Friday, January 6, 2012

French Sauces, Simple and Otherwise

Excerpted from "Twenty-four Little French Dinners and How to Cook and Serve Them", 1919.

It is well that the American cook who desires to bring variety to her board should have some knowledge of those Gallic creations, the sauces, by which she is enabled to transform plain dishes into seemingly pretentious ones.

In the first place every French chef keeps three kinds of what he calls roux on hand, ready for making meat and fish sauces. These are made by cooking together eight ounces of butter and nine ounces of flour. That intended for use with brown meats is stirred together till it becomes a medium brown in shade; white roux is cooked only sufficiently to banish the raw taste and not allowed to color, while pale roux is kept over the fire just long enough to attain a deep cream color. These are mixed with milk, soup stock, water or gravy as the case may be when a sauce for fish, meat or vegetables is needed.

For instance, to make Sauce à la Crème, for use with white entrées, take two tablespoonfuls of the white roux in a saucepan with a cup of milk and a tablespoonful each of finely chopped parsley, shallots and chives. Boil fifteen minutes, pass through a colander into another saucepan, add a small lump of butter, more finely chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon and it is ready for the table.

To make a favorite Sauce Piquante, cut two onions into slices, also a carrot and two shallots and put into a saucepan with a scant tablespoonful of butter. While heating over a moderate fire, add a sprig of thyme, a tablespoonful of minced parsley, a bayleaf and two or three cloves. When the onions are golden brown add a tablespoonful of flour, a little plain stock and a tablespoonful of vinegar. Boil again, pass through a sieve and season with salt and pepper.

A simple sauce is that Maître d'Hôtel, which is rarely made at home though so generally liked. Put a lump of butter into a small saucepan over a moderate fire and add to it chopped parsley and chives, or parsley alone. Season with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice and while it is sizzling pour over the hot steak or fish.

Sauce d'Anchois, than which there isn't anything better with baked fish, is also easy to make. Take three or four anchovies and mash them up well with two tablespoonfuls of butter. Now make about a pint of brown sauce with brown roux and milk, and stir the anchovy butter into it. Just before taking from the fire add the juice of half a lemon or more, according to taste.

Sauce Bearnaise was a favorite of Henry of Navarre, and it is excellent with steaks, chops and, particularly, roast beef. To make it beat the yolks of three or four eggs in a saucepan, add a tablespoonful of butter and a little salt. Stir over a slow fire till the eggs begin to thicken, then remove and stir in two more tablespoonfuls of butter, stirring till the butter is dissolved. Season with chopped fine herbs and parsley and pour in a teaspoonful of French vinegar.

In many parts of France they have a favorite dressing for boiled fish called Sauce Ravigote. To make it mix half a pint of stock in a saucepan with a small amount of white wine or cider, then chop fine herbs such as chervil, tarragon, chives and parsley, or whatever other herbs are in season, to the amount of about three tablespoonfuls, and mix with the stock, adding salt and pepper. Stew gently for about twenty minutes, then blend a tablespoonful each of flour and butter, stir into the sauce and continue to stir till thick. Just before serving squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

The word “Ravigote” means, literally, “pick me up,” and it is applied to minced tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley, the herbs being kept separate and served with salad on four little saucers. Ravigote butter, made by kneading butter with the four herbs and adding pepper, salt and lemon juice, spread between thin slices of bread, makes delicious sandwiches.

To make the very generally liked Sauce Blanquette, which is used to raise cold meats to the dignity of a fricassée, take about four ounces of pale roux, thin slightly with boiling water added by degrees, then put in a bunch of sweet herbs, cooked button mushrooms and small onions and pepper and salt to taste. Put in whatever cold meat you have, cook till it is well heated and serve.

The following is called Sauce d'Havre, and through the use of it it will be discovered that the taste of curry is an agreeable one in many another case than in connection with the veal and rice arrangement to which most American cooks restrict it. Peel and slice four onions and two apples and place in a stewpan with four ounces of butter, six peppercorns, a sprig of thyme, two bayleaves and a blade of mace. When the onions have become slightly brown over the moderate fire, stir in a mixture of two tablespoonfuls of flour and the same amount of curry powder, shortly afterward adding six gills of white stock and half a pint of white sauce. Season with salt and half a teaspoonful of moist sugar, boil for a quarter of an hour, adding more white stock if necessary, and stirring constantly. Put through a strainer into another saucepan, boil up again, skim, and use when required.

Fricasseed chicken takes on a new glory when it is prepared with Sauce Lyons. This is made by stirring gradually three well-beaten eggs into half a pint of plain white sauce, then placing the mixture in a jar and standing in boiling water till the sauce thickens. Just prior to pouring over the chicken add the strained juice of half a lemon.

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