Yesterday my starting point was The Art of Naming Dishes on Bills of Fare (New York, 1920) by L. Schumacher. I want to give you a little more from this book today, and tomorrow will move on to another topic.
As we found yesterday, Mr. Schumacher found much fault with menu descriptions of the time, which he felt were often unintelligible to the restaurant customer. He offered some suggestions towards the solution of the problem in the chapter entitled Rules for the Naming of Dishes.
In naming dishes two main factors are recommended: to mention their main ingredients and the way they are prepared. Secondary designations, such as geographical or personal names can then follow. Let us consider the soups. Before giving them a second designation, the main elements, snch as meats, vegetables, etc., should be taken into consideration, as there are meat soup, vegetable soup, fruit soup, etc.
When soups are prepared mainly or entirely out of a certain kind of meat, vegetable, etc., they have to be named as chicken soup, pea soup, tomato soup, cherry soup, etc. When soups are prepared in a particular way they must be called pea puree soup (strained pea soup), chicken cream soup, thick tomato soup, beef consomme, clear turtle soup, etc. All ingredients with few exceptions are considered as substitute designations and are seldom mentioned, but expressed by style names as Choiseul style, Royal style, Manhattan style, etc. Simple soups which contain mainly one ingredient like dumplings, semola, etc., can be named with their contents as cherry soup w. dumplings, wine soup w. semola, etc. That it is absolutely necessary to name soups, as other dishes with their main ingredients and their manner of preparation is shown by different soups which have the same style of designation as for instance: — Clear chicken soup, Choiseul; Chicken cream soup, Choiseul; Chicken consomme, Choiseul. If they were all called simply Soup, Choiseul, one could not tell which kind was meant, and there is certainly a big difference between each one.
It is the same with all other dishes. First mention the main ingredients (elements) and then the manner of preparation as boiled, baked, roasted, braised, stewed, rolled, mixed, filled, stuffed, larded, etc., before any minor title is given. An exception to this are dishes which have names that already include a certain style of preparation such as fricassee, stew, ragout, etc., but the principal element (ingredient) should be given as chicken fricassee, veal fricassee, veal ragout, beef ragout, etc. Also other dishes such as peas, carrots, spinach, etc., when prepared plain, do not need any special designation as everybody knows they are prepared in the plain customary way. If they are prepared in a special way, then it is to the advantage of every restaurateur to mention it, as for instance: Creamed carrots, Spinach with egg, Puree of peas, etc. If the preparation is a complicated one so that a short name cannot be given besides that of the main contents of a dish, then the proper names should be quoted as: Carrots, English: Spinach, Monroe; etc.
These recommendations of course only apply when the goal is absolute consistency of interpretation of classical dishes, and the corollary of complete absence of innovation. Sadly, this does not help with my issue of the style of many modern restaurant bills of fare with their extremely lengthy, tedious, and – let’s face it – pretentious style. Or am I the only person feeling this way?
As the recipe for the day, I give you Potage Choiseul, from Auguste Escoffier’s A Guide to Modern Cookery (1907.)
Prepare a “purée Conti” (No. 640) with an excellent fumet of game.
Garnish with two tablespoonfuls of sorrel, ciseled, and cooked in butter, and two tablespoonfuls of poached rice.
Puree de Lentilles, otherwise Conti
Soak three-quarters of a pint of lentils in lukewarm water for two hours. Put them in a stewpan with two oz. of very lean breast of bacon, blanched, cooled, and cut into dice, and one quart of white consommé. Set to boil, skim, add three oz. of carrots, one onion, and one faggot, and cook very gently.
Drain the lentils, pound them together with the bacon, moisten the purée with a few tablespoonfuls of cooking-liquor, and rub through tammy. Rectify the consistence with some reserved cooking-liquor, then treat the purée in the usual way and add butter when about to serve.
Garnish with two tablespoonfuls of bread dice fried in butter and a pinch of chervil pluches.
N.B. — It should be borne in mind that the aromatic garnish used in cooking dry vegetables of what kind soever should be withdrawn before pounding the latter, that they may be rubbed through tammy.