The Medical and Surgical Reporter of 1865, in an article on The Science of Cookery, gave some coverage to a fashionable French concept in dinner-parties. The new way of honoring a lady was described by the French chef, Pierre Blot, who had opened a cooking school in New York in 1865:
"M. Blot told one of his classes lately, that in France, when any one wished to pay a very high honor to any lady, a dinner is given to her in which all the sauces are the color of her hair: that is blonde or brown, and the dinner is a diner blonde or diner brune.
"The bill of fare for the diner blonde consisted of soup, with asparagus; calves' brain, fried; haricot of mutton; potatoes; bechamel sauce; carrots au jus; eggs a la neige; beignets souffles; jelly.
"On the occasion of Queen Victoria's visit to Louis Napoleon, he gave her a diner blonde [this seems to be an error: should be diner brune?] which required twenty-five cooks to prepare, and our brilliant English friends thought “the Emperor must have cooks that did not know a great deal, for he had all his sauces of the same color,” not knowing how great homage had been given to her. The diner brune was soup au neuilles, eels en matelote, lamb chops, piquante sauce, macaroni au gratin, potatoes a la lyon[n]aise, cakes with almonds, jelly, cafe noir. These dinners, it must be remembered, are only given in honor of a lady."
This is an interesting idea for a themed meal, is it not? But, methinks one not likely to be replayed in this modern era. Nevertheless, in case you should want to plan a diner brune, I give you a couple of recipes from M.Blot’s Hand-book of practical cookery, for ladies and professional cooks, published in 1867 – which also contains plenty of ideas for a diner blonde too, of course.
Sauce Piquante.—Take a small saucepan and set it on the fire with two ounces of butter in it, and when melted add a small onion chopped; stir, and when nearly fried add a tablespoonful of flour, stir, and when turning rather brown, add half a pint of broth, salt, pepper, a pickled cucumber chopped, four stalks of parsley, also chopped, and mustard; boil gently about ten minutes, add a teaspoonful of vinegar; give one boil, and serve.
Potatoes Lyonnaise are prepared according to taste, that is, as much onion as liked is used, either in slices or chopped. If you have not any cold potatoes, steam or boil some, let them cool, and peel and slice then). For about a quart of potatoes, put two ounces of butter in a frying-pan on the fire, and when melted put as much onion as you please, either sliced or chopped, into the pan, and fry it till about half done, when add the potatoes and again two ounces of butter; salt, pepper, and stir and toss gently till the potatoes are all fried of a fine, light-brown color. It may require more butter, as no vegetable absorbs more than potatoes. It makes an excellent dish for those who do not object to the taste of the onion (the onion can be tasted, not being boiled or kept long enough on the fire to evaporate). Serve warm. Oil may be used instead of butter.