Q: Several times recently, I’ve seen the word “nage” on menus. I’ve looked through all my cookbooks and I can’t find a definition. What’s a nage?
A: Sometimes it seems like there’s a secret memo circulated to chefs for everyone to start using a new word or ingredient. Nage (usually pronounced “nah-zh,” not “nay-zh”) does seem to have become a popular term lately.
The classic definition of nage is a stock used to cook shellfish, such as court bouillon. But it also refers to the technique of simmering something gently in a flavorful broth. In French, “a la nage” means “in the swim.” But some chefs have been getting creative with the term. Some now refer to a nage as sauce made from whisking butter into a little wine-enriched cooking stock, even into pasta-cooking water. Others use it to mean vegetables poached in stock and wine.
At one event recently, I saw a chef refer to a marshmallow-based sauce over sweet potatoes as a nage. Nah, that might be going too far.