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Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day…even the French. We wish you hearty meals and ample drink, and may the luck of the Irish follow you all year.
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.
Sauce Béchamel Mornay
I discovered Filet of Sole Verdi when I read a description of it that made me swoon –– sole, lobster and truffles on pasta with a creamy Mornay sauce that’s popped under the broiler to brown a bit. Escoffier invented the dish to impress the composer. With 2 great sauces in it I thought it was perfect for the sauce series.
But when I looked up the original recipes for béchamel and Mornay sauce, I was shocked.
Escoffier’s original béchamel is made with veal! His white sauce is cooked with pieces of veal for two hours then strained. Remarkable. I will try doing it that way one of these days but decided that, since it was fish, I would go with the simpler, non-veal version that he used for “Lenten preparations.”
Béchamel was named after the Marquis de Béchameil (1630 -1703), of whom Escoffier wrote “After all, if it wasn’t for his divine sauce the Marquis de Béchamel would have been forgotten long ago.” Legend has it that it was invented to sauce dried cod. It is in Varenne’s 1651 Cuisinier Francais made with a veal velouté and cream, so Escoffier’s version echoes the sauce’s velouté ancienne roots (velouté has been around a very long time).
The same was true of the Mornay sauce. Probably named after a “player in the halcyon days” of the 2nd Empire, Charles de Mornay, I never knew Escoffier put fumet into the sauce (fumet being stock-based liquid the meat or fish was poached in). It makes a sublime addition to the cheesy sauce, giving it a bit of backbone.
When you put it together with the sole and lobster and truffles and pasta, ooh la la, you can see why Verdi was pleased with it. It is extremely elegant and if you do the sauces and pasta ahead of time, it can be ready in a few minutes.
Filet of Sole Verdi
(serves 2 main course-4 appetizer)
½ to ¾ lb. filet of sole
1 c fish fumet/stock*
4 c cooked pasta (don’t go too al dente on this, you want it softish to go with the elegant texture of the dish)
1 c cream
2 small lobster tails, shells removed
1 T butter
2 c béchamel
2 c Mornay sauce
1 large D’Artagnan truffle sliced and ¼ chopped (optional)
2-3 t D’Artagnan truffle oil to taste.
Salt and pepper
Put the fish in the stock on medium heat. Add a touch of salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes per side –– they cook very quickly. Remove. Reduce the stock to 1/2 a cup. Pour any juices that have collected from the fish into the reduced fumet. If you have a lot of juices, you should reduce a little further so you only have 1/2 cup.
Warm the cream. Add the cheeses to the cream. Toss the pasta with the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 t of the truffle oil and some chopped truffle, if you are using it, and toss just before assembling the dish.
Add the fumet to the Mornay sauce and stir. Warm it. It should be thick.
Sauté the lobster tails for a few minutes. They should not be fully cooked. Chop the smaller end of the tail and add to the pasta. Slice the fatter end.
Heat the broiler. Make single skillets or a large skillet with handles that can take the broiler.
Spoon the pasta into the dish. Lay the sole over 2/3 of the dish. Pour the Mornay sauce over the sole and tuck the lobster at the edge of the Mornay sauce. Heat the pan on the stove for a few minutes at medium-low heat.
Put under the broiler on high for a few minutes. Pay attention, it goes from perfect to burned in no time. Remove and top with chopped herbs. Tuck the truffle slices in and drizzle with remaining truffle oil.
*(I always freeze bones and shrimp/lobster shells and make this when I have enough to make a quart of stock. Then freeze it flat and break it off when I need it or freeze in ½ c portions). You could use chicken stock in a pinch.
2 c milk
1 small shallot, sliced
1 clove (optional)
3 T butter
2 T flour
Heat the milk and simmer while you melt the butter. Add the flour to the butter and stir over low heat till all bubbly. Do not let it brown. Strain the milk. Pour the hot milk slowly into the flour mixture, stirring all the while over medium heat till all the milk is used and the sauce is thickened. Add the cheeses and set aside.
2 c béchamel
½ c fish reserved fumet
1 c grated Parmesan
1 c grated Gruyere
Add the fumet to the béchamel and reduce a little. Add the Parmesan and gruyere and stir till smooth.
They say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day… even the French! We’re just happy to eat like the Irish (and maybe quaff a few beers) on this saint’s day.
