Thursday, May 30, 2013

Eneas Sweetland Dallas and Duck Breast with Solid-Gold Sauce Financière

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book

I had it in my head to do something this week that I’ve been wanting to do for some time –– a ‘fork-list’ addition to my Sauce Series –– Sauce Financière. The name has always whispered the Croesusian promise of shimmering golden lucre and made me want to try anything with the name attached to it. I‘m in good company making the golden connection since no less than MFK Fisher said “The word financière, for fairly obvious reasons, means richness, extravagance, a nonchalant disregard of the purse, but I sometimes suspect that I use it oftener than it warrants to denote anything Lucullan. I need only reread some Victorian cookery books to reassure myself and justify my preoccupation with the word."

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book

There’s a buttery-sweet goldbrick of a cake called Financiére but also a creamy Ragoût a la Financière made with sweetbreads, cockscombs and mushrooms (often nestled in pastry) in addition to that sauce I wanted to make –– the eponymous sauce redolent of truffles and madeira –– hence the financière connection. Truffles are pricy, Madeira is sublime (don’t worry, you can make a version that won’t break the bank even if it tastes as if you have).

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book

When I started digging for historical connections to financière, I didn’t have to look far. A dinner held for Abraham Lincoln in 1861 had Vol au Vent Financière (a pastry case stuffed with that Ragoût a la Financière). A famous 1877 literary event known as “The Whittier Dinner” saw Mark Twain as the star speaker and most of the literary lions of the day attending featured “Filet of Beef, larded, Sauce Financière.” But as I tiptoed through Google I found the most remarkable thing –– The earliest cookbook review I’d ever seen dating from 1868 in a periodical that covered politics, literature, science and art!

I found it in the Saturday Review,  one of the most delightful publications of 19th century London (although it continued into the 1930's). Contributors included Anthony Trollope, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Max Beerbohm, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Abraham Hayward (the gourmet who I wrote about HERE) and Eneas Sweetland Dallas (1828-79) the secret author of the perceptive and erudite Kettner's Book of the Table, a Manual of Cookery (1877), an encyclopedia of gastronomy based on Brillat-Savarin’s opus and full of wit as well as laudable scholarship (that I quoted HERE and HERE) and that I discovered was a favorite of Chez Panisse founding member, Jeremiah Tower who said of the book, “who can live without it?” 

Out of 44 members of the Garrick Club, The seated man is 1, Dallas is 43
I think he's the bearded gent at the edge - it was said he looked like a Norwegian King.  This is the only picture I could find of Dallas

Dallas was a wonderful writer –– his obit in the Dictionary of National Biography said “Few men wrote more careful, graceful English” among the many hosannas to his talents.  He wrote a magnificent book on poetry entitled The Gay Science – The Secrecy of Art that connected psychology to perception and pleasure in words. Dickens and George Elliot were grateful for his positive reviews of their books (writing of it in personal letters). His approbation was much valued and his opinion highly respected in the many periodicals he wrote for. The Times of London had him as their correspondent during the siege of Paris (1870). 

He was a remarkable man who kept a low profile out of choice ­­–– he felt journalists were only effective when they were anonymous as had been the tradition in England till the 1870s (when any brouhaha ensued, the papers defended the articles not the authors and stood by material with their full weight and power). Dallas’s principled stance is why he is so little known even though his output was enormous. He wrote in 1859, “If anonymous is abolished, and we are permitted to speak each in his own name and each in his own character, then gradually it must come to this –– not only that privacy will be invaded, not only that retirement will be a jest, solitude an impossibility, and home the shadow of a dream, but public life also will be outraged –– public intercourse will be bitter as Marah –– public talk will swell with pride, glitter with tinsel, and nauseate us with its magniloquence infinitely more than it now does with its dullness”(thanks to Dallas Liddle for his great article on Mid-Victorian journalists).

Can you imagine, a writer who wants to stay out of the light? How times have changed.

My first thought was that Hayward had written the review because I was familiar with his connection to fine food. But once the Dallas/Kettner's connection was made, the review found its author in my mind (although I cannot prove it). Dallas loved and admired Gouffé in Kettner's and wrote there in 1877 “ Too much art in cookery may be as fatal as too little: and it is impossible to read some of the receipts of the master-cooks without wishing that they could forget high art and come down to common sense”.

