[A little 1962 trivia: On January 21, 1962, snow fell in San Francisco and accumulated 3 inches!]
We were gifted a delightful little Chamberlain Calendar of French Cooking, dated 1962, and decided to cook all 54 of its recipes this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the mother/daughter duo of Narcisse and Narcissa Chamberlain, you’ve missed some of the finest food writing in a generation. They published a mountain of recipe books as well as calendars, diaries and annuals that covered a wide range of cookery including American, French and Italian. The recipes deserve our attention and we’ll be sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come. We’re a few recipes behind, but will soon be catching up in the following weeks. Think, Julie and Julia only a bit more simplistic and with a more realistic timetable.
The first recipe in the 1962 calendar made good use of a package of beautiful deer steaks and introduced us to an old (but new to us) classic – sauce Bercy. Now, sauce Bercy is a white wine sauce and one that might accompany either fish or steak. There are variations depending on the meat to be embellished, but the base recipe is essentially the same – a reduction of white wine flavored with shallot and finished with butter and fresh parsley. When serving sauce Bercy with fish, you add a little fish stock to the wine before reducing it. In the case of the Chamberlain ladies’ simplified version of sauce Bercy, the wine and shallots are reduced before you add lemon juice and butter off the heat. The sauce is strained and then finished with a seasoning of salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley. Spooned over simply grilled steak that has been cooked rare, this sauce combines with the natural juices of the meat to make one incredibly tasty dish.
For dinner, we served the venison steak Bercy with a side of beautifully baked potato “chips” that we sliced paper-thin on a mandolin and then layered with fresh parsley leaves between them and a drizzle of olive oil. With just a sprinkle of salt, these simple yet elegant potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to the tangy Bercy sauce.
We grilled more steaks than two guys should eat and with more than a half a bottle of white wine in the fridge leftover we decided to do a little experimenting by poaching eggs in white wine. For brunch the following day, using the same technique as our eggs poached in Champagne, we cooked the eggs first, removed them and added shallots to the remaining white wine then quickly reduced the liquid and followed the rest of the sauce Bercy recipe. The combination of rare deer steak with creamy egg yolks was a wonderful treat. Why can’t restaurants in San Francisco be more creative with their Eggs Benedict? We suggest that if you do try this wonderful sauce and steak you grill up a couple extra ones for brunch the next day. Steak and eggs has never tasted so good.
[Adapted from The Chamberlain Calendar of French Cooking, For Engagements, 1962]
1 big steak of your choice (enough for 2 people)
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup shallots, finely minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Grill the steak according to taste, which the Chamberlain’s hope is rare.
To prepare the sauce, simmer shallots and wine until the mixture is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Off heat, stir in butter and lemon juice. Strain the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Reheat but don’t let it come to a boil.
Once steak is cooked, place it on a hot platter and pour sauce Bercy over. Slice steak and plate, spooning the mixture of juices and sauce over the individual servings.