Grant Achatz’ blazingly original “Next Restaurant” (watch their great video HERE) will be creating its menus around a single year and place starting with 1912, Paris. Brilliant. You know how I love history. All the food and drink will be based on meticulously researched food and beverages (hello Escoffier!). They will move backward and forward (yes, Hong Kong, 2036) in time as well as from place to place. I can’t wait to see what they come up with when they open Fall 2010. Next Restaurant has inspired me and it just happens that I have a reason to want to go back to---- 1853!!!
In 1853, Men wore plaid
The first fire engine was used (horse drawn, of course)
La Traviata premiered
Vincent Van Gogh was born
The 1st patent for a machine to make envelopes was granted
Harriet Tubman began the Underground Railroad
Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”
Elisha Kane’s Artic Expedition left NY
Admiral Perry arrived in Japan
Cornelius Vanderbilt owned the first yacht to make a trip around the world.
A pre-phylloxera port was casked in 1853 from grapes from the Cima Corgo.
148 years later it was rediscovered and bottled.
9 years after that I used some of it to make filet mignon with port wine sauce.
I have been a port lover most of my adult life. Once a year, I splurge on an old bottle of vintage port around birthday time. It takes me a few weeks to drink it and I enjoy every last sip from my favorite port glass. Another personal tradition that has developed is the making of filet mignon with port sauce and Stilton.
I buy the best beef on the planet ( grass-fed from the wonderful Grazin Angus Acres in Union Square NYC), and use some of that birthday port to make the sauce. This time, instead of a 37-year old port I have a sample of 157-year old port. The sauce was incomparable with layers of flavors that amplified the greatness in the beef and the Stilton custard, the beef was richer, the custard more unctuous and luxurious.
The Reserve King Pedro V (you can read its amazing history HERE although prices have gone up! ) named after the Portuguese King whose reign began in 1853, came along with my 1850 D’Oliveira Verdelho Madeira. Mannie Berk of the Rare Wine Company let me compare the flavors of these two different fortified wines of great age.
Their personalities are so vibrant and powerful that even after a century and a half they are both magnificent with taste patinas that are complex and rich like the finish on 18th c furniture.
"Exquisitely deep, luminescent mahogany color. The nose is deep and full, with ambrosial scents of walnuts, figs, crème brulée and tar." The port smells like history. Close your eyes and listen to Heifitz play La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin HERE … there, that’s the feeling… a luminous sweetness tempered with supreme virtuosity.
Yes, history… in 1853 Alexis Soyer of London’s famous Reform Club was Victorian England’s hot chef, but he was so much more... a real food hero of his day (like Jamie Oliver in our time!).
He made major innovations in the way the troops were fed during the Crimean war, inventing a camp stove that was still in use till the late 20th century and he helped to end rampant food poisoning and malnutrition in the army (probably saving as many lives as the more famous Florence Nightingale was doing in the field hospitals). He had just published his cookbook, “The Gastronomic Regenerator”in 1852 and this would have been a popular treatment for beef filets or escalopes in 1853:
(*A la Bohemienne marinade is a brine with mace and bay, thyme, marjoram and brown sugar!)
Also hot off the presses would be “The Ladies' New Book of Cookery” By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879) in 1852. After penning “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, Hale was the editor of Godey’s Ladies Book (the most widely read magazine in America) for 40 years. She helped make Thanksgiving a national holiday conducting a 16-year campaign through 5 Presidents (Abraham Lincoln finally agreed to the holiday 1863, believing it would be a healing gesture after the Civil War). She had these great recipes in her book:
In what would have been an old favorite by 1853, “The Housekeeper's Guide” by the prolific English children’s author and pamphleteer Esther Copley from 1838, I found this:
Alessandro Filippini, Delmonicos chef from 1849-62, used this sauce:
Late 19th C. Minton
My recipe is inspired by these 19th c. classics.
Filet Mignon with Port Wine Sauce for 2
2 filet mignons
Salt (ideally smoked salt) and freshly ground pepper
1 T oil
3 T butter
1 T shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 t dry mustard
pinch of cayenne
2 T port ( Rare Wine Co. lovely 1983 Warre Vintage Port* would be best, but you can use Ruby Port or Madeira)
1/3 c demi-glace (or 2 c stock reduced to a thick glaze)
¼ c mushroom liquor** reduced to 1 T (optional)
1 sprig marjoram or thyme
Bring the filets to room temperature and season them all over with salt and pepper then sear with oil at medium high.
Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and marjoram or thyme and reduce the heat to medium-low. Baste the steaks with butter while they cook. Cook for 5-8 minutes for rare. Transfer them to a plate and tent.
Sauté the shallots and garlic then add the demi glace, mushroom reduction, mustard and cayenne and the port and warm (or—add the stock and raise the heat to high, and cook until reduced by three-fourths and then add the port).
Strain the sauce and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 piece at a time (honestly, the sauce is so delicious, you could skip the extra butter and lose the calories!).
Plate flan and place filet on top, spoon sauce over all.
*1983 Warre Vintage Port is available from The Rare Wine Company for $69.95. Contact them at: email@example.com
**mushroom liquor can be made by adding water used to re-hydrate mushrooms and the stems and peelings of mushrooms cooked together for ½ an hour and strained. This freezes beautifully in ice cube trays.
Stilton Flan for 3
1 lg Egg, 1 yolk
1 c ½ & ½
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c Stilton Cheese – crumbled (around ¼ lb.)
Whisk eggs together. Warm cream, add Stilton, remove from heat and cool to warm Taste for salt,
Stilton is salty and you probably won’t need it Gradually whisk in the yolks. Pour into buttered
ramekins and put into pan with boiling water going about 2/3rd’s the way up the dishes. Bake 350º
for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Thanks Foodie Friday and Gollum for hosting!
Thanks to all you are still clicking on the Google ads, I am most grateful for filling up my virtual sugar bowl!