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5 Lessons from the 18th Century

Any chef worth his salt would agree - this is an ingredient whose flavour profile is more complex than commonly perceived.

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This is one-eighth of Andre Chiang’s How I See the World.


In a bid to bring out different facets of its flavour, we trawl iconic 18th century French culinary tome la cuisine moderne to identify some avant-garde couplings.

DINDE A L’OSEILLE

Sorrel & turkey wing

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“Sorrel leaf mainly goes with seafood because of its acidity, but is rarely used in meat dishes. What is interesting about this dish is that the preparation is almost Asian to a certain extent – the wing is braised, deboned, and then pan-fried, before being glazed with sorrel sauce.

“La Cuisine Moderne is always amazing because, apart from uncommon combinations, it also features a lot of produce from other cultures – such as ginger. Also, the turkey wing seems to be prepared the same way as a fillet of fish, and brings to mind Maison Troisgros’ signature of salmon in sorrel sauce – and I found it most intriguing.”

POULARDE AUX HUITRE

Roast chicken, lard, egg yolk & oyster jus

“For this dish, you roast the chicken with a mirepoix (a mixture of chopped aromatic ingredients) then blend the vegetables with the roasting juices and pieces of raw oyster to create a glaze of sorts. Then you carve the roast chicken and serve the pieces of chicken with the glaze and raw oyster.

“Indeed, it is similar to how we pair beef with oyster today, or chicken with scallop and pork with squid, but this is interesting as they were already matching land produce with sea produce 200 years ago – and that to me is totally edgy.”

OMELETTE AUX LAITANCES

Carp roe, shallot, butter & eggs

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“This recipe first caught my eye because I never knew that carp was so widely used in French cuisine in the olden days. In my mind, Dover sole or turbot would be the fi sh of choice, but the book surprised me with multitude recipes incorporating carp. That it is an egg-on-egg recipe is also interesting.

“I wouldn’t even think about using carp, much less its roe, but here they are, making carp roe omelette 200 years back. The carp roe sacs are slow-cooked then broken apart. This is then sauteed with shallots and beaten egg is folded in – it is a seemingly simple dish that calls for a very high level of detailed effort.”

MARMALADE AU SAGOU AU VIN

Sago, red wine, lemon & cinnamon

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In this dish, sago is cooked with red wine, cooled, then given a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of cinnamon powder. Sago is an ingredient that originated in Asia and it was very surprising to see it in a French recipe from 200 years ago. It must have been a very interesting texture for the French – perhaps it was to people of that time as El Bulli’s Spherification is to us. To enjoy little balls of chewy pearls cooked in red wine as a pre-dessert – in a fashion that is quite similar to the Asian way of eating it – shows a deep understanding and embracing of an ingredient from a different culture.

“Today, sago in French cooking is used more for the look rather than for the texture – whereas 200 years ago, they were appreciating sago for what it is.”

OEUFS POCHES, A LA PUREE DE MARRONS

Poached egg, meat jus & chestnut puree

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“I cannot imagine the flavour combination and still think it doesn’t work together! In the old recipes, they don’t give proportions, just methods. It gives instructions to poach the egg in meat juice, glaze it with a layer of chestnut puree like a dish of eggs Benedict, and then serve it as a side.

“It might perhaps work with a salty element, and a sort of crumble that would add a bit of texture to the dish, but this jumped out at me as it is so unexpected.”

 

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