Imagine, a journalist who reads cookbooks in 1868!

Similar sentiments were expressed in the 1868 review of The Royal Cookery Book, the English translation of Gouffé’s Livre de Cuisine; “But the main point of difference between the Livre de Cuisine and most other books on the same engrossing topic is, the entire absence of “oddity, extravagance and affectation” which not only professedly, but in truth actually, characterizes it.”

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book (from a later edition, perhaps more decorated than Dallas would have liked)

The article continues about Gouffé’s use of wine, “ In reviewing the French edition we noticed its author’s sensible remarks as to the wine to be used for soups and sauces –– not Chateau-Lafitte or Joannisberg, but good average Burgundy, claret, and Spanish wines, so with his ideas on dressing fish; the noble turbot he would boil in salt water, in stead of letting it swim in Madeira, and garnish with friend smelts and parsley, and potatoes cut olive-fashion, instead of disfiguring it with an array of decorated skewers. Like a practiced artist, he knows which of his materials have beauty enough to be best unadorned, and reserves his triumphs of disguise for setting off things that are naturally deficient therein.”

Dallas never flagged in his determination to laud chefs who made food beautifully, without too much fuss with great ingredients. These ideas are the core of Gouffés book and the review. A fancy presentation does not mask poor quality –– bad butter makes a bad dish. The author of the review specifically points to Gouffé saying, "The crucial test" in cookery "is the palate."

The reason I found the "Saturday Review" piece in the first place was because it mentioned financière; “In enumeration too, of game for domestic purposes, the pheasant has no place. One can understand the braized pheasants with foie gras à la Bohèmienne, and à la financière are incompatible with plain tables, yet we should have thought that a simply-roasted pheasant was consistent with due economy and with domestic cookery. Still the bills of fare that could be constructed from the first part, containing recipes for making beef à la mode, veal à la bourgeoise, fricandeaus of veal, roast turkey stuffed with chestnut, salmis of larks, grey and red mullets à la maître d’hotel, and eel and carp matelotes, might, by skillful ringing the changes, keep a tolerably exigeant gourmand some little time in good humour."

I think you will love peeking at his Kettner's Book of the Table (available to read online HERE) or the review (HERE).  You will find as I did that his views on food are not quaint or quirky in the the least because they are true and honest and thoughtful as well as entertaining –– his passion for the topic is infectious

Since this is another entry into my Sauce Series,  I am making my financière sauce using some great D'Artagnan products.  I'm using their Moulard duck breast as the base for the dish because it is perfect for the sauce with its meaty lusciousness.  For the sauce itself you can make the"Federal Reserve" version with sliced truffles or the "Banker's Reserve" using truffle oil and truffle butter for that truffle magic.  You can use pricy mushrooms like morels (although a good handful is only $6) or buttons.  Either way, you will love the sauce on pretty much anything from chicken to game birds to steak.  It's a keeper.  I decided to combine a few recipes for the sauce from Gouffé, Francatelli and even Oscar of the Waldorf.  The result was just what I wanted and it is quick to make and has not terribly rich –– just rich tasting!

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book

I also read about fried block of bread used for serving  in Gouffé's book.

Illustration from The Royal Cookery Book

It was used to prop up the meat or fowl for presentation but I liked the idea of modifying it for a single portion of duck breast.  The idea that it would soak up the delicious sauce was compelling (you can just toast it and skip the frying if you want to lower the calories).

If you want to go for full-out Fort Knox extravagance, you can use a few shavings of fresh white truffle in season,  add a cube or 2 of foie gras to the sauce before serving and use a splash of 1912 D'Oliveira Verdelho Madeira from The Rare Wine Company for pure sorcery on your palate ––I know I've said it before, but what it does to this sauce is nothing short of apotheosis (you can read more about madeira and The Rare Wine Company HERE).

Duck Breast with Sauce Financiére serves 2 -4

2 duck breasts, cooked and sliced (each breast gives about 8 slices)
1 recipe sauce financiére
2 - 4  pieces fried bread
herbs for garnish (sage, chervil, marjoram)

Place the sliced duck breast on the the bread and spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the meat.

