Saturday, July 29, 2006

Saturday "Sauce Vénitienne".

Today, July 29th ....

.... which is Saturday, but you deserve an extra story this week, dont you?

If you love Venice, or if you’ve never been but love it anyway, then you’ll love my friend Greybeard’s site Love Venice. I absolutely love it, and could say that looking at it every day is almost as good as being there, but that would be patently stupid, as I am sure Greybeard himself would agree. He posts one of his wonderful photos of Venice virtually every day, accompanied by a short story. I thought of him when I came across a reference to something cooked “à La Vénitienne” the other day, and, not being certain what it was, looked it up. It sounds simple enough – a white wine based sauce flavoured with herbs, and especially good with fish, fowl, and eggs – then I found the following recipe (or actually, series of recipes-within-a-recipe), which demonstrates why one really does suffer from the terrible shortage of kitchen staff these days.

From Larousse:

Venetian Sauce ; Sauce vénitienne (for eggs and poultry).
Cook down by two-thirds ½ cup (1 decilitre) of vinegar to which a chopped shallot and 2 tablespoons of chopped chervil and parsley have been added. Stir in 1 cup (2 decilitres) of Allemande sauce*, finish off with 3 tablespoons (50 grams) of Green butter**, strain and add a tablespoonful of chopped chervil and tarragon.

*Allemande sauce.
This sauce is often wrongly included among “basic” sauces. Allemande, which in spite of its name is entirely French in origin, is a compound sauce.

For 2 ½ cups (5 decilitres): put into a pan with a thick, flat bottom, 2 egg yolks (3 if they are small) and 2 cups (4 decilitres) of light veal or chicken stock. Mix together. Add 2 ½ cups (5 decilitres) of Velouté sauce***, mix with a whisk. Begin cooking over a good heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook down carefully without boiling until the sauce coats the spoon well. At the last moment add three tablespoons (50 grams) of butter, rectify the seasoning and strain through a cloth. Keep in the bain-marie (double boiler) until the moment of using (beat the sauce while it is in the bain-marie and butter the surface to prevent skin forming).
Note. Depending on its intended use and according to taste, this sauce can be seasoned with a pinch of grated nutmeg and sharpened with a squeeze of lemon juice

**Green butter.
Ordinary butter, softened to a paste and mixed with green spinach, prepared in the following manner: pick over, wash and dry the spinach leaves and pound them in a mortar uncooked. Put the spinach into a very strong cloth, twist the cloth to extract all the juice from the spinach, which should be collected into a little saucepan, set this juice to coagulate in a bain-marie (double boiler) ant turn out onto a fine cloth stretched out over a receptacle. Scrape off the green residue which remains on the cloth with a spoon. This substance is called vert d’épinard (spinach green). To this spinach green add double its weight in butter. Rub this butter through a fine sieve or tammy.

*** Velouté sauce.
For 2 ½ quarts: stir 2 ¾ quarts (litres) of white stock made with veal or chicken into 1 cup (325 grams) of pale blond roux made with butter and flour. Blend well together. Bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until the first bubbles appear. Cook the Velouté very slowly for an hour and a half, skimming frequently. Strain through a cloth. Stir until it is completely cold.
Note. Velouté is a great basic sauce, and it may be prepared in advance. Obviously it may also be made just before it is used.
As the white stock which is used for making it is seasoned and flavoured, it is not necessary to add other flavourings to this sauce. An exception may be made for skins and trimmings of mushrooms which may be added when available, this addition making the sauce yet more delicate.

I don’t know when Sauce Vénitienne was developed, or why it should have a French-originated “German” sauce as its base , but its roots clearly show in this white wine “Italian” sauce from the 1769 cookbook by Menon, “The professed cook: or the modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy… ”:

Sauce Italienne Blanche.
White Italian Sauce.
Simmer on a slow Fire a Spoonful of Oil, chopt Truffles, two Cloves of Garlick, two whole Chibbol, Parsley, half a Leaf of Laurel, two Slices of Lemon, first peel’d. and good Consumee, viz. Jelly Broth, a Glass of white Wine; skim it well and sift it.

Now all I need for this simple sauce is a goodly supply of truffles ....

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