Sauce Américaine

It is not an American sauce. It is a French sauce created on the fly for an American guest at a Parisian restaurant cheffed by Pierre Fraisse, around 1860. A guest showed up and said they were in a hurry and wanted lobster. Fraisse didn’t have time to make the usual complicated sauce for lobster […]

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Tournedos Masséna

(Beef fillets with Madeira and truffle sauce) This recipe for Tournedos Masséna is from the Hotel Boule d’Or, in Chinon, a historic town in the heart of the Loire Valley, known as the garden of France. Masséna most likely refers to André Masséna, one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire, a hero of […]

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Soupe à l’Oignon

(Onion Soup) These days, Taco Bell and Denny’s provide our go-to late night drunk meals[*. Unless you live in Chicago, where there are endless opportunities for post midnight rally meals, most especially the ten billion taquieras up and down Western ave]. But if you’re French or you live in 1954, some place that serves soup […]

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Pannequets Soufflés Flambés

(Flaming Soufflé Pancakes) What is the biggest complaint about pancakes? They’re not on fire. This recipe will fix that. It’s also another recipe wherein the Prices reveal their affinity for freezing stuff that would make a foodie stab themselves in the pancreas (with a hand crafted 8″ chef’s knife, preferably a Henkels). I don’t think […]

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It’s telling that Vincent Price was so careful, when writing about Restaurant Lasserre, to contrast it with iconic Parisian locations. In a few short sentences, Price invokes the charm of Place du Tertre, Bois de Bologne, and the very concept of workingman bistros and the slightly grubby back streets and alleys so intrinsic to the Bohemian image of Paris. By contrast, Lasserre is lavish. It is opulent. And, like Paris, it exists outside of time, a classic, unblemished by short cuts or cut corners.

So perhaps, to better understand Lasserre, to place it properly, we should look at the Parisian tropes Price used to define it: the amazing collection of ponds and parks in Bois de Bologne, the streets full of painters and cafes in the Montmartre square, Place du Tertre, and the slew of cafes and bistros where the workers of Paris take their coffee and cigarettes.

A Tale of Two Cities

Chicago and Paris seemed to coexist in many ways. Both cities were growing significantly from 1830 to 1900 with an explosion of building. Around 1830, both cities began exploring the idea of well designed public parks with Chicago laying down the formations of the idea for their city between 1830 and 1869 when Lincoln Park began to take shape. Paris was ahead of Chicago, creating the magnificent Bois de Bologne in 1858.

The Bois is similar to Chicago’s Forest Preserves (which run from downtown Chicago 36 miles west into the suburbs, ending at the summer home of the Orchestra, Ravinia). Much of it is forest land (bois means wood) and remains wild (King Dagobert hunted bear and deer in the forest that became the park).  When the Bois was finally completed, it contained an English landscape garden with a cascade, a zoo, an amusement park, two horse racing tracks, a complex of greenhouses with over 200,000 plants, and a tennis court still used today for national opens.

The idea both cities wagered was that by salting their city with parks both vast and small, they would offer their citizens a constant reminder of nature, improve property values, and invoke a pastoral state of mind, perhaps even preserving pedestrianism and parasols.

I haven’t been to Paris. But I live in Chicago and I can tell you even the smallest park refreshes the mind’s eye whether you are strolling down Damen or racing down Racine. A flurry of green, of depth, of life, relieves the monotony of brick and mortar.

Where You’re Thinking About when you Think About Paris

When you’re thinking about the three flats and terraced apartments where the great artists and writers hung out in the early 20th century, you’re thinking about Place du Tertre. Picasso and Salvador Dali lived here. As did Modigliani, Monet, and Van Gogh. This is where modern art was born and this is where absinthe flowed like a verdant hallucinogenic river through everybody.

Perhaps I should be fair and zoom out. Place du Tertre was the center of Montmartre, the hill of the 18th arrondissement on whose sides all these insane artists and writers and poets and captains of industry got their groove.

Throughout Paris, there are bistros and cafes offering good French food at reasonable prices. These are neighborhood places, run a by a guy who loves to feed his neighbors and his friends. He’ll keep a table free even when it’s busy in case someone he knows shows up hungry. He’ll stand out on the sidewalk while the joint is weeded and smoke cigarettes with his neighbors and tell jokes. The postman will leave a package at the bar for someone who isn’t home. These are great places, the heart of Montrematre, and the point Price is making in bringing all this working man’s landscape into the picture is to contrast all the picturesque down-and-outedness of the seedy underbelly of the Paris of our dreams with its fraternal twin, a stones throw from Champs de Elyses, across the street from the palais, and a short walk to the Seine, the gold-plated cut-velvet opulence of restaurant Lasserre.

How Francos al Fresco Beneath Starlight and Doves at Lasserre

There are two distinct qualities of Lasserre not associated with their menu, for which the restaurant is revered: the retractable roof, and the doves.

There are only a handful of restaurants with retractable roofs:

The Godfrey in Chicago has a rooftop terrace with a removable glass ceiling. In the winter, it offers a chilling, though warm, view of the city.

Istanbul’s Nopa features vertical gardens and a glass roof of retractable glass panels that fold into each other like a futuristic convertible.

The Salinas in New York’s Chelsea district hand cranks their roof open in the summer, an arduous task I am certain falls to the newest busboy.