We’d like you to do the same. This week, enjoy 10% off a selection of beefy, lamby and porky items that will help you to celebrate all things Irish this March 17. Erin go bragh!
If you are looking for recipes, you can always check our site for inspiration. We like this Irish Stout Lamb Loin with Colcannon for a traditional meal. Of course, there’s always Corned Beef. And then, a meat pie is so satisfying - this Wagyu Beef Shepherd’s Pie is especially so.
If a hand pie is what you crave, try these Dingle Pies from The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews. They are a savory, rustic staple at Ireland’s oldest festival, Puck Fair.
It seems like the whole world suddenly became obsessed with kale. Well, we like a leafy green just fine, especially when it’s cooked in duck fat. Hey, everything tastes better with duck fat.
Just take your kale cooked, and in moderation. There’s been a few reports lately about the dangers of too much kale, especially when eaten raw. It’s best to cook it, and we suggest using duck fat to do that. It imparts a wonderful flavor and crispy texture. Plus, duck fat is 15% off along with all the other good things from the duck this week at dartagnan.com.
Duck Fat Kale Chips
- 1 bunch kale or bag of cleaned, chopped kale
- 2 Tbs. duck fat at room temperature or slightly melted
- finely ground sea salt
- Piment d’Epelette or black pepper
- 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
1. Rip or cut the thick stems off the kale. Discard the stems.
2. Wash the kale and then dry it well in a salad spinner (or use pre-washed kale).
3. Rip the kale into chip-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
4. Drizzle the softened duck fat, which should be a thick liquid consistency and toss to coat, using your hands to thoroughly mix it into the kale leaves. Try to use just enough duck fat to coat the kale, but not so much that the chips will be overly greasy.
5. Place kale on a baking sheet in a single layer. Do not overlap or crowd the pieces.
6. Sprinkle with salt and piment d’Espelette, then Parmesan cheese.
7. Bake the kale chips in a 400 degree oven for about 9 minutes. Keep an eye on them – they go from baking to burning pretty fast.
Here’s our little video to show you how.
“Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking” ~ Julia Child
March is National Sauce Month. And so … let’s talk about sauces!!
We will glory in any sauce. Sriracha. Marinara. Fra Diavolo. Bechamel. Bourbon barbecue sauce. Tartar. Chimichurri. Mole. We believe there should be sauce on everything. But when it comes to sauces, the mother lode is in French cuisine.
To round out our Saucy Series we will post one sauce a week during National Sauce Month. So come along for the ride!
Our saucier for this project is blogger and historic food explorer Deana Sidney, who can generally be found at her blog Lost Past Remembered.
Before we get started, we thought it was time to introduce you to Deana.
Deana, can you tell us how you got started on this food journey? What drew you to ancient recipes in the first place?
I first fell for ancient food in college when I was studying English and Italian literature –– I wanted to taste the past. Instead of learning how to cook with Joy of Cooking like a sane person, I began with Forme of Cury, a 15th century English cookbook. My earliest attempts were ghastly –– slowly but surely I got better, and so did the food. Now I love the exuberant spicing and lavishness. It takes you away to another time.
How long have you been writing your blog at Lost Past Remembered?
I started the blog 4 years ago and have had the best time doing it. I have met so many incredible people; I’m working on book proposals, am getting my first article published and shot the cover of the magazine. I’ve gone to the Oxford Food Symposium for the last few years and hobnobbed with all the food history wizards –– it’s been a gas and terribly liberating. No producers/directors leaning over your shoulder telling you what you can and can’t do!
It’s an incredibly detailed account of your cooking adventures in a day when big pictures and few words seem to be the name of the game. Reading your blog is downright educational – and not just about food. So how do you research your topics?
I basically read everything I can get my hands on. Some posts are more extensively researched than others. I especially enjoy writing about houses, the lives that have been lived in them and how they ate. In a way, it combines my favorite part of production design, food history and decoration. I spend a bit of time in the summer in England and the National Trust has been kind enough to help me visit many of the great English houses. I love their stories. In the end, it’s about telling great stories with great pictures.
Have you had many disappointments in the kitchen? It seems like you introduce a complex recipe and then breezily recommend it as “easier than it looks, I promise you!” Have you had disasters?
