Charles Ranhofer was one of America’s first Celebrity chefs and reigned at the end of the 19th century at Delmonicos restaurant in NYC. Although he died in 1896, his amazing 3000 recipe cookbook, The Epicurean, a Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art, Including Table and Wine Service , has kept his reputation alive.
"Ranhofer was sent to Paris at the age of 12 to begin his training by studying pastry-making, and at 16 became the private chef for the prince d'Hénin, Comte d'Alsace. In 1856 he moved to New York to become the chef for the Russian consul, and later worked in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. He returned to France in 1860 for a short time, where he arranged balls for the court of Napoleon III at the Tuileries Palace, but then came back to New York to work at what was then a fashionable location, Maison Doree. In 1862, Lorenzo Delmonico hired him for Delmonico's, and it was there that Ranhofer made his real fame, though others say that he made the fame of the restaurant as well. At that time, Delmonico's was considered the finest restaurant in the United States. He was the chef at Delmonico's until his retirement in 1896, except for a short hiatus from 1876 and 1879 when he owned the "Hotel American" at Enghien-les-Bains," said Wikipedia.
Ranhofer invented or made famous a number of dishes that Delmonico's was known for, such as Lobster Newburg & Baked Alaska and had a talent for naming dishes after famous or prominent people--particularly those who dined at Delmonico's--as well as his friends, and events of the day.
One of the dishes from Ranhof’s cookbook, Chickens a la Nantaise Sauted is a real winner (Nantaise meaning in the style of Nantes, a city in Brittany). Although the measurements are a little sketchy, it was fairly easy to navigate with a little extra work. The results were fabulous. The chicken has that rich old-fashioned taste… and those croquettes are a brilliant idea!!!
Chickens a la Nantaise
2 boneless chicken breasts (the original recipe called for pieces)
2 T butter
½ c Mushroom broth*
½ c Madeira Wine (Charleston Sercial)
1 ½ c béchamel sauce*
½ c cream
3 small artichoke hearts
2 thin slices ham
1 egg, beaten
1 c breadcrumbs
6 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp chopped herbs
Chop the artichoke hearts and ham into small dice. Season with salt and pepper and moisten with ½ c béchamel. Make into tablespoon size croquettes and freeze for 20 minutes as they will be very sloppy.
Take them out and roll them into the egg, then the breadcrumbs and refrigerate till ready to use.
Get oil heated to 350º to deep-fry the croquettes.
Fry the chicken breasts in 1T butter till gently browned and nearly done and remove. Deglaze the pan with the mushroom broth and Madeira and reduce while scraping off the brown bits in the pan. Add the béchamel and the cream. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer the chicken gently till cooked through.
Sauté the shrimps in butter, add lemon and herbs. Keep warm and set aside.
Fry the croquettes in the oil till brown.
Place the croquettes and shrimp decoratively on the plate with the breast. Spoon the sauce over all. Serve with mashed potatoes.
Serves 2, generously
Put one pound of mushrooms cut into quarters in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and a pint of stock. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Cool and strain. Use the delicious mushrooms for another dish.
5 T butter
5 T flour
3 cups hot milk
¼ c chopped onion
sprig of parsley
sprig of thyme
Few Gratings of Nutmeg
Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a few minutes, taking care not to scorch it.
Add the hot milk gradually, whisking all the while. Let it thicken slowly with the herbs and onion and mushrooms, stirring it frequently. Strain it before using.
Delmonico's Menu from 1899, check out the prices!!!:
***Many of the facts about Ranhofer were taken from the nice folks at Wikipedia!