Friday, March 10, 2006

A cheering and strengthening sauce.

Today, March 10th …

The English writer John Ruskin described supper at the “salon” of “Mme. C” in Paris on this day in 1865.

The day had started quite well for the guests, as “Choice Yquem, Johannisberg, Laffitte, Tokay, and champagne of the finest vintages were served most lavishly throughout the morning”

Naturally, that raised an appetite:

Some English peers and members of Parliament were present, and appeared to enjoy the animated and dazzlingly improper scene. On the second floor the supper tables were loaded with every delicacy of the season. That your readers may form some idea of the dainty fare of the Parisian demi-monde, I copy the menu of the supper, which was served to all the guests (about 200) seated at four o'clock.

The menu was:

Consomme de volaille a la Bagration. 16 hors-d'oeuvres varies. Bouchees e la Talleyrand. Saumons froids, sauce Ravigote. Filets de boeuf en Bellevue, timbales milanaises, chaudfroid de gibier. Dindes truffees. Pates de foies gras, buissons d'ecrevisses, salades venetiennes, gelees blanches aux fruits, gateaux mancini, parisiens et parisiennes. Fromages glaces. Ananas. Dessert.

True to the trend of the day, classical dishes named for famous persons were served.
Prince Bagration (1765-1822) was a Russian general killed at the Battle of Borodino, and even in his own lifetime was known to be more interested in dining than in commanding his men. The French diplomat Talleyrand (1754-1838) has appeared before in TheOldFoodie, he also was passionate about food and its important role in facilitating diplomatic events, and had many dishes named in his honour.

Today, it is the sauce for the cold salmon that gets our attention. The sauce Ravigote gets its name from the French verb ravigoter, meaning to cheer or revive. This ability supposedly comes from the four herbs it traditionally contained - tarragon, chervil, chives, and burnet - which together had the reputation for being restorative. There are several versions – one with a velouté base served warm as an accompaniment to grilled meat or poultry, and the one served here, a vinaigrette type with a bright green colour which would have been a wonderful contrast to the salmon.

The classic vinaigrette version from Larousse is simple:

Sauce Ravigote.
Season with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper a mixture of capers, onions, chives, parsley, chervil and tarragon, all chopped

Try it over cold poached salmon when next you host an animated and dazzlingly improper scene.

On Monday: Flying fortresses and freezers.

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