Last month my latest cookbook purchase arrived in the post.
Its English title is…..**drum roll please**…..”The Escoffier cookbook and guide to the fine art of cookery for connoisseurs, chefs, epicures complete with 2,973 recipes by Auguste Escoffier”.
Its title in French is simply…‘Guide Culinaire’, meaning ‘Culinary Guide’.
August Escoffier was born in Villeneuve-Loubert, France, and began his culinary career at the age of thirteen in his uncle’s restaurant in Nice. He cooked in Paris, Lucerne, and Monte Carlo before opening ‘The Savoy Hotel’ in London in 1890, and later he took charge of the kitchens in London’s ‘Carlton Hotel’.
In 1903, he wrote his monumental cookbook especially for the American kitchen, called ‘Guide Culinaire’ with its 2,973 recipes and only 2 pages of pictures which show the differences between French cooking moulds.
He is known for his creation ‘Peach Melba’, to honour the Australian singing diva Dame Nellie Melba.
I asked my son to open the book at any page and I would try to cook it. He did so, and it opened at the section ‘Fish and seafood’ and the page dealing with oysters. He looked at me with a very worried expression and said “Oh no not seafood” and asked if he could pick again. As disappointed as I was that I wasn’t going to get oysters, I told him to pick again.
This time it was in the section for ‘Vegetables and Starchy Products’. “Oh that’s better” he said, and handed me the book. It was open on the page containing various recipes using cepes and mushrooms. It just so happened I had bought 2 huge cup mushrooms the day earlier and was planning on cooking them whole on the BBQ. Recipe number #2075 is for ‘Stuffed mushrooms’, and so their fate was sealed.
For those of you comfortable with “a pinch of this” and “a few drops of that”, I will quote the recipe straight from the book, but for those needing exact measurements, these will be in the recipe below.
‘Champignons Farcis’ written by Escoffier.
“Select some fine, medium-sized mushroom caps; wash them, and dry them well. Set them on a dish; season them; sprinkle them with a few drops of oil; put them in the oven for five minutes, and garnish their midst with duxelles shaped like a dome, and thickened or not, with breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle the surface with fine raspings and a few drops of oil or melted butter, and set the gratin to form in a somewhat hot oven.”
There you go… a nice, short, easy recipe… until you notice the three French words in bold, which, unless you are familiar with French culinary terms, need some explanation.
Let’s start with the word ‘duxelles’. This is a very useful technique that can be applied in various ways and in many other dishes. The basic ‘duxelle seche’ or dry duxelle, is made by frying, in butter and or oil, the storks and peels (or skins) of mushrooms along with onions, and adding fresh parsley just before being used in its required recipe.
The next word is ‘raspings’. Traditionally the breadcrumbs that were used during Escoffier’s time, were not as fine as the bread crumbs you buy from the supermarket today, but where closer to the Japanese style of crumbs known as ‘Panko’. Raspings were those larger pieces of breadcrumbs that had been passed through a fine sieve, of which there could be ‘Golden raspings’ using the oven-dried brown crusts, or ‘White raspings’ made from crustless white bread. So a recipe could ask for the use of both breadcrumb (larger pieces) and raspings (fine crumb). This recipe asked for both.
And lastly the word ‘gratin’ which has at least four different applications, however I will deal only with the one needed here. This time it basically means, a well-buttered dish or tray where the food is cooked in, with the food usually having some kind of topping- in this case the raspings- and when cooked, is often sprinkled with a little lemon juice and freshly chopped parsley.
And so to the recipe for those needing exact measurements:
- Two large (or four medium) cup mushrooms
Ingredients needed for the Duxelles
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 brown (yellow) onion, chopped in a fine dice
- I pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 3-4 stalks finely chopped flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
Extra ingredients needed
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- Pinch salt
- Pinch ground black pepper
- ½ cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp. fine breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp. melted butter (or olive oil)
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
- Preheat oven to 180oC
- Clean mushrooms, remove the stalk, and gently peel off the skin from the cap. Put the peeled mushroom caps on a plate, cover and set aside.
- To make the Duxelle, finely chop the mushroom stalks and skin. Sweat the onions in the butter until transparent. Add the mushroom stalks and skin and fry until all liquid has evaporated and everything is starting to change to a golden brown.
- Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg cooking for one minute, add parsley, stir though and remove from heat, setting aside, covered until needed.
- Place mushroom caps on a buttered baking tray, gills side up. Sprinkle with the oil and salt and pepper, and place in an 180oC oven for 5-8 mins, or until just tender but still firm enough to hold its own shape.
- Remove caps from oven and increase oven temperature to 200oC.
- Mix the panko crumbs with the duxelle, dividing the mixture between the mushroom caps, making domes.
- Sprinkle with the fine breadcrumbs and drizzle the melted butter over the tops. Place the stuffed and breadcrumbed caps (now being called ‘gratin’) back into the oven and cook for another 5-10 mins or until the breadcrumbs are a nice golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little lemon juice and fresh chopped parsley and serve straight away.
Serves two as a main meal or four as an entrée along with a crisp green salad.
Tips and ideas:
It is sometimes served on a round of buttered white toast to soak up any lovely juices.
For less traditional variations, you could add some finely chopped ham or bacon to the duxelle whilst frying the onions. The addition of pinenuts, sultanas, walnuts, dried chopped apricots, etc. along with various herbs, chilli or spices also works well.
These can also be made ahead of time, being stuffed and ready for the final cooking, either in the oven or BBQ, just before serving is required.