Like Cognac, whisky, and bourbon, Armagnac is a distilled (highly alcoholic) spirit. It is made from three types of white grapes, Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, and Colombard, and aged in oak casks in Gascony, the region in Southwest France best known as home to the Three Musketeers. Enjoyed most often, just as Cognac is, as a digestive after dinner, Armagnac is a wonderful spirit to cook with — see M. Jacques’s Chicken (Page 204-5) — and a good sip-along with rich desserts, especially the Coupétade (page 419-20), since it contains prunes, another specialty of the region and one that goes so well with Armagnac. Armagnac is not inexpensive (it sells from about $30 to well over $100), but stored upright (never on its side) away from light and heat, it will keep almost forever, even after you’ve opened it. You can replace Armagnac with Cognac or brandy in most recipes. The spirits are not the same, but they each add character to a dish.

Dorie Greenspan