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Posts tagged ‘French sauces’

A Saucy Conversation with Deana

“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

Deana Sidney

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.

Sauce Financiere 2

Duck Breast with Sauce Financiére

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.

osterley counter

A counter in the vast kitchen at Osterley Park, a great estate in England.

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.

Deana Sidney Venison with Chevreuil Sauce

Sauce Chevreuil is a brown sauce made with Espagnole, seen here over venison

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.

Deana Set 2

Set photo from Molly’s Theory of Relativity

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.

Deana Set Photo

Set photo of a young Einstein at the table from Molly’s Theory of Relativity

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.

Deana Set 5

Deana’s movie set duck breast (Molly’s Theory of Relativity)

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!

A Saucy Series, Part IV: Blanquette de Veau

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.

 Blanquette de Veau

When I think of the Paris of Hemingway and Picasso, I think of Blanquette de Veau. It was one of the first classic bistro dishes I had in Paris as a student.  Honestly, it was a disappointment because the veal wasn’t very good. I knew the dish had greatness in it and tried making it differently.

Blanquette de veau post

As part of my sauce series, Blanquette de Veau uses one of Careme’s mother sauces.

The Allemande is chicken stock-based velouté with egg, cream and lemon (also called a Sauce Blonde or Sauce Parisienne). With a sauce this luxurious I wanted a cut of veal that would be equal to the dish.  Instead of using traditional veal shoulder or neck cuts, I went for the tenderloin for my blanquette de veau and was over-the-moon with the results. A very light cooking resulted in soft pillows of tender veal in the beautiful sauce. In this recipe, you don’t brown anything, so it has a more delicate flavor.

Served with noodles or rice it will become a favorite.

All you have to do is make a few adjustments to get the flavors missed from not cooking the veal for a long time –– I think it’s worth it.

blanquette de veau 3

 Recipe: Blanquette de Veau

D’Artagnan veal tenderloin, about 2 ½ lbs., trimmed and cut into cubes and thoroughly rinsed before and after trimming *
1 pint pearl onions, peeled
2 T butter
6 c stock (veal or chicken)
Bouquet garni: 1 thyme sprig, 1 bay leaf, parsley stems, 6 peppercorns, 2 cloves garlic, sliced and 3 cloves tied in cheesecloth or loose
1 celery stalk cut into sticks
1 large carrot, peeled & cut into thick sticks
1 small leek, sliced in half in 4” pieces
1 t coarse salt
4 T butter
5 T flour
2 T vermouth
2 T Cognac
1 container veal demi-glace
3 egg yolks
½ c heavy cream
2 c sliced mushrooms (I used a combination of crimini and shitake without stems but pure white mushrooms are the classic for this)
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley
chopped yellow celery tops (optional)

Take the veal cuttings, vegetables, bouquet garni and stock and put in a large pot (a wide-mouthed enamel cast iron pan is perfect).  Heat it and simmer on medium-low for 1½ hours, skimming and checking as you go.

While you are doing this, take ½ c of the stock from the pan and 2 T butter and simmer the onions covered for 10 minutes.  When they are nearly done remove the cover and reduce the liquid till it is syrupy.  Remove and reserve the onions and the glaze.

After 1½ hours, strain the stock, pressing on the solids and then discard the vegetables and meat bits. Add the demi-glace to the stock.  You should have around 4 cups.   You can do all of this the day before so that the dish comes together quickly before the meal.

Rinse the veal cubes again and add to the stock**.  Cook for about 15 minutes over very low heat… barely a simmer.  Check it –– you want it medium rare (you will need to heat it again when you add the egg and cream, that’s when you will finish cooking the veal).

When it’s done, remove the meat and strain the broth over a fine mesh.  Reserve 3¼ cup of the stock for the velouté.  Clean out the pan and place the meat and onions with the glaze in it.  Cover (you can do this the day before too, but I think veal is best the day it is cooked –– you can do the rest of the recipe earlier in the day and heat it gently if you would like.

Melt 4 T butter slowly, then add the flour and stir it in –– let it cook for a few minutes but do not let it brown.  Slowly add the stock, whisking. Add vermouth and cognac. Cook it over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.  Add the sliced mushrooms tossed in the lemon juice and cook for another 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft.  This cooking is what helps give the sauce the beautiful texture… don’t rush it.

Remove 1 cup of the sauce without the mushrooms.  Whisk the egg yolks and cream together and add the reserved hot velouté.

Add this to the meat and onions and cook over a low heat, stirring gently.  Do not let it boil.  Keep the sauce below 180º or the egg will curdle (using a wide-mouthed casserole makes this easy). Just for the heck of it I checked the temperature of the veal cubes –– they seemed to be around 145º –– perfect medium.

When everything is heated though taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed, serve with noodles, rice or potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley and celery tops (I love the flavor of celery tops, originally, they were what was used and the bottoms were tossed!).

The dish re-heats successfully in the microwave too.blanquette de veau 1

* Alisha at D’Artagnan said she made this dish with veal cheeks.  I read up on them and found that about 4 pounds cleaned of silverskin would give you about the right amount.  They would cook for a few hours till tender (it may be 4 or 5 hours on a slow heat). You would skip my additional step.

 ** There are those who do not like the gray scum that veal can generate.  If that bothers you, put the veal in a skillet and cover with water.  Bring to a low boil for 2 minutes and then strain and rinse the veal.   I did not do this step since I was more into the texture and the cloudy stock didn’t seem important in the velouté.

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