February 22nd, 2014

Gastrique Mystique



What is it?

Over the past several months, I have come across the French term on menus and recipe sites. I knew that it meant a kind of sauce, but in my years of cooking, I’d never made a gastrique. A little research dispelled some of the mystique: It is a reduction of sugar, vinegar, and a defining ingredient: be it herb, fruit or vegetable, wine, juice, or even hot sauce. You could call it sweet-and-sour, a la Francaise.

That sweet-sour sauce is more akin to a syrup. It can take on any ingredient; give it a boost. And it does so, with little effort. Sugar paired with your choice of vinegar, caramelized and slow-simmered with whatever ingredient you wish to showcase, becomes an intense tangy glaze.


Our Third Thursday Community Potluck became the happy beneficiary of my gastrique experiments. Since my co-host Gigi (who doesn’t eat fish) couldn’t attend (a first in almost 5 years!) I decided to feature steelhead. (”When it comes to food, I just don’t like the ocean,” she says.)

Steelhead trout is not salmon, although it is in the same family. Steelhead is Rainbow trout that migrates to the sea, returning to spawn in fresh water. Unlike salmon, it survives spawning. But its appearance and taste are very similar, hence steelhead is gaining in popularity. Recipes for it and salmon are interchangeable.


Before I roast the fillets, which cook quickly in a hot oven, I like to begin introducing flavor in the form of oil and spiced salt. When you brush the (cleaned and dried) fish with good olive oil and dust it with this savory mixture, you are in effect laying down the first layer of flavor.

This spiced salt rub consists of 5 ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. You’ll combine S+P with paprika, and 2 kinds of seeds (yellow mustard and coriander) that you’ve freshly ground together.


In this fashion, you can season the fish hours before you cook it, if you like. The olive oil ready absorbs into the fillet, a sealant in a sense that also holds the spice rub in place. Refrigerate until a half hour before you want to roast it.

Meanwhile, you can make the gastriques.

I chose to make two: one with Sriracha hot sauce and one with white wine. Each has only three ingredients, but what amazing taste!

The hot sauce gastrique packed plenty of fire, that was amplified and yet tempered by the sugar and vinegar.

The white wine gastrique was almost like honey.


After the gastriques cooled, I poured them into squeeze bottles. You can really control how much and where, with a deft squirt and squiggle.


Roasted simply with the spiced salt mixture, the steelhead was very good, without question. But the intriguing overlays that the vigorous striping of gastriques brought to fish elevated it to something extraordinary–imbuing unexpected pops of sweet heat and pungency. Even served at room temperature at potluck, the dish was devoured with gusto by our group.

A new world of cooking possibilities afforded by these infused syrups! I’ve scarcely scratched the surface. I love considering gastriques using different vinegars, like sherry or red wine, married with figs, or blackberries, or even tomatoes.

In my research, I found this luscious sounding recipe for Gorgonzola stuffed Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Gastrique on Cooking Light’s website. It is still winter, but this week, there have been hints of coming spring. And, in Tennessee, that means strawberry season is soon to follow.


3 pounds boned steelhead trout fillets (or salmon)
3 tablespoons olive oil
spiced salt rub (recipe below)
Sriracha gastrique (recipe below)
white wine gastrique (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse off the fish fillets and pat dry. Lay onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Brush the tops liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with spiced salt mixture.

Roast the fillets for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let them sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Place on a bed of sauteed spinach greens. Stripe the fillets with both gastriques and serve.
Serves 10-12


2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

Place salt, black pepper, and paprika into a small bowl.
Place yellow mustard seeds and coriander seeds into mortar, and coarsely grind them together.
Add the ground mustard and coriander seeds to the salt mixture and blend well.


