The modern bachelor who lives alone (not counting his servants, of course) may gain a few hints on entertaining from a chapter in a fine book called The household manager: being a practical treatise upon the various duties in large or small establishments, from the drawing-room to the kitchen by Charles Pierce, (Maitre d’Hotel) published in London in 1857.
The chapter is called The Bachelor at Home, and after some discussion of the constraints of such a household, the author gets to the nitty-gritty of how a bachelor may throw a dinner party:
Although the bachelor may chiefly dine at his club, still, when desirous to give a dinner to his friends who are not its members, and knowing the rules of the club will not extend to the number to be invited, he may then decide on giving his dinner at home.
Should he do so, holding at his command sufficient house-room, and yet but few servants of his own, the difficulty is easily overcome, since there are two sources immediately available to his orders.
The first is being furnished from the hotels, or from some first-rate confectioner's, as Gunter's, &c.
The second, there being always at hand, at a moment's notice, a respectable body of men, whose business it is to undertake the preparation of dinners for either large or small parties; and being, from the custom of their services, in frequent demand, keep by them ready appliances for immediate use, called the fond de cuisine; and for these services their charges are but in proportion to the quantity of material used.
And were these men patronized more, the bachelor would never need to be at a loss, since they would render the dinner easy and economical to those who have not the necessary and expensive ingredients at their ready command.
The usual charge paid to cooks of this description is one guinea per diem.
The following bill of fare can be ordered at a confectioner's, and brought to the house without any damage to the articles, and at the same time give universal satisfaction:—
Cutlets of salmon à l'Indienne. Fillets of soles au gratin.
Two fowls à la Marengo.
Artichokes à la barigoule.
Vol au vent à la financiere.
Cauliflowers à la creme.
Mutton cutlets with cucumber sauce.
Partridges à la Perigaux.
Fillets of hare larded mariné, sauce of currant jelly.
Potatoes, and sauce on sideboard.
Charlotte of apples and apricots.
Richmond maids of honour.
College pudding with wine sauce.
Macaroni au Parmesan.
Soup à la jardiniere.
Turban of fillets of mackerel au gratin, sauce of soft roes.
Red mullets en papillote.
Saddle of mutton.
Escalops of fillet of beef à la Reform.
French beans saute au beurre.
Potatoes à la maitre d'hotel.
Sweetbread, with stewed endive.
Boiled capon with oyster sauce, garnished with escalops
Curried oysters. Magonaise of lobster.
Jelly of four fruits. Lemon cheesecakes.
Nougats aux pistaches. Nesselrode pudding.
Cream cheese, Gruyere, salad, &c.
But in a general way the confectioner would be the best judge of what his artist can do that will not spoil in being moved to a distance.
The bachelor's party rarely consists of more than eight—for with that number the conversation is general, beyond it the party divides itself into two.
I have known a circumstance happen to a bachelor residing in lodgings in a fashionable quarter of London, who had ordered his dinner at a well-known house some little distance from his residence. The hour of dinner having arrived, and quarter of an hour after quarter of an hour passing away and no dinner appearing, he was obliged to send to the neighbouring confectioner, when the following impromptu dinner was sent in less than thirty minutes:—-
Two roast fowls.
Sausages and mashed potatoes.
Mutton cutlets, with peas à la Francaise.*
Escalops of fillet of beef, with wine sauce.
A large Génoise. Fruit tarts.
Small tureen of warm Curaçoa jelly**
Cheese, &c. &c.
*These were preserved peas.
** The jelly not having time to get cold, was served thus, and distributed in wine glasses; it is often served in this way in the city halls and taverns.
Half an hour after the cloth was off, and the guests were criticising the quality of the host's port wine, the dinner arrived; a consultation ensued upon what was best to be done with it, and it was at last decided to keep it hot and have an early supper, which was done; but with that the misfortunes of the day had not terminated. The man who had brought the dinner, and through whose stupidity it had been taken to another part of the town, was retained to make the supper hot; whether from his idiocy or the wine he had taken, he invented a new dish by sending up a turban of apricots glacé with a sauce of green peas. This was the climax of the day.
Another impromptu dinner of a bachelor I remember which occurred to a well-known gentleman residing in the Albany. The party consisted of eight, amongst whom were those celebrated performers, P. B., and his second self, C. W. The invitation was to partake of a splendid haunch of venison. The dinner was to consist of only salmon, the haunch, and a few sweets. The salmon passed off well—it was excellent; but when the haunch was placed on the table, its haut goût was too much for all—the smell was sufficient— it was ordered to be removed. To send over to Piccadilly, and order a dish of mutton cutlets, was the work of a moment; but one of the party suggested that Soyer's magic stove should be put into requisition, which was done. Some very nice mutton cutlets from the neck were got from Slater's, the stove lighted on the table, and the cutlets nicely sautéd in some butter, with a little of Soyer's relish and a small quantity of ketchup, and they were declared to be delicious. These, added to the facetiousness of the two artists, tended to make up for the disappointment of the haunch.
As the recipe for the day, may I tempt you with Miss Acton’s curried oysters?
"Let a hundred of large sea-oysters opened into a basin, without losing one drop of their liquor. Put a lump of fresh butter into a good-sized saucepan, and when it boils, add a large onion, cut into thin slices, and let it fry in the uncovered stewpan until it is of a rich brown: now add a bit more butter, and two or three tablespoonsful of curry-powder. When these ingredients are well mixed over the fire with a wooden spoon, add gradually either hot water, or broth from the stock-pot; cover the stewpan, and let the whole boil up. Meanwhile, have ready the meat of a cocoa-nut, grated or rasped fine, put this into the stewpan with a few sour tamarinds (if they are to be obtained, if not, a sour apple, chopped.) Let the whole simmer over the fire until the apple is dissolved, and the cocoa-nut very tender; then add a cupful of strong thickening made of flour and water, and sufficient salt, as a curry will not bear being salted at table. Let this boil up for five minutes. Have ready also, a vegetable marrow, or part of one, cut into bits, and sufficiently boiled to require little or no further cooking. Put this in with a tomata or two; either of these vegetables may be omitted. Now put into the stewpan the oysters with their liquor, and the milk of the cocoa-nut; stir them well with the former ingredients; let the curry stew gently for a few minutes, then throw in the strained juice of half a lemon. Stir the currie from time to time with a wooden spoon, and as soon as the oysters are done enough serve it up with a corresponding dish of rice on the opposite side of the table. The dish is considered at Madras the ne plus ultra of Indian cookery."
We have extracted this receipt, as it stands, from the Magazine of Domestic Economy, the season in which we have met with it not permitting us to have it tested. Such of our readers as may have partaken of the true Oriental preparation, will be able to judge of its correctness; and others may consider it worthy of a trial. We should suppose it necessary to beard the oysters.
Modern Cookery in all its Branches (London, 1845) by Eliza Acton.