Yesterday’s recipe came from a book called Recherché Luncheon and Dinner Sweets, published in 1906, and it occurred to me that some of you may not be familiar with the term ‘recherché’ in relation to food. It was a popular concept in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and Charles Herman Senn, the author of yesterday’s recipe source, included the term in the title of a number of his books.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word means ‘Rare, choice, exotic; far-fetched, obscure.’ It is a borrowing from the French (no surprises there) and has meant, at various times, ‘affected, unnatural (1580,) ‘desirable, prized’ (1601 or earlier), and ‘unusual, well-crafted’ (1690.) I think you will agree that a recherché dish then, is one in which there are overtones of snobbish desirability. This desirability comes via some study, however, as the word is an adjectival use of the past participle of the verb rechercher, meaning ‘to research.’
The OED goes on to note that the term was common in the nineteenth century ‘esp. of meals, articles of food or drink, and dress.’ The earliest reference cited by the OED is, to my delight, a literary one:
1838 H. W. Longfellow Jrnl. 19 May in S. Longfellow Life H. W. Longfellow (1886) I. xix. 287 A quiet recherché dinner at the Albion.
I have been completely unable to find any cookery books making regular use of the term as early as 1838 however, but I feel sure we can push the date back a little further than Charles Herman Senn’s work, with a little more research.
Senn was a very prolific writer of food and cookery books. Several included the word Recherché in the title. Yesterday we enjoyed a recipe from Recherché Luncheon and Dinner Sweets, published in 1906. I have chosen a couple of other examples for you today, from his other works.
“The recipes collected in the present volume represent the newest and most popular Entrées of the present time, and the dishes described are of the highest type of the Continental cuisine.”
My choice for you today from this book is:
Filets de Boeuf aux Bananas.
(Small fillets of Beef with Bananas.)
About 2 ½ lb. fillet of beef, 4 bananas, 1 gill cream, meat glaze, chopped parsley, pepper and salt, 2 oz. butter, 1 small onion, 2 yolks of egg, horseradish, frying fat, flour and bread-crumbs.
Trim the meat and cut it crossways into six or more even-sized fillets, pare these neatly and season with salt and pepper. Broil both sides of the fillets in butter over a quick fire for about eight minutes, take up, glaze over with meat glaze, and keep hot.
Have ready the onion finely chopped, blanched, drained, and fried without browning in the butter in which the fillets were cooked; add the cream; stir till hot (not boiling). Add the yolks of egg and let bind, then rub it through a sieve and keep hot.
Peel the bananas, slit each in two and divide in halves crossways. Dip in flour, egg, and bread-crumbs, and fry in hot clarified butter fat.
Dish up the fillets on a hot dish. Mix a little finely grated horseradish with the sauce, and put a dessertspoonful of it on top of each fillet. Sprinkle over a little liquid meat glaze and chopped parsley, garnish the dish with fried bananas and serve with rich brown sauce.
Another of his titles is Recherché Side Dishes: for breakfast, luncheon, dinner and supper comprising the newest hors d'oeuvre, savouries, sandwiches & salads, oriental dishes, etc. (1901.) I hope you like my choice from the book:
Curried Potatoes and Apples.
(Pommes de Terre et Pommes au Kari.)
Slice six cold potatoes. Peel and slice half the quantity of sour apples. Egg the slices of potatoes, crumb them in a mixture of breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, and curry powder, and fry in hot fat. Dust the apples with ﬂour; egg, crumb, and fry them likewise. Dish them up alternately in the form of a border; season with Krona pepper, pile up some fried parsley in the centre, and serve.