1/2 cup Sriracha (or other choice of hot sauce, such as Louisiana Hot, or Tabasco)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar

Place the three ingredients into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved into the mixture.
Bring to a simmer, (uncovered) stirring occasionally. Simmer until the mixture reduces by half—this could take 20 minutes.
The gastrique will deepen in color, and acquire a glazy sheen. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Place the three ingredients into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved into the mixture.
Bring to a simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook until the mixture reduces by half—-this could take 20 minutes.
The gastrique will become syrupy, with a glazy sheen. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes about 3/4 cup.


Posted in Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Sauces

21 Responses to “Gastrique Mystique”
  1. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    We eat a lot of fish and I can just imagine the flavors that the two gastriques added to the trout.

  2. Barbara Says:

    I’ve obviously been living under a rock as this is the first time I’ve heard of gastrique! Never have seen in on a restaurant menu, either…and I eat out a lot. I like the idea, Nancy, and can’t wait to read about any experiments with fruit gastriques.
    Love your salt rub…and your dish looks delicious!

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I am looking forward to experimenting with the fruit gastriques–I think they will be amazingly delicious.

  4. Barbara Greene Says:

    Oh Nance, the fish looks lovely. I think my guys would love the hot gastrique variety very much. Alex loves to prepare fish, so I definitely will tell him about these.

  5. Adri Says:

    This is the kind of supper my husband would love. Fish, well, but simply flavored. I’m like your friend – no sea food for me, so when I do cook fish it is kind of a big deal in our home! I will have to try this one. Thanks!

  6. Joyti Says:

    Ooooh, so elegant. I’ve heard the word gastrique, but I had NO IDEA what it meant. None. thank you for the education :)

    Both gastriques (is that the proper way to pluralize the word?) look delicious and very elegant.

  7. Tammy Says:

    Sriracha gastrique is right up my alley. Thanks for exploring this term that I wasn’t familiar with.

  8. Beth Says:

    Funny – I just came across the word gastrique too. Your recipe looks great – and the chicken recipe sounds terrific too!

  9. Velva Says:

    This is absolutely beautiful and the “gastrique” divine. I learned something new.


  10. Patsy Says:

    I can hardly watch an episode of “Chopped” without someone making a gastrique, but I had no clue what they were!

  11. JP Evans Says:

    Mystery solved, thank you for that!

  12. fluffy Says:

    even though I don’t like food from the ocean either

    I agree it looks like a beautiful meal

    feel the love

  13. paulette Says:

    Am I glad I had a chance to taste this at the potluck! Wow! So wonderful. I had no idea a gastrique was so easy to make (or you make it look that way!)…can’t wait to try it myself. And I love the even ingredients of 1/2 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/2 cup!

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Paulette, It really is as simple as making a simple syrup–vinegar instead of water, plus your defining ingredient. The ratio is a great starting place—with other vinegars, you might want a little less sugar.
    Fruit gastriques hold much promise.

  15. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    the trout! are you kidding? Do you even realize how exceptional it looks! Love you solved the mystery! LOL!

  16. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    I love the idea of combining the tastes of these two gastriques. As always, you’ve inspired me. Thanks, Nancy.

  17. Juliana Says:

    I have never made gastrique…the trout just look awesome, and to think that you have all the flavors on it…yum!
    Thank you so much for the gastrique recipes Nancy…hope you are having a fabulous week my dear :D

  18. Jung Says:

    Hi Nancy – making this dish for dinner tomorrow. And just pre-ordered your cookbook! Can’t wait.

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Jung–I hope you enjoy the dish—and thanks so much for the pre-order! I am very excited about the book’s release. three and a half more months…

  20. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    I am completely out of the loop! I have not run across this phrase at all. Of course my restaurant trips are few and far between and the menus are usually not in French! So Gastrique Mystique is basically a reduction sauce with a few ingredients..one being highlighted?
    I like the sound of it and the look of it and that Steelhead is just the most yummy looking fish.
    I am sorry my work and play has taken me away from Third Thursdays recently…what great food I am missing.
    Well done my friend.

  21. 2 Sisters Recipes Says:

    WE love French cooking! But I agree with Teresa, we have never heard the phrase either. I wonder if this sauce would be good with salmon?

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