18 October 2009

Kettner's Book Of The Table

Fashionable restaurants were a Victorian delight. In London, the most fashionable was that of Auguste Kettner. The former chef to Napoleon III, Kettner opened a Soho restaurant 1867 which was known for its extravagance, champagne, and gastronomic delicacies.

When Kettner's Book Of The Table was published, it was assumed, for obvious reasons that the book was written by Kettner. In truth, the book was penned by the long standing London critic, E. S. Dallas. Dallas fell on hard times and was a friend of Kettner. One can assume that Dallas wrote the book in exchange for free meals. In a 1912 version published by Kettner, himself, he gives some credit to Dallas.

Dallas has very strong emotions about aspic and as a Southerner, I feel for him.
"The most appropriate sauce for cold meat is a jelly, of half jelly, of some sort: and the French have invented one jellied sauce to go with cold viands --aspic. It is not to be supposed that one and the same sauce will suit every meat alike, every taste alike, or even the same taste at different times. We cannot take the same everlasting aspic with cold meat all year around. But the cookery books, with scarcely an exception, give one single recipt for savory jelly, and then call it aspic, though it does not contain a particle if aspic in it."

So what is his proper way to make aspic?


Boil down calves feet with a faggot of potherbs(Faggot, No.6). When this is ready, add to it for a final flavor sherry or Marsala, and some tarragon vinegar in which a faggot of ravigote herbs have boiled. Test the strength of the jelly, clarify it with white of an egg, and strain through a jelly bag.

There are a lot faggots in this recipe which Dallas explains:

"Faggots are to the kitchen garden what bouquets or nosegays are to the flower garden."

Faggot no. 6 consists of carrots, onions, cloves and sweet herbs while the Ravigote has tarragon, chervil, burnet and chives.

You must love a man who is so terrible concerned with his aspic!

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