Tuesday 10 December 2013
A revelation. A lighter - and entirely foolproof - version of hollandaise, this sauce is made in only a couple of minutes. The recipe comes from the pages of Luigi Carnacina's encyclopaedic tome on italian cooking, which I suspect has now largely sunk without trace. Technical Dept found references recently to Signor Carnacina in a list of italian 'greats', where he nestled alongside Artusi and Ada Boni... and a subsequent search on abe books led to the arrival several weeks later of this telephone directory of a book, its pages musty from decades of neglect, with the occasional illustration jumping out with all the forceful day-glo 'cheerfulness' of food photography of half a century ago.
Carnacina was a pupil of Escoffier himself, and was sufficiently well-regarded by him subsequently to become chef at Escoffier's hotel in Ostende, before also being head chef for the Italian Pavilion at a number of World Trade Fairs - including that in New York in 1939, when Pierre Franey was cooking across the way in the French Pavilion. Relative political positioning would have placed them on opposite sides in what was then happening in Europe, though, and whilst Carnacina could readily return home at the end of the event, Franey didn't have quite the same option, and chose instead, force majeur, to remain in the States.
Currently, Carnacina represents half of the pile of 'food books' which take up the left side of my desk (the other half of the pile is Paul Bocuse's equally encyclopaedic masterwork, from the mid-seventies, which is also full of gems hitherto unknown), and I leaf through their pages at random when in retreat from the relentlessness of the computer screen.
Last night, we started dinner with Carnacina's completely delicious risotto verde, where the base consists of a deep green purée of sautéed spinach, onion and celery, and a spoonful of ragu is mixed in at the end, along with the grated parmesan, in order to give an extra dimension to the finished dish. Excellent.
Anyway.....savoury zabaglione. It doesn't really merit being set out in recipe form, as simple and straightforward as it is - merely omit the sugar from classic zabaglione, replace marsala with white wine (or vermouth, for slightly more heft), and mix in a few tablespoons of softened butter at the end, along with a discreet amount of whatever additional flavouring ingredient you might wish to use (grated lemon or orange zest, for instance, or truffle, or finely chopped and sautéed porcini, or chopped herbs....). For a generous amount of sauce for two servings (to go with asparagus, or over chicken liver parfait) place two egg yolks in a simmertopf or double boiler and whisk over medium heat until frothy and significantly increased in volume, then add the wine (quarter cup, if using two egg yolks) and continue whisking over heat until the mixture has visibly emulsified, and the whisk leaves a distinct trail when drawn across the surface; mix in a couple of tablespoons of softened butter, and test for seasoning; add whatever flavouring you wish (or none) and serve.
Parsley Ravioli, with melted butter and cheese.
Sea Bream, with Star Anise; braised cucumber.
Crepes Suzettes, filled with Creme Patissiere.