Monday, April 25, 2011
Fashion: 1. style considered as a standard of taste.
It's ever present in our lives, kind of a way of showing that we belong, especially with others who share our taste, whether in clothes, cars or even the food we eat. For food has long since passed from a way in which to sustain ourselves, into a form whereby we gain pleasure from the way the things we eat are prepared.
The French have a long and proud history of good eating and one of their early organisers of strict methods to produce haute cuisine, an ancient forerunner from which many of our current food trends derive, was Carême.
In the early nineteenth century, he evolved a system of sauces based upon fonds de cuisine or stocks. From these he produced all the sauces that were the crowning glory of French cuisine: Names like espagnole, allemande, béchamel and velouté, known as mother sauces, which gave birth to endless variations.
But fashion eventually held sway and many of these sauces have all but disappeared with perhaps the notable exception of béchamel. A real shame, as these sauces have great depth of character, but the making of the roux, a simple blend of butter and flour, perhaps for health reasons or just that of speed, is possibly behind their premature demise.
One sauce due for a fashion revival is the velouté; a stock, whether of fish, chicken or veal, that is gently thickened with roux, the advantage of which is to give body without the need for reduction, which can over emphasis flavours to the point of harshness.
What you get is the pure gentle flavour of the stock you have used.
One of the easiest and simplest stocks to make is fish. A few bones and aromatics and 30 minutes later you have a finished product. From there it's just a small step to a wonderful sauce that has plenty of wow factor.
2 shallots, diced
125ml dry vermouth
250ml dry white wine
500ml fish stock
25g plain flour
200ml double cream
salt & fresh ground pepper
small bunch sorrel, leaves finely shredded
squeeze of lemon juice
Melt 25g butter in a pot and gently sweat the shallots until soft. Do not allow them to colour. Add the vermouth and white wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half. Add the fish stock and simmer for 5 minutes, then strain the liquid.
Clean the pot and melt the other 25g butter and add the flour. Gently cook for a few minutes without colouring, then take from the heat. When cooled slightly, whisk in the fish stock, a little at a time, until completely combined. Put back on the heat and bring to the boil, simmer for a minute then add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes. If it looks too thin, simmer for longer to reduce a little. When ready to serve, add the shredded sorrel and a squeeze of lemon juice and simmer until the sorrel is just wilted.
Serve with fish, poached salmon would be an excellent choice, stand back and wait for the stampede of compliments that will come your way. Send a silent prayer of thanks to Carême.