Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cookbook Review: Sauces


I've always thought of books as friends. They've been there for me through some very rough times, they cheer me up when I'm down, they allow me to travel without packing my luggage.

I've never been afraid of a book, but upon seeing James Peterson's Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, I will admit to feeling overwhelmed.

This book could be used as a weapon. A burglar deterrent. It's huge. Over 600 pages dedicated to history, recipes for basic sauces and full-on, elaborate recipes.

After my initial look-through, I described it to Matt as the Joy of Cooking/New Basics for sauces. It's called, in the introduction(s), a tool for the professional cook, but I think it's entirely usable by the home cook, as well.

The recipes in Sauces aren't difficult to prepare, not really, although they do often require preparing sub-recipes.

There's much to choose from, from simpler pasta sauces to extremely elaborate Medieval dishes.

I decided to give both a simple and a 'fancy' recipe a try. I didn't eat either but set Matt up in his usual role of 'guinea pig'.

The first thing I tried was Beef Irish Stew. I love making this for Matt, so I can live vicariously through him...Irish stew is one of those few dishes I miss. Unfortunately, the recipe I grew up eating makes a gravy-like stew, and Matt gags at gravy. This, on the other hand, is simply a nice, beef broth-based stew, thickened only by cooked potatoes.

This was the 'simple' recipe. I choose the option of cooking it in the stove, beef cubes, minced onions, and beef broth along with a bouquet garni; this simmer. The directions wanted me to skim off any scum or fat, but honestly, there wasn't any.
Thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes were added, covered and simmered for an hour; at this point, the potatoes were broken up with a wooden spoon.
Some small red potatoes, cut into a large dice, were added after two more hours of simmering; simmering continued until potatoes and beef were tender.
Cream can be added, but Matt felt it wasn't needed.

Again, I didn't eat this, but he thought it a good, hearty, stew. With a chunk of crusty bread, it made a very filling dinner. Flavorful. Not putting on airs, just accepting what it was: a nice beef stew. We could definitely make this again, perhaps adding carrots or other vegetables for added flavor.

This was the 'fancy' dish, and one I was excited to make. Gold-Plated Chicken with Ginger, Saffron, and Almonds. Ok...we skipped the gold leaf because it was just for Matt. For company, we might spring for it. Too costly for a testing, though.

This was such an interesting recipe: according the prelude, taken from Taillevent's Viandier, a collection of 14th and 15th century manuscripts. I got all Medieval on my stove! (Well, Renaissance, actually...)

Such a gorgeous, colorful and interesting dish. According to Matt, the chicken itself was fine, nothing special. But the sauce, how nice, was fabulous.

Chicken pieces, cooked in a Dutch oven (because that's what I had), butter. About ten minutes each side, careful not to brown the meat.

Take the chicken out, add chopped onions and sweat till translucent. No browning, again.

Add chicken stock, put the chicken back in, and cover, cooking over low-heat about 20 minutes.

While this is cooking, tint almond paste green and shape into almonds. De-seed a pomegranate. Soak saffron in hot water.

Remove chicken and keep warm; add grated ginger to pan liquids and diffuse. Strain sauce into a pan, and reduce; skim.

Slowly add saffron, careful not to overwhelm the ginger flavor. Add one small bunch of mint. Whisk in a previously-made almond butter (and that? was yum), then salt & pepper.

If you were going to add the gold leaf, you'd brush the chicken with an egg yolk, and gently blow it onto the poultry.

Serve surrounded by sauce, pomegranate seeds and the almond paste 'almonds'.

This...this dish was stunning. Such color! And Matt couldn't say enough about the sauce. Richly flavored, but no one ingredient overshadowed anything else.

This may seem like a giant effort, but it really isn't. Even the ingredients, if you ignore the gold, aren't too exotic. Such presentation, it's perfect for wowing company.

Sauces is a pretty solid book (and I'm not just referring to it's size...). Lots of seriously good recipes; ones you know will work. Definitely worth the space on the shelves...

Blog Party's gone ghoulish: this month we're serving up Gross Anatomy!

Get full details here, and RSVP no later than next Thursday, 16 October. Hope to see you there!

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4 Thoughts for food:

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Suzie said...

That chicken looks incredible - no need for the gold leaf. I will definitely look out for that cookbook. Thanks for the recommendation.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Thanks, Suzie...it's a massive book, but really well put-together. I know you'll find a lot of uses for it (there's this walnut pesto still calling out to me...)

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Natashya said...

Wow! I would be intimidated by such a massive tome.
I have heard of him but don't have any of his books.
The chicken dish sounds wonderful. I am a big fan of pomegranate seeds on cooked foods. I like the burst of tartness.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Natashya; it really is a HUGE book. But once you crack it open, it's less intimidating, I promise.

Matt LOVED this chicken dish. He keeps coming up with 'excuses' for having it again!


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