Sauce Financiére

1 cup mushrooms (morels and sliced shitakes or creminis)
2 T butter or truffle butter or olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 t pepper
1 t mushroom ketchup (Complete Cook recipe HERE) or salt to taste
1 c D'Artagnan demi-glace
1 T meat glaze (a super reduced demi-glace or stock)
1 T Espagnole sauce (optional - the recipe is HERE)
3 T madeira (I would use Rare Wine Co. Savannah Verdelho or 1912 D'Oliveira Verdelho)
1 D'Artagnan canned truffle, sliced and/or about 1/2 t D'Artagnan white truffle oil or to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in the butter till softened a bit, add the truffle slices.  Add the spices and mushroom ketchup or salt.

Add the demi-glace and meat glaze and Espagnole.  Reduce to a slightly syrupy consistency (you will have around 1/3 to 1/2 a cup) and add the madeira and keep warm or reheat gently. Add the truffle oil just before serving.

Duck Breast (virtually foolproof technique)

2 large duck breasts from D' Artagnan* (there are smaller ones, if you use them change the cooking time)
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400º With a sharp knife score the fat of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render the fat, about 6 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 1 minute. Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 7 minutes, until breasts are medium rare (4 minutes for the smaller breasts). Rest them for 5 minutes then slice (this technique is from the Food Network).

Fried Bread

Cut 2 - 4 crustless wedges of bread from a good peasant loaf
Fry in 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter for 2, double that amount for 4 (or just toast the bread for lower calories).  Turn to brown all sides and reserve –– you can warm in a toaster when you are ready to serve.

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La Table De Nana said...

I bet this beautiful sauce brought the breasts to a whole new level..those mushrooms look like works of art:) Very A Hitchcock portrait:) Do you see a slight slight resemblance..Love the old food phtos too..
Lovely presentation ..

Marjie said...

The duck looks wonderful, and I might just have to try the fried bread one night soon (my boys will all exclaim, "Lower calories be damned!"), and a rich buttery cake sounds tempting. But one thing that really struck me is Mr. Dallas' comment about journalists pursuing their own agendas once they were not anonymous - how very right he has proven to be!

Sarah said...

The sauce sounds absolutely heavenly. And the duck is perfection.

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The particular duck looks fantastic, and that i might just ought to try out your deep-fried bread recognized shortly (my own guys will all exclaim, "Lower calories end up being darned!Inch), along with a wealthy buttery wedding cake appears attractive. But one issue that actually hit use is Mister. Dallas' review with regards to correspondents pursuing their very own daily schedules after they weren't nameless * precisely how very correct he's shown to be!
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Barbara said...

I love Dallas' stance on journalistic anonymity. Oh for the days! The news without editorial comment or political slant.
So enjoyed the illustrations from The Royal Cookery Book! They are wonderful. Were you able to find fresh morels in NYC? This is the month for them....we used to forage for them every year when I lived in Michigan. We had our secret places where they grew. Love the photograph of the sauteing morels. (Drooling here.)
An absolutely lovely dish, Deana!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I am always amazed at the work and research you do for every post, Deana! You provide such interesting information and background to your recipes. The sauce financier sounds so delicious but must take a bit of time to create with the other components. It must taste truly wonderful, though.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a fascinating writer! I must admit that this was the first I had heard of him and I was particularly interested in his stance about anonymity-my how times have changed as you say :) And the block of butter? I don't think I could resist that!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning my dear,

I think you summed it all up very well with this snippet:

"Like a practiced artist, he knows which of his materials have beauty enough to be best unadorned, and reserves his triumphs of disguise for setting off things that are naturally deficient therein.”

An artist of any sort knows what he/she is looking for, when they've found it, when to stop, when to proceed, and then to be satisfied. That duck recipe, after all your wonderful study, is probably the perfect combination of all the possible components. And this ties into your lovely comment on my post. Just because one has an overabundance of resources doesn't always guarantee a TASTE, whether it's for the palate, garden or home development. Things of beauty take time, are sometimes simple, and come from humble materials. In your cooking, you are using ingredients any one can go find, but knowing how to USE THEM and how long to let things cook is what gives us the masterpiece! Thank you so much for coming; it's always a joy to see your pretty face and read your thoughtful comment! Anita

El said...

Once again I am completely taken aback by the breadth and depth of your research. Gorgeous post- all around!