Asparagus à la PompadourHome >> Recipes
Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764) was the most famous mistress of French King Louis XV. Everybody knows this, but who knew she was also a passionate cook? She certainly did not clean the pots but the following recipe has apparently been invented by her. I could not resist trying. If you want to follow suit, try first making a béarnaise, a better sauce altogether. But if you can find the verjuice you may try Madame de Pompadour's version. In the meanwhile just enjoy it here:
We have reserved this recipe as the last so that it can be kept out of line. We will see that it is at the same time exquisitely delicate, of a charming simplicity and a perfect elegance.
select three bunches of the nicest asparagus of the great plan of Holland that is those white with the purple tip.
Let them be cleaned and pared. Then cut them crosswise on the side of the tip, as long as your little finger.
Worry only about these choicy morsels and discard the remaining stem.
Cook them in the usual manner by plunging into salt water.
Remove them ...
... to a towel to let them drip and keep warm while you will make their sauce.
Empty a middle-sized pot of butter from Vanvres or the Prévalais in a silver pot.
Melt the butter.
This sauce, like a hollandaise or a béarnaise, is thickened by mixing it with egg yolks and slowly heating it. You absolutely need a waterbath to do this and to watch your temperature constantly, as any foray beyond 68°C will ruin the sauce - death by custardization.
Two egg yolks ...
...well mixed with 4 spoonfuls of Muscat verjuice.
Add to the butter in one go. If you pour it too slowly, you run the risk of custardizing the first drop of egg yolk.
My umbrella watching over the proceedings like the Sun King.
Add a few grains of salt and half a spoonful of spelt flour ...
... and mix well.
Add a strong pinch of powdered mace
Let the above-mentionned sauce cook on a bain marie waterbath...
... avoiding not to make it heavy by letting it become to thick.
The sauce is ready as soon as you can leave a trace with your finger on the back of a spoon - it means the egg yolk as coagulated enough. Do not let the sauce linger in the water bath or your'll ruin it.
Place your sliced asparagus pieces in the said sauce and serve both in an open casserole as an extra dish, so that this excellent dish will not languish on the table and can be enjoyed in its full perfection.
This interesting formula reached us through the archives of Monsieur Grimod de la Reynière, who had it through the estate of his great uncle, Monsieur de Jarente, minister of state during the period when Madame de Pompadour was in favor. The author of the original manusript took the care of mentionning that these Asparagus à la Pompadour must be served with a spoon but eaten with a fork.
The recipe is cited in Alexandre Dumas' Gastronomic Dictionary, but I found it in Néo-Physiologie du Goût, a 1839 cookbook. For my article I cut the asparagus before blanching it, which changes a bit the order. Here is the full text - pardon my French:
Asperges à la Pompadour