eggs just a couple minutes shorter (nine minutes in my recipe for semi-jammy versus 11 for fully firm yolks). This tiny difference is just enough to keep a bit of the yolks’ original emulsifying power intact, while still yielding solid whites and a cooked yolk flavor.

It’s just a tiny cheat, a subtle nudge to get the eggs to a place where you’re not quite as disadvantaged when trying to stick the emulsified landing.

Now it’s your turn. Pick between emulsified or broken as a goal, decide on just how strong or reserved you want your flavors to be, settle on how finely you’re willing to mince everything. Then get gribiching, because this sauce deserves to be spread all over your kitchen.

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