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Posts tagged ‘escoffier’

Saucy Series X: Bechamel Mornay

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.

escoffier

Escoffier

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.

Bechamel Mornay 1

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.

Bechamel mornay 2

Béchamel

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.

bechamel mornay 3

Mornay Sauce

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.

Umami Dearest…

Umami (pronounced /oo-mäme/) is a relatively new term. It’s a Japanese loan-word referring the fifth taste, completing the revamped five-taste model alongside salty, sweet, sour and bitter. The mysterious word which as of late has been popping up frequently in food writing, blogs, restaurant menus, and cooking shows, describes a taste you are no doubt already familiar with. If you’ve eaten a well-ripened tomato, aged parmesan cheese, porcini mushrooms, cured ham, miso soup or even French fries dressed with ketchup, you’ve experienced umami.

Shiitake mushrooms - an excellent example of Umami

The sensation is difficult to characterize but some describe it as savory, meaty, mouth-watering and having depth or roundness. While many fail to recognize umami when they taste it, it plays no less of an important role in making food taste delicious.

So what is it exactly?
Salty, sweet, sour and bitter are fairly straightforward tastes but umami is slightly different. Umami is a distinct but difficult to describe, savory taste caused by the interaction of glutamates (amino acids), and ribonucleotides (naturally occurring compounds in food) reacting with receptors on the tongue, or taste buds. Some umami taste buds respond specifically to glutamate in the same way that “sweet” buds respond to sugar.

Cured hams, like Jambon de Bayonne, trigger umami receptors

Think about biting into a cheddar cheeseburger with ketchup, spaghetti with marinara sauce and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano or a salt-kissed slice of Jambon de Bayonne – the saliva-inducing, mouth-filling, deep, satiating taste – that is umami. In addition to being a unique standalone taste, umami seems to enhance foods it is combined with, intensifying other flavors as well.

History & controversy
Although the term is relatively new, the concept of umami is ancient. Examples of umami-rich foods can be traced back centuries. The taste appeared in early cured and fermented foods, such as the Roman condiment, garum, and fermented Asian sauces such as soy sauce, which is thought to have originated over 2,800 years ago.

Ancient Roman fermenting vats, used in the production of Garum

In the late 1800s, the “king of chefs and chef of kings”, Auguste Escoffier, discovered and noted the unique character of umami, when he developed his famous veal bone stock. The exquisite dishes he enriched with the stock had a new quality – one that was deep, rich and could not be described as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. Although he couldn’t fully articulate this new taste, causing French scientists to diminish his discovery, Escoffier knew he had stumbled onto something important. Well-heeled Parisians thought so too, flocking to the Ritz Hotel in droves to experience his dishes for themselves.

Auguste Escoffier & Kikunae Ikeda, Taste Pioneers

A short time after Escoffier’s discovery, the Japanese expression “umami” was coined. In 1908, Tokyo University Professor, Kikunae Ikeda, while studying the palatability of broth made from kombu seaweed noted that the taste could not be classified as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. He combined umai “delicious” and mi “taste” to describe the broths rich, deep, savory quality and wrote a scientific article outlining his find. But just as with Escoffier, scientists rejected Ikeda’s findings. The traditional four-taste model was so dominant, umami’s status as a fifth taste was considered controversial until nearly 100 years after it’s discovery when a new generation of scientists finally took a closer look. They discovered, just as Escoffier and Professor Ikeda had alleged that indeed there is a fifth taste. And it’s delicious.