Citizens, in my search for appropriate recipes combining my trip this week to Scandinavia and France – and after some rumination, a divine thought manifested itself within me!
My favorite food movie of all time is the unmatched film “Babette’s Feast” – which takes place in Scandinavia but focuses on classic French cuisine. What better way to celebrate this trip than to share with you the ultimate old-school French recipe from the movie, one that will stretch the culinary talents of you, , to their very limits!
Upon its release in 1987, Babette’s Feast received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The film won the 1987 Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. It also received the BAFTA Film Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.
In Denmark, it won both the Bodil and Robert awards for Best Danish Film of the Year. The film was nominated and/or won several other awards including a Golden Globe nomination, the Grand Prix (Belgian Film Critics Association) award and a Cannes Film Festival special prize.
As of March 2016, the film maintained an unprecedented 96% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review website.
If you have never seen this ultimate culinary film – stop reading immediately, go to Netflix or Amazon, and watch it.
— I’ll wait.
…now that you have been blown away and can properly appreciate this, we can continue. 😉
The seven-course menu in the film consisted of “Potage à la Tortue” (turtle soup) served with Amontillado sherry; “Blinis Demidoff” (buckwheat cakes with caviar and sour cream) served with Veuve Cliquot champagne; “Cailles en Sarcophage” (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce) served with Clos de Vougeot Pinot Noir; an endive salad; “Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée” (rum sponge cake with figs and candied cherries) served with champagne; assorted cheeses and fruits served with sauternes; and coffee with vieux marc Grande Champagne cognac.
We are going for the gold here (more on this later) – today, behold the awe and majesty of the recipe that is Cailles en Sarcophage!
This traditional French dish of ultimate nobility, Quails in Pastry Cases, was probably first prepared by the original French super-chef, Taillevent.
Guillaume Tirel, known as Taillevent (French: “slicewind”) (born ca. 1310 in Pont-Audemer – 1395), was an important figure in the early history of French cuisine. He was cook to the Court of France at the time of the first Valois kings and the Hundred Years’ War. He is generally considered one of the first truly “professional” master chefs. He died in 1395 at around 80 years of age.
He wrote “Le Viandier”, a famous book on cookery and cookery technique, thought to be one of the first professional treatises written in France and upon which the French gastronomic tradition was founded. It had an inestimable influence on subsequent books on French cuisine and is important to food historians as a detailed source on the medieval cuisine of northern France.
Those brave enough to venture forth and produce this dish will do well to read the recipe carefully well in advance because it calls for no less than six (!) separately prepared sauces.
This is not the “shortcut recipe” you will find across most of the Web – this is the original, classic recipe as recorded by Daniel Rogov, with a few TFD tweaks and some guidance from the recipe at the fantastic blog http://lostpastremembered.blogspot.com/. I consider this version to be the ultimate recipe for this unmatched dish!
In my recipe, I truly gild the lily because in honor of the royal nature of this fantastic meal, I actually gild the quail! Yes, I use real edible gold leaf as a garnish – which was actually a common practice back in the Middle Ages when this recipe was first created. I’m just bringing it back. 😉
Citizens, this is an exceedingly complex but ultimately glorious recipe that will take you and your VERY lucky guests back to the royal French court in Versailles! You may never make it, or perhaps you will – in which case I, the eternal and mighty TFD – SALUTE YOU! ☺
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 12 quails boned (by that I mean remove the backbone and rib cage bones leaving the legs and wings still on—this makes eating the tiny birds much easier)
- ½ cup Bual Madeira
- 2 T Cognac
- 1 recipe for game stock (recipe follows)
- 1 recipe for brown chaud-froid sauce (recipe follows)
- 12 pastry cases (recipe follows)
- 250 gr fresh foie gras (goose livers)
- 250 gr. fresh Perigord truffles, finely diced
- 4 large truffles, sliced thinly
- 36 large seedless grapes
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. each Cognac and Bual Madeira
