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Saucy Series XII: Financiere

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 Financière

Sauce Financière is a ‘fork-list’ addition to my Sauce Series –– it’s something I’ve always wanted to make. The name has always whispered the Croesusian promise of shimmering golden lucre and made me want to try anything with the name attached to it. I’m in good company making the golden connection since no less than MFK Fisher said “The word financière, for fairly obvious reasons, means richness, extravagance, a nonchalant disregard of the purse, but I sometimes suspect that I use it oftener than it warrants to denote anything Lucullan. I need only reread some Victorian cookery books to reassure myself and justify my preoccupation with the word.”

Sauce Financiere 2

There are a few things with the name. There’s a buttery-sweet goldbrick of a cake called Financiére but also a creamy Ragoût a la Financière made with sweetbreads, cockscombs and mushrooms (often nestled in pastry) in addition to that sauce I wanted to make –– a sauce redolent of truffles and madeira –– hence the financière connection.

When I started digging for historical connections to financière, I didn’t have to look far. A dinner held for Abraham Lincoln in 1861 had Vol au Vent Financière (a pastry case stuffed with that Ragoût a la Financière). A famous 1877 literary event known as “The Whittier Dinner” saw Mark Twain as the star speaker and most of the literary lions of the day attending. The menu featured “Filet of Beef, larded, Sauce Financière.”

Since this is another entry into my Sauce Series, I am making my financière sauce using some great D’Artagnan products. I’m using their Moulard duck breast as the base for the dish because it is perfect for the sauce with its meaty lusciousness.

For the sauce itself you can make the “Federal Reserve” version with sliced truffles or the “Banker’s Reserve” using truffle oil and truffle butter for that truffle magic. You can use pricey mushrooms like morels (although a good handful is only $6) or buttons.

Either way, you will love the sauce on pretty much anything from chicken to game birds to steak. It’s a keeper. I decided to combine a few recipes for the sauce from Gouffé, Francatelli and even Oscar of the Waldorf. The result was just what I wanted and it is quick to make and is not terribly rich –– just rich tasting!

If you want to go for full-out Fort Knox extravagance, you can use a few shavings of fresh white truffle in season or add a cube or 2 of foie gras to the sauce before serving

Duck Breast with Sauce Financiére

serves 2 -4

2 duck breasts, cooked and sliced (each breast gives about 8 slices)
1 recipe sauce financiére
2 – 4 pieces fried bread
herbs for garnish (sage, chervil, marjoram)

Place the sliced duck breast on the bread and spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the meat. Garnish with herbs.

Sauce financiere 1

Sauce Financiére

1cup mushrooms (morels and sliced shitakes or creminis)
2 T butter or truffle butter or olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 t pepper
salt to taste
1 t mushroom ketchup (recipe HERE) or soy sauce
1 c D’Artagnan demi-glace
1 T meat glaze (a super reduced demi-glace or stock)
1 T Espagnole sauce (the recipe is HERE) or 1 t ketchup
3 T madeira (I would use Rare Wine Co. Savannah Verdelho)
1 D’Artagnan canned truffle, or fresh truffle sliced and/or D’Artagnan white truffle oil to taste
1 or 2 tablespoons foie gras, chopped (optional)

Sauté the mushrooms in the butter till softened a bit, add the truffle slices. Add the spices and mushroom ketchup or salt.

Add the demi-glace and meat glaze and Espagnole. Reduce to a slightly syrupy consistency (you will have around 1/3 to 1/2 a cup) and add the madeira and keep warm or reheat gently. Add the truffle oil just before serving. If you are using foie gras, put it in at the end and stir it in using a gentle heat.

Sauce Financiere 4

Duck Breast

2 large duck breasts from D’Artagnan* (there are smaller ones, if you use them change the cooking time)
Salt & Pepper

This is a virtually foolproof technique. Preheat the oven to 400º. Score the fat of the duck breasts with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render the fat, about 6 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 1 minute. Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 7 minutes, until breasts are medium rare (4 minutes for the smaller breasts). Rest them for 5 minutes then slice

 

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.

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!

Saucy Series VIII: Bordelaise

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.

Bordelaise Sauce

Sam Ward was one of the great entertainers of the 19th century.  He virtually invented lobbying in Washington.  He had a talent for creating great dinners with perfectly assembled guests who then made deals since they were in a great mood after great food and conversation.

