Today we celebrate the birth of Auguste Escoffier, arguably the first celebrity chef. Born in 1846 (he lived to the age of 88), Escoffier learned to cook in his uncle’s restaurant, where he was apprenticed at the age of thirteen. Eventually he rose to become chef at the Savoy Hotel restaurant in London, where he met the redoubtable Cesar Ritz. The pair left the Savoy and Cesar opened the Ritz in Paris with Escoffier in the kitchen.
Escoffier’s great contribution to haute cuisine was actually the reorganizing of the restaurant kitchen into a much more efficient operation, but he also simplified the tradition of haute cuisine begun by Antoine Careme a century earlier.
Simplify in this case, of course, is a relative term – here is a sample luncheon menu from his book, Le Guide Culinaire, published in 1903:
Anchois de Collioure
Oeufs a la reine
Faisan en casserole
Paté de fois gras
Not your average Rachel Ray lunch – anchovies, marinated tomatoes, eggs on potato cakes with minced chicken and white sauce, fish seasoned with cayenne, tournedos, puffed potatoes, pheasant casserole, endive salad, pate and finally, apple charlotte with whipped cream.
No doubt you’d like to try this tasty menu, but be warned – the anchovies will have to be imported from Collioure on the Mediterranean, whitebait isn’t currently in season and pheasant is pretty pricey. But to get you started, here’s the recipe for tournedos:
5 Beef filets mignon – ½ cup Butter -2 tablespoons Peanut oil – 5 slices Bread
1 tablespoon Minced onion (shallots, if available) – ½ teaspoon Dried tarragon – -1 teaspoon Fresh parsley – 1 pinch Salt – 1 teaspoon Ground pepper – 1 tablespoon Wine vinegar – 3 Egg yolks – ½ pound Butter; melted
Pan fry the filets, put them in the oven to stay warm. Butter the bread on both sides and brown in frying pan. Filets go on rounds of fried bread with a little sauce, which involves a lot of whisking.
Keep up your strength while whisking by having some oeufs a la reine. The faisan en casserole is a little more complicated and don’t forget the puffed potatoes have to be fried twice at two different temperatures.
Recipes from Le Guide Culinaire can be found on line at Googlebooks – 30 pages just on eggs!