filling the empty nest with food
If I were prone to high blood pressure, the paucity of instructions in Escoffier’s recipes would have already driven me to the doctor’s office for medication. I wonder sometimes if he doesn’t have some relation to those mythic Norwegian bachelor farmers who were stingy with their words. Or maybe he wrote the cookbook, thinking in the background of his writing: if you have to ask for details, you shouldn’t even be here reading, you rookie!
I had a cauliflower in the refrigerator and thought I’d make something simple from Escoffier’s book. Surely vegetables must be somewhat simple, I naively imagined. Ha! First, I needed to understand Escoffier’s “observations on preliminary operations” for cooking vegetables. There are 10 of these operations, in case you were wondering (for example, blanching, braising, and “in the English style”–boiling). Then, the distinction between broccoli and cauliflower (color, yes, and the “disposition of the parts”), and on to choosing among the 8 types of cauliflower dishes. Another hour and a half plus another small mountain of dishes later, I had put together a small side dish of Purée de Chou-fleur dite Dubarry. (I’m hoping the French name of the dish adds some dignity and panache to my paltry-looking deliverable.)
What I can’t figure out is why we need to be told the difference between a broccoli and a cauliflower (wouldn’t that be eminently obvious to someone getting paid to cook in a restaurant?) yet the instructions for the Dubarry cauliflower are so sparse you make some guesses along the way and hope you get it right.
The dish turned out to be puréed cauliflower mixed with some mashed potatoes. Not any mashed potatoes, however. This is a recipe in its own right–sliced, cooked potatoes sautéed with hot crème fraîche until also puréed.) In the end you get a nice distinct flavor of cauliflower with a side dose of rich, creamy, slightly tangy mashed potatoes.
Purée of Cauliflower, called du Barry (from Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire)
Cook the cauliflower in salted water; drain well without running under cold water, pass it through a strainer and add to the cauliflower purée one quarter of its weight of potato purée a la crème, keeping it a little firm. Heat. Off the heat, add butter and arrange in a timbale mold.