- 16 black figs, quartered
- 1 sprig of marjoram
- Manetti 23K Edible Gold Leaf
- Croutes de Bouchees Feuilletees
- (Puff Pastry Cases with Duck Fat)
- Butter layer
- 1 lb + 3 ½ T (510g) best-quality cold unsalted butter
- 2 t (10 ml lemon juice
- 1 c (130g) bread flour
- pinch of salt
- 3 c (400 g) bread flour (freeze it)
- 3 ½ T (55g) duck fat, frozen
- 2 t Salt
- 1 c cold water (start with ¾ and add as needed, you may not need a whole cup)
- For the Game Stock:
- 1 ½ kilos breast or other cuts of venison
- 450 gr. trimmings of hare or rabbit
- l small pheasant or partridge, trussed
- 3 onions, halved
- 3 medium carrots, quartered
- 1 ½ cups white wine
- 1 bouquet garni (with 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 unpeeled cloves garlic and 2 whole cloves, tied in muslin)
- 6 – 8 peppercorns
- l tsp. juniper berries
- ½ tsp. sage
- salt as required
- For the Brown Meat Stock:
- 1 ½ kilos beef and veal bones, cracked
- 1 ¼ kilos beef shank meat
- 2 onions, halved
- 2 medium carrots, quartered
- 2 stalks celery
- l bouquet garni (with 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, ½ bay leaf, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves and 2 whole cloves, tied in muslin)
- 2 tsp. salt
- For the Sauce Brune:
- 6 cups brown meat stock (preceding recipe)
- ½ cup each carrots, onions and celery, all chopped finely
- 6 Tbsp. clarified butter or rendered pork fat
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 Tbsp. boiled ham, diced
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- l bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, l sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf, tied together)
- For the meat jelly stock:
- 450 gr. beef, cut in cubes
- 350 gr. veal knuckle
- 350 gr. veal and beef bones, sawed into small pieces and tied with string
- 115 gr. lean chopped beef
- 1 calf foot, boned and blanched in boiling water
- 115 gr. each butter and bacon rinds
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf, tied together)
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp. each tarragon and chervil chopped
- salt and pepper
- For the puff pastry:
- Mix the butter and the flour and lemon and salt into a paste, make a 6” square and chill on wax paper till firm
- Make the dough as you would pasta, knead very sparingly and refrigerate.
- Make the dough into a rectangle and put the butter in the center in a diamond… fold the dough around it like an envelope, bringing the 4 outer points to the center of the butter. If it’s hot, chill. Otherwise roll it to a rectangle and fold it like a brochure and chill ½ an hour. Roll it out to a rectangle again and do it again 5 times, resting for 45 minutes to an hour in the fridge each time.
- Leave overnight after the last turn and roll it out the next day. After cutting the rounds, put it back in the fridge for an hour.
- Marinate the quail in ½ c of Madeira and cognac overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425º. Cut 4 5-inch rounds from the pastry. Make a 3-inch circle in the center of each round, being careful not to cut to the bottom of the dough. Do not twist and turn the dough. If you do you will lose your loft on the pastry. The cleaner the movement, the higher the pastry will rise.
- Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes with a piece of parchment on top of the pastries—this helps them rise straight… don’t ask me how. Remove the top parchment and continue to bake 7- 10 more minutes after turning the heat down to 375º or until puffed and golden. Carefully lift out the 3-inch round from the center (you may need to cut a little) to create a nest with a top. Set aside to cool.
- For the Quail:
- In a heavy skillet melt the butter and in this lightly sauté the goose livers. When they are just beginning to brown, remove from the heat. Let cool for several minutes and dice the livers finely. Add the diced truffles and moisten with 2 Tbsp. of the Madeira wine. Mix gently but well and with this salpicon, stuff the birds.
- Wrap each bird in a piece of muslin cloth, folding the head under a wing. Poach the birds in the game stock for about 15 minutes. Drain the birds and set them aside to keep warm.
- Strain the liqueur in which the quails were cooked. With a spoon remove most of the surface fat, and then, by running paper toweling over the surface, completely absorb the remaining grease. Reserve half of this stock for use in making the chaud-froid sauce. Return the other half of the stock to a saucepan, add the brandy and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and let simmer until the stock is nearly jelly-like in consistency. Keep warm.
