Sunday, April 1, 2012

Episode 7 - Murder in Montparnasse

With Phryne's flashbacks to Paris after the Armistice in November 1918, Bert and Cec's adventures while AWOL for 24 hrs at the same time, and the contemporary - 1928 - narrative centering on the (fictional) Cafe Anatole in St Kilda, the menu for Murder in Montparnasse just has to be French.

I'm finding it hard to resist Phryne's cafe lunch of French onion soup "made with cognac, with real Gruyere cheese melted onto real baguettes", quenelles of pheasant poached in broth, "poulet royale with French beans", and, to finish, vanilla souffle, a glass of cognac and a cup of coffee.

Slight problem: Boulestin doesn't have a recipe for "poulet royale". Is it "Chicken a la King", an abomination devised in the 1890s or early 1900s, most likely in Philadelphia, involving steamed chicken, sauteed onion, red, green and yellow capsicums and mushrooms, a white sauce and finally - if you follow the Women's Weekly Original Cookbook from 1970 which is a little bit fancy - three egg yolks, lemon juice and celery salt?

Or has Cafe Anatole adapted to local tastes and concocted an Australian "Sauce Royale", the recipe for which appeared in the Burnie (Tasmania) Advocate in April 1938? It will surprise no-one, I think, that the Burnie Sauce Royale is based on white sauce to which is added: 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a little mustard. It is apparently delicious served with grilled meat of any kind.

But a reference later in the novel to "poulet reine" suggests that "royale" may have been a slip. Poulet reine is a size of chicken: a 1-2 kg roasting chicken.

The main course will be poulet rĂ´ti, from Recipes of Boulestin, with
roast potatoes and green beans (rather than watercress salad) and a short gravy made by adding a little water to the roasting pan and reducing it. On this point Boulestin is quite firm: "There is absolutely no reason why you should have out of a bird a sauceboatful of gravy, and the addition of meat stock will simply make it taste like soup and spoil the dish altogether."

The menu for Murder in Montparnasse:

French Onion Soup with Gruyere and Cognac

Roast Chicken with Green Beans

Vanilla Souffle

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