Monday, January 24, 2011

Garlic Butter.

You might not think that you do, but you probably do some historical cookery from time to time. Take garlic butter for example. Garlic butter = garlic + butter, Yes? The recipe has remained unchanged for at least a couple of hundred years. Hasn’t it?

Beurre d’Ail was mentioned by the famous French chef Antoine Beauvilliers, in Le Cuisinier Royal (1814). In the English translation of 1837, the recipe read:

Garlic Butter - Sauce au Beurre d’Ail.
Take two large heads of garlic; beat them with the size of an egg of butter; when well beaten rub it through a double hair search [searce or sieve] with a wooden spoon; gather it, and use, either with velouté or with reduced Espagnole.

Popular stereotyping has it that the English have (or used to have) a notorious disgust for the French appetite for garlic, while at the same time being somewhat in jealous awe of their culinary reputation and skills. How would a nineteenth century foodie-cook cope with the paradox of wanting to cook like the French, but without so much garlic?

In French domestic cookery, by an English physician (1825), the recipe asks for two large cloves instead of two large heads of garlic to the egg-sized nut of butter. I really don’t know if this is an error of translation, or was an intentional adaptation to suit English readers – do you?

Beurre d’Ail (Garlic Butter)
Take two large cloves of garlic, pound them in a mortar, and reduce them to a paste, by mixing with a bit of butter about the size of an egg. This garlic butter may be put into any sauces you think proper. Those who like the taste of garlic, season their roast or broiled meats with it.

However good and simple a basic recipe might be (and you cant get much better and simpler than garlic + butter), there is that irresistible human urge to fiddle, isn’t there?

In Charles Ranhofer’s The Epicurean (New York, 1893), an even greater reduction in the pungency of the garlic is effected by a previous blanching, this then being offset to some extent by the heat of the red pepper.

Garlic Butter (Beurre d’Ail)
Blanch one ounce of garlic in plenty of water, drain and pound it well, adding half a pound of butter and seasoning with salt and red pepper.

Personally, I like it made with roasted garlic.

Quotation for the Day.

Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist.
Mrs. W. G. Waters


Marcheline said...

I love to add fresh parsley, finely chopped, to my garlic butter. After spreading it on both halves of a split loaf of Italian bread, I toast it under the broiler and then shake a generous dusting of grated Parmesan cheese on top.


Keith said...

Good post, we are just starting to harvest our garlic now. I will pass this on to my better half.
Thank you.
Regards, Keith.

joelle, san francisco said...

I made some wonderful garlic butter dip for crab this weekend. I minced garlic, sauteed it with a dollop of butter until slightly brown, then melted more butter in the pan. Not only did the butter have the garlic taste of course, but having the slightly crunchy bits of garlic on the crab was SO yummy!

The Old Foodie said...

Joelle - sounds good! The timing would have to be just right though, if it is too browned it gets bitter. I will try it next time I have crab - I love the contrasting textures idea. Thanks!