- When the chaud-froid sauce is ready take the following steps: (a) Transfer the birds to the pastry cases, with the heads protruding from the cases. (b) Gently spread the birds with the now jellied stock. (c) Coat the birds with the chaud-froid sauce. (d) On the breast of each bird place 1 large, thin truffle slice and three large grapes. (e) Serve on preheated plates and garnish lavishly with more truffle slices, pieces of gold leaf and marjoram leaves.
- Ideally serve this with the finest red Burgundy wine you can find. The wines of Clos de Vougeot or Romanee-Conti go splendidly with this dish.
- For the Game Stock:
- Note: As many of these ingredients are not always available, one may substitute brown meat stock (see recipe which follows later on) but with the addition of the white wine, peppercorns, juniper berries, and sage as listed in the following recipe.
- Prepare as for brown chaud-froid meat sauce (recipe which follows) but deglaze the pan after the meat and vegetables are browned with the white wine instead of water.
- For the Brown Chaud-Froid Sauce:
- This may be the most complex of all French sauces as it is dependent on the use of a brown stock, a jelly stock and two other sauces. Although time-consuming, it is not a difficult sauce to make. As I mentioned earlier, substitute recipes (which may be good but will not be great) may be found in many cookbooks. Any cook who goes all out and prepares the sauce in its original form will feel well rewarded. That is a promise.
- Arrange the meat, bones, carrots and onions on a roasting pan and place in the center of a very hot oven. Turn the ingredients occasionally and let brown for 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain the fat. Transfer the meat and vegetables to the soup kettle in which the stock will be prepared. Into the roasting pan pour 1 ½ cups of water, place over a low flame and scrape off all of the coagulated browning juices that have stuck to the pan. Add these to the kettle.
- Pour over cold water to cover and bring to a bare simmer. Skim and then add the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt. Continue the bare simmer, partially covering the kettle, for 4 – 6 hours, adding boiling water if the liquids evaporate below the surface of the ingredients. Skim occasionally if necessary. When cooking is completed, discard the bouquet garni and strain the stock into a clean bowl. With a spoon remove most of the grease and degrease completely by absorbing the remaining fat with paper toweling.
- For the Sauce Brune:
- In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and in this slowly cook the vegetables and ham for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Into this mixture blend the flour and, over a moderately low flame, stirring constantly, cook for 8 – 10 minutes, until the flour has turned golden brown. Remove from the flame.
- Bring the stock to the boil and using a wire whisk rapidly whisk the beef stock into the mirepoix (the vegetable mixture).
- Beat in the tomato paste, add the bouquet garni and simmer gently, partially covered, for 2 – 3 hours, skimming as necessary and adding additional stock if the sauce becomes overly thick. When the sauce is done there should be about 4 cups and this should coat the spoon.
- Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary and strain, pressing the vegetables with a wooden spoon to press out their liquids. Degrease the stock, first with a spoon and then with paper toweling). Set aside to keep warm (ideally in a double boiler, over but not in hot water).
- For the meat jelly stock:
- In a large heavy skillet brown the beef, veal and bones lightly in butter. Transfer to a large kettle and continue to brown together with the carrots, onions, leeks and celery. Pour over 9 cups of water.
- With a small amount of water dilute the juices in the skillet in which the meat was browned and add this to the stockpot. Bring to the boil, skim and add the bacon rinds and calf’s foot. Add the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for 6 hours, skimming occasionally. Strain the stock through muslin.
- To the strained stock add the chopped beef, egg whites, tarragon and chervil. Whisk lightly over a moderate flame until the mixture is lukewarm. Carefully skim off all the fat. With strips of paper toweling blot off whatever fat remains on the surface. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and then lower the flame and simmer very gently for 35 minutes longer. Strain the remaining stock through several layers of lightly dampened muslin cloth.
- For the Chaud-Froid Sauce:
- In the saucepan, combine the remaining clear brown stock and the sauce brune. Boil down over a medium-high flame, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and add, a little at a time, the jelly stock. Boil down until the sauce is at a consistency where it can be used to coat the birds. Remove from the flame, stir in the Madeira and coat the birds.
- Category: Recipes
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