Disasters? Oh yes, don’t we all? In the recipes, if I say it’s easier than it looks, it really is. Mostly it’s just the time it takes that seems daunting. Most disasters for me happen when pastry is involved –– not my strong suit– or if I try to rush or lose focus. I’ve been lucky lately though. I try to go through the old recipes methodically and take my time since I often don’t have extra preparations should one fail. Luckily a recent tough crust I made was for me and not for the blog. I have no idea why it failed!
What have you learned in tackling these classic sauce recipes from the French canon?
The biggest thing? There really are just a few basic parts to almost all the great sauces — D’Artagnan’s fabulous demi-glace shows up in most of them. If you have frozen demi-glace and make up a batch of Sauce Espagnole (and keep that in your freezer in small bags) you can make many of the dark sauces in no time at all. One day’s work pays off extravagantly. The cream and egg sauces just need you to take care with the heat and stir them well (and strain if there are clotted bits!). You can have an elegant dinner in no time at all using all the fabulous D’Artagnan birds and meats with the sauces – just like a 4 star French restaurant. Many of them take no time at all –– REALLY!
Which sauce recipe was your favorite?
That is almost impossible. I love the dark richness of Financiére with truffles and Madeira, but also am fond of the cream sauces (I have a great source for cream). Adding the egg to a sauce gives such richness from Hollandaise to Allemande.
What do you do when you’re not cooking? Tell us a little bit about your day job.
My other job is working as a production designer for films, TV and commercials. I specialize in character-driven work and love to construct a person’s environment so the actors feel at home there. It’s great fun, as much psychology as art. I am a sucker for objects that tell stories.
How has your food experience helped in your production design career?
Oh my, I have used it so much on small features (on larger ones I am not allowed to play with food). When I work with food stylists, they have 20 of something to shoot. I have gotten used to making do with much fewer on the blog. Now when I do film food scenes, I use all the tricks I have discovered shooting for the blog. It really is like play. Sadly, because of the lights, I can’t use some ingredients I would if it was for real. They would coagulate and look awful after a few takes. I think canned food is indestructible!
Do you have any memorable food stories from a movie set?
Well, one that’s appropriate is the D’Artagnan dinner I did for Molly’s Theory of Relativity. It was a labor-of-love project of a favorite director of mine. We had a very low budget but getting the D’Artagnan products for the shoot made all the difference – the dinner scene took up a lot of screen time.
I was in a kitchen making duck ragout ravioli, duck breast with cherry sauce and foie gras. Since the scene took all day to film, we warned the actors not to eat too much but they couldn’t help themselves. The duck was so good they kept eating! After 30 takes they were getting rather full! Even a little boy on the set, whose mother said he didn’t eat anything, LOVED duck breast and ate a lot. The only disaster was the poor foie gras. Someone had accidently moved the pan to a burner that was on low so it got overcooked.
I did have to use soup and canned cherries to make the sauces so they would stay pretty. We put the duck on the platter and kept replacing the portions the actors were eating.
It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to follow along while Deana worked her way through these classic French sauces. If you want to catch up on her sauce posts, she’s got a category on our blog called Saucy Series. Bon appetit!
We are obsessed with duck. It’s kind of our thing. And we’ve heard that you like duck as much as we do.
That’s why we’re kicking off the month of March with a giant all-things-duck sale!
This means that duck leg confit, raw moulard duck breast, whole Rohan, Muscovy or Pekin duck, smoked duck breast, duck rillettes, duck prosciutto, duck bacon, duck sausage, duck fat and even our cassoulet kit (it’s got duck in it!) are all specially priced to tempt you.
What are you waiting for? Shop and save 15% on any duck of your choice this week at dartagnan.com.
If you need a little inspiration …
But we were surprised to learn that supermodel Iman loves it too! It is listed in the March issue of Elle Decor as one of the 12 things she cannot live without. We’re thrilled to be on her list – and we hope you add white truffle butter to your must-have items.
As a way to spread the love, we are giving away a case of white truffle butter on our Facebook page. So head over there and “like” our page to enter.
What would you do with a case of six 3 ounce tubs of white truffle butter? We have a few ideas here.
The latest video in our “Back of the House with Ariane” series takes on the subject of veal. The great Barbara Lynch, a chef and restaurateur based in Boston, makes a traditional Italian dish of osso buco and Ariane takes the French path with paupiettes de veau.