18 April 2010

La Première Année de Cuisine, Part 9

Stewed salsify tastes as if it’s already been buttered.



Using leftover salsify. — Deep-frying. — How to tell when the grease is hot enough for frying.

You can’t imagine, unless you’ve tried it, the pleasure you find in taking good care of the household and in cooking well. The more I do it, the more it interests me. Then I feel that I’m getting good at it, and I’m even thinking up a thousand little recipes that, long ago, I’d never have believed myself capable of inventing.

For example, the dish that I prepared this morning for lunch.

We had some leftover salsify that we had cooked last night with a sauce blanche. The dish was a bit more generous than was necessary; in short, we didn’t even touch a good-sized portion. What to do with the leftovers? Reheat it and serve it? But a sauce blanche reheated is hardly good, and, to tell the truth, there wasn’t much sauce left: it was above all the salsify that we needed to use.

Maman said to me, “What are we going to do with that? I don’t have any ideas.”

“Maman, would you allow me to fry the salsify in the way of which Tante Victoire spoke to us the other day? You’ll see that it will be very good.”

“Willingly,” said Maman. “Try it.”

So I set to work. In a salad bowl, I prepared a light batter, simply made up of flour, water, and a bit of salt.

I put the frying pan on the fire with the frying grease in it. While the frying oil was heating, I removed all of my salsify from the sauce and I dunked them in the batter that I had just prepared.

If I fried more often, I might invest in a pan like this one.

Maman, who was watching me go through all these operations, said to me, “Take good care at least that your frying oil is hot enough; since if I’m not mistaken, you are going to fry the salsify.”

“Yes, Maman,” I answered.

And I prepared to throw into the oil the salsify I held in my hand, when Maman stopped me.

“Have you tested your frying oil?”

“No, Maman, how does one test it?”

“You will see.”

Maman took a very small piece of bread which she threw into the grease.

“It makes no noise,” said my mother, “the frying oil is not hot enough. Wait longer before adding the salsify.”

I waited. Soon a kind of smoke rose above the frying pan. I threw a new little piece of bread into the frying oil, as I had seen my mother do. Then a sizzling, bubbling, boiling was produced around the little piece of bread, which soon took on a golden color. I understood that the frying oil must be hot enough.

“Look, Maman; is this the right moment now?”

“Yes, yes, hurry, since if the grease heats further, your salsify will be dark brown, all burned.”

Quickly I removed from the batter one, two, three salsify and many others, too, and I threw them one by one into the frying oil. The batter in which they were coated began to brown, taking on the most appetizing crispy appearance. I removed the salsify from the frying oil with a skimmer, I placed them on a plate within easy reach and I replaced them as I went with the other salsify from the salad bowl.

When all the pieces were cooked, I arranged them gently on the plate in a pyramid shape; I surrounded them with parsley and I carried them triumphantly to the table, where they were met with all the success they deserved.

As my father paid me a compliment, I answered him, “It didn’t take much, dear Papa, to keep from messing up. If Maman hadn’t taught me how to know the moment when the cooking oil is hot enough, I would have served you some salsify that was mushy and colorless or, on the other hand, tough and burned.”

“But,” added my mother, “it’s not enough that you know how to do this only with salsify. You will act the same way with potatoes, fritters, for everything that you will fry.”

I will take care not to forget this good recommendation.

[To copy and keep]

1. I will apply myself with all my heart to the care of the household and the cooking, since I have noticed that I find more enjoyment when I busy myself more.

2. Whenever there is even the smallest leftover from the night before, I will use it the next day in such a way that it is agreeably prepared.

3. To know if the frying oil is hot enough, I will toss in a small piece of bread. If the frying oil does not sizzle and bubble up around the bread, the oil is not hot enough. Also, I will remember that the oil is just about ready when it smokes.


57. Sauces are liquid or semi-liquid preparations that one adds to foods to improve the taste.

58. The sauces that one makes most often in simple cooking are: sauce piquante, wine sauce, sauce blanche, sauce au beurre noir, tomato sauce, sauce maître d’hôtel, sauce mayonnaise, and vinaigrette or salad dressing.

Sauce au beurre blanc

59. Roux, mixture of melted butter and flour that one heats until it takes color, serves as the base for most warm sauces.

60. Sauce piquante is a browned roux extended with water and with broth in which one cooks chopped shallots. One seasons this with salt, pepper, chopped parsley, a dash of vinegar, and sliced cornichons.

61. Sauce piquante is served especially when one is using leftover meats.
The cornichons should not be cooked in the sauce. One adds them at the time of serving.

62. Wine sauce is a yellow roux in which one sautées small whole onions and which one extends with white or red wine. To this one adds salt, pepper, parsley, and one lets this cook for about a quarter-hour. This sauce is not good unless it is well-cooked.

63. One uses wine sauce especially for certain fish, for rabbit stews or for rabbit, and for readying leftover roasted meats.

64. Sauce blanche is made up of butter which has been melted over a low flame and of flour which one does not add on the stovetop, when the butter has cooled again. If the butter were too hot, the sauce would not be white. To this one adds hot water, one lets it cook over a low flame. Add salt, pepper and, before serving, a small piece of fresh butter, which makes the sauce more delicate.

65. Sauce blanche is used with boiled fish, certain vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes. Then one serves it on the side, in a sauce bowl.

66. Under the names sauce poulette and sauce blanquette, sauce blanche is thinned and somewhat modified in order to cook chicken and veal.

Skate (and boiled potatoes) with beurre noir sauce

67. Sauce au beurre noir is nothing but butter melted in the frying pan until it browns. When it has turned a good dark brown, the sauce is ready. To this one adds vinegar, one lets it boil for an instant, one adds salt and pepper, and one serves.

68. One serves sauce au beurre noir with skate, cod, hard-boiled eggs, calf’s brains, etc.

69. Tomato sauce is made with a yellow roux to which one adds tomato purée, water and spices. It is used with meats.

70. Sauce maître d’hôtel is butter melted gently, to which one adds salt, pepper, chopped parsley and often a dash of lemon juice at the moment of serving. Beefsteak and boiled potatoes are often prepared with a sauce maître d’hôtel.

71. Sauce mayonnaise is olive oil mixed with raw egg yolks. It is a cold sauce, appetizing, which one serves with cold meats, cold poultry, fish, eggs, certain vegetables in salad, etc. To make it successfully, one needs time and patience, since it is necessary to pour the oil drop by drop into the egg yolks, in a bowl or salad bowl, and at the same time to stir without ceasing the mixture with a wooden spoon.
Mayonnaise is ready when it forms a fairly compact paste.

Sauce mayonnaise: Not Miracle Whip™

72. Vinaigrette or salad dressing is a mixture of oil and vinegar with salt and pepper.

73. With this sauce, one eats cold boiled beef, potatoes, cauliflower, artichokes, asparagus, which have been cooked simply in water. In the case of boiled beef, one can add chopped shallots and fines herbes to the sauce.

Next Time: Madeleine expresses her profound gratitude to Maman for teaching her so many useful things.

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