Delmonico’s 1888 Menu
Deciphering the menu for that auspicious day is a challenge. It was popular to personalize dishes to beguile or honor the host or guests. Sadly, we cannot recreate the ephemerally named “Brochette de Homard Elaine”, “Ris de Veau Julius Caesar” and “Sorbet au Cardinal”. We know that Julius Caesar and Cardinal Richelieu were great Booth successes on the stage, but how that translates to a recipe, we cannot know. Their formulas have evanesced into the mists of time like the sound of Booth’s exquisite voice. Also lost, the constituent parts of a dessert created especially for the meal: “Sweets al la Railroad of Love”, named in honor of Augustin Daly’s wildly popular play about the rapid pace of 1880’s courtship starring John Drew.
Scene from Railway of Love
One can only imagine the confections a chef might create to amuse favored patrons at a special luncheon. A whole nougat steam engine fantasy could be constructed, pulling nougat cars filled with sweet delights like Delmonico’s chef, Charles Ranhofer’s cart of confections made of nougat and marzipan and filled with candied fruits iced with caramel and angelica, adorned with fruits and flowers made of ice cream.
Some dishes on the handwritten card could easily be found on today’s hors d’oeuvre trays and menus. Oysters, canapés with anchovies, sardines and caviar, roasted potatoes, and buttered peas are common fare. However, it would be prudent to discourage a renewed enthusiasm for “Roasted Canvasback Duck”, a variety so favored it was nearly extinct by the end of the 19th century, (no surprise since its flesh is irresistibly exquisite when it has been feeding on its favorite food, wild celery). Foie gras with aspic and lettuce salad are enduringly popular. “Chouffleur Villlaroi” and “Potatoes Sarah” are treasures waiting to be rediscovered. The charming desserts, “Gelée aux oranges” (jelly mold with orange slices) and “Briscelets a la crème” (pastry bracelets with cream) and “Caisses de fruits glacés” (boxes of sugar-glazed fruit) could appear on a modern dessert service
In honor of that wonderful winter day 120 odd years ago, here’s Chouffleaur Villaroi taken directly from Delmonico’s 1889 cookbook “The Epicurean”. The molten creaminess beneath the crisp crust is a delight!
I would recommend cutting the veloute recipe to 1 Qt stock for a small head of cauliflower. That still gives you veloute to spare.I used 8 Tb of butter, ½ c of flour and ½ c of cream. I used 2 egg yolks and came up with a breathtaking Allemande. To that I added 1 minced Portobello cap, sans gills and 2 T minced parsley as well as salt and pepper to taste. I added 1 tsp. fresh marjoram to the breadcrumbs but that was not authentic. The result was heavenly, even a cauliflower hater would swoon!
CAULIFLOWER A LA VILLEROI
This (the head of cauliflower) is to be cooked and drained, then covered with well-reduced Allemande Sauce* into which mingle chopped-up fresh mushrooms and chopped parsley.
Allemande Sauce is made by reducing Veloute*, incorporating a little good raw cream slowly into it. When the sauce is succulent and creamy, thicken it with a thickening of several raw egg-yolks, then boil the sauce for one minute to cook the eggs, pressing against the bottom of the pan with a spatula, strain it through a tammy (fine strainer) into a vessel. Stir it from time to time until cold.
Veloute´ is made by melting three-fourths of a pound of butter in a small saucepan; stir into it three-fourths of a pound of good flour, and let the roux cook for a few minutes, then set the saucepan on a slower fire without letting it color; in order to obtain a well thickened sauce, the flour must be well cooked. When the roux is sufficiently done dilute it gradually with four quarts of good stock.
When (the Allemande Sauce is) thoroughly cold, immerse (flowerets) in beaten eggs, then in bread-crumbs, smooth the breading and fry it a golden color; drain, salt and dress on a folded napkin, laying a bunch of fried parsley on top.
If you are looking for some fine napkin folding ideas, try one of these to elevate your cauliflower presentation to new, 19th c heights courtesy of Jessup Whitehead’s 1889 classic, The Steward’s Handbook.