Uncle Sam Ward

When I looked at one of Sam’s dinner menus, I could see what all the fuss was about –– it is everything you would imagine it to be. The menu is thoughtful and yet full of piquant touches like the Sorbet au Marasquin –– a touch of prussic acid from the cherry pits in maraschino liqueur in the sorbet to aid in digestion and cleanse the palate for the last of the dinner. His nephew, another renowned tastemaker named Ward McAllister, said Sam made sure he would never allow that lest “the fatal mistake should occur of letting two white or brown sauces follow each other in succession; or truffles appear twice in that dinner.” It was always a perfectly choreographed dance of flavors –– and conversation. Without both, the event will never be as great a success.

menu 1

What would I chose for the 4th dish from Sam’s dinner table? I think that Crêpes a la Bordelaise are the perfect choice –– a great addition to a beef dinner with steak or roast, potatoes and a vegetable. My crêpes are light and airy with a winey, mushroom-y bordelaise sauce. They could be served flat or as a beggar’s purse. I know they will delight at your dinner. I have made a white wine bordelaise before for you HERE, but this calls for the red wine version.

Bordelaise is another addition to my Sauce Series that uses both the mother sauce Espagnole and demi-glace. I have included recipes for both but it’s a breeze to order your demi-glace from D’Artagnan and store it in the freezer. I just slice off what I need and put the rest back in the freezer. Bordelaise is great for any steak. You can make it ahead and freeze it easily so you can make your meal in a snap.

Menu 3

Delmonico’s Chef Filippini Recipe from Sam Ward’s Era

Menu 2

Delmonico’s Chef Ranhoffer’s Recipe from Sam Ward’s era

If you are so disposed, you can dissolve a spoon of marrow into the mix, as was done long ago. I skipped that step and let the meatiness of the mushrooms add additional flavor and depth. It’s really pretty easy to make if you have the basics in your freezer.

Crêpes Bordelaise for 4

1 recipe for crêpes
1 recipe for bordelaise
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 T butter

Sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Add the mushrooms to the bordelaise. Fold your crêpes into quarters on your plate and ladle the sauce over them or serve the sauce on the side. They can be plated separately or served on a platter.

Crêpes (makes 12)

3/4 c milk
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
1/4 t salt
butter for pan

Throw the milk, eggs, flour and salt into the blender and let it rip for a minute.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Use a stick of butter like a marker and run it all over your pan (or you can use a spoon of clarified butter if you have it). Be especially generous for the first few and use butter before each pour of batter. Swirl 2 T of batter around the pan and flip once it has set –– do not allow to brown too much. Keep warm or reheat gently when you are ready to serve.

Bordelaise

2 shallots, chopped fine
2 t oil or butter
1 c red wine
1 clove garlic, chopped
6 T demi-glace from D’Artagnan
3 T Espagnole sauce* (or add a t. of flour to the sautéed shallots with 1 t. of tomato sauce or ketchup and a little more demi-glace)
stems from 4 mushrooms
1/2 bay leaf
pinch of cloves
1 1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
1 T butter or oil

Sauté the shallots in the oil till softened somewhat.

If you are skipping the addition of Espagnole, you can add a teaspoon of flour to the shallots to give the sauce the extra body and add a t. of tomato sauce or ketchup for the right flavor.

Put the wine, garlic, shallots, demi-glace, Espagnole (if you are using it) and stems from mushrooms into a pan and reduce at medium heat until thickened.

Strain the sauce –– you should have about 1/3 cup of sauce about the texture of chocolate syrup –– a bit less if you don’t use the Espagnole. This sauce keeps well for a few days.

*Super-quick version of Espagnole Sauce

1 T butter
1 T flour
1 T bacon
1 T onion
1 T white wine
1 t ketchup
1 cup stock
2 T demi-glace from D’Artagnan

Sauté the flour in the butter till medium brown. Add the rest and cook on low for 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour — till thickened. Keep watch lest it go too far. Strain and use.

•Quick Version of Espagnole Sauce

4 T butter
4 T Flour
3 T diced carrot
3 T diced onion
3 T bacon
2 c stock
1 t thyme
piece of bay leaf
2 T white wine
1/4 c demi-glace from D’Artagnan
2 T tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the flour and butter till it is a medium brown on a medium flame –– stirring all the time.

Add the vegetables, ham and bacon and stir. Slowly add the stock, wine and demi-glace. Cook over a low flame for 45 minutes and add the tomato sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes and strain, pressing hard on the solids. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Save the rest for other uses. It is an invaluable addition to sauces. Freeze it in small portions. Quickest and easiest is to put it in ice-cube trays in 1 T portions and store them in a baggy in the freezer. Then it’s a breeze to use.

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