Saucy Series IX: Cumberland
Welcome to guest blogger Deana Sidney of Lost Past Remembered, a blog dedicated to discovering, replicating and adapting historic recipes. In this saucy series she demystifies one of the cornerstones of classic French cuisine: the mother sauces.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were giants of the American stage from the 1920s to 1960. They were also legendary entertainers at their home in Manhattan but mostly in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. All of the greats of stage and screen dropped by their out-of-the-way farm for R&R. Everyone loved it. Fontanne was the perfect hostess and Lunt the master chef. After retiring from the stage, Lunt even got a Cordon Bleu degree and wrote a cookbook that was published after his death by the foundation that took over the house. It is chock full of amazing recipes, all the more so when you think that the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Lawrence Olivier, Noel Coward and Joan Crawford enjoyed them at one time or another.
I loved the book and its stories and photos but fell in love with his take on Cumberland Sauce. I LOVE Cumberland Sauce and couldn’t leave it off my Sauce Series list. It is a classic game sauce that has been around in one form or another for a hundred years. Although named after the Duke of Cumberland and thought to be thoroughly English, it has its roots in Germany. Lunt adds a touch of magic in his version with the addition of a bit of horseradish. Best I ever tasted. Although I have always associated it with venison, it would be great with any pork (chops, loin, tenderloin or even sausage or ham) or a game bird (duck to grouse and pigeon) and even would work for vegetarians because it is amazing on sweet potatoes (sans the demi-glace).
If you like venison, run, do not walk to D’Artagnan for the best venison tenderloin ever. It’s butter tender and full of flavor –– I made it rare and loved it that way. It is also extremely lean, so best not to cook it too much. The sweet and savory combination with a bit of heat from the horseradish and cayenne is masterful and you understand why this sauce has been a favorite for generations (something like it has been used since at least the 18th century). The best part? It takes about 15 minutes to make and can be done ahead of time. That means a world-class dinner could be ready in 1/2 an hour. It’s low in fat and high in flavor, how cool is that?
Venison Tenderloin with Cumberland Sauce (serves 3-4)
2 venison tenderloins from D’Artagnan
1 c red wine
2 t juniper berries
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 bay leaf
1 t dry thyme
2 T butter or oil
Steamed sweet potato (a squeeze of orange is great on them)
Combine the wine and spices and marinate the venison overnight. Remove from the fridge. Dry the meat and heat the oil in a skillet. Add the meat and sear on all sides. Cook for about 5 more minutes for rare. Tent for 5 minutes, slice and serve with Cumberland sauce and sweet potato and spinach.
Alfred Lunt’s Cumberland Sauce (serves 4)
1 t chopped shallot
1 T orange peel in fine julienne
1 T lemon peel in fine julienne
¼ c port
2 T D’Artagnan demi-glace (optional)
1/3 c currant jelly
juice of 1 orange
juice of ½ lemon
½ t dry English mustard
dash of cayenne
1 t freshly grated horseradish with 1 t sherry vinegar or 1 t prepared horseradish*
Boil shallots for 2 minutes in a little water and strain and reserve. Do the same with the lemon and orange peels. Melt the currant jelly and add the peels and shallots. Reduce till thickened and serve warm or at room temperature.
*I am kind of crazy about horseradish so I added a bit more after the sauce had cooked for extra kick.