Union Rooftop, Minneapolis’s James beard nominated rooftop bistro offers a glass enclosure that folds like an accordion.

Selfridges offers an unusual take with their “On the Roof With” series of annually rotating restaurants located on their roof which protects diners with glass panels that slide open to let in the London fog.

Lasserre’s roof opens to allow a narrow view of the stars. I have heard some reports the view is amazing, but I can’t see how that is possible, since there doesn’t appear to be any access to the open roof. I assume the people making those reports had consumed waaaay too much absinthe and merely floated roofwise for a peek.

In its past, Lasserre would open the roof and release snow white doves into the restaurant (after service) which, according to Price, was less preferred than just seeing their image emblazoned on everything from the menu to the carpet. I suppose getting a little dove in your coffee would be less than palatable. Maybe that’s why the doves, today, are in the lobby, not flying around like it’s a Goddam Nicholas Cage movie.

Lasserre is pricey. Their roasted seabass with blonde morels and buckwheat is $168.00. That’s for that dish, not a week on the beach. Much better to go for the paired tasting menu at only $283 bucks. A fucking bargain.  But you’ll be dining among the elite, people who rarely dine shoulder to shoulder with the truck drivers and the butchers of Montrematre. More likely people who rub shoulders with movie stars and banking magnates. A who’s who includes Jennifer Lopez and whoever else has ever been there because once I say Jay Lo why even bother?

It also once included Vincent and Mary Price so if you visit this gilded gastronomic altar, raise a glass.


(originally posted in 2011) nd so I willingly become a whore. Gladly. Openly. Embracingly prostitutional.  This experiment with food is getting interesting as I seek out opportunities to build my knife skills and learn the back of the house. My goal, as stated previously, is to gain confidence in the kitchen—enough to enable me to […]

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Volaille Pyramide

voilaille pyramide

The Treasury of Great Recipes delivered to America classic French cuisine and recipes from Michelin starred restaurants around the world. Reading these recipes is an adventure—and a little frustrating. The ingredients are listed alone, but their measurements are buried in the recipe.

Also, the recipe is written for 1960s housewives and amateur cooks not steeped in a decade of food TV and YouTube cooking lessons. Most people in America these days can hold a decent conversation about knife skills. Not so half a century ago, when powdered peas and canned grapes were the norm.

For instance, in the recipe for Volaille Pyramide, you are walked through making a Bechamel sauce using some of the braising liquid, thickened with egg yolks. It is not called a Bechamel sauce, which for most folks cooking off the internet, would be sufficient. It doesn’t tell you to temper the egg yolks before adding them to the sauce. It spells everything out.

Check out this recipe for Volaille Pyramide then look at how it’s listed in the Treasury. You’re welcome.

The Recipe

Volaille Pyramide


  • 1 large, 1 small truffles
  • chicken
  • 1 C butter
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 8 small carrots
  • 2 C white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 t peppercorns
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 2 egg yolks


  1. shave truffles
  2. loosen skin at the neck of the chicken; insert your hand carefully to separate the skin as far as you can--do not pierce the skin, don't force anything. Love your chicken.
  3. Insert the truffle slices, fitting them accordingly (the biggest slices cover the breast, the smallest into the skin on the legs).
  4. Melt butter in a braising pan
  5. Place the sliced leeks (white parts only) and the carrots in the casserole.
  6. Lay the chicken onto this bed of vegetables. Brown on all sides over moderate heat. Finish with the chicken on its side.
  7. Add white wine and stock (enough stock to reach halfway up the bird)
  8. Add salt and peppercorns
  9. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, braise for 1 1/2 hours, turning side to side at 20 minute intervals, adding more stock when necessary. When cooked, keep hot in the stock.
  10. Sauce
  11. In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of butter
  12. Stir in 1/2 cup flour, stir and cook but don't brown
  13. Gradually stir in 3 C of stock from the chicken, cook until sauce is thickened
  14. add one small carrot
  15. add an onion stuck with cloves
  16. Cook sauce over very low heat for about an hour
  17. Remove vegetables
  18. Stir in, piece by piece, 1 T of butter
  19. Beat 3 egg yolks with a little of the sauce, then add to the sauce and cook, stirring briskly, for about 1 minute
  20. Squeeze some lemon juice in there, season to taste.
  21. *Presentation!
  22. Place the chicken in the center of a warm platter, surround with leeks and carrots. Spoon sauce over chicken.
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Mousse de Saumon Perigueux

The Treasury of Great Recipes | Menu from La Pyramide

Perigueux is a classic French sauce that started with one of the mothers (demi glace) then added a local specialty, truffles, to develop a unique flavor profile. Julia Child loved Perigueux and recommended it for “filet of beef, fresh foie gras, veal, egg dishes, and timbales.”

Some recipes call for Madeira instead of cognac and some recipes call this sauce Dorgogne. However, there is a great difference between cognac and Madeira, and the is a great difference between Dorgogne and Perigueux. France is divided into regions and departments. There are 27 administrative regions, 96 departments, and 342 arrondissements. I’m certain the divisions continue until you’re marking off parts of a single French kitchen, however, for our purposes, it is important to recognize the origins of this sauce in Perigueux, known for its truffles, which give this sauce its unique profile.

Most recipes call for frying the shallots in goose fat, but I’m partial to duck over goose so I’ve changed this recipe a little feature the fat of my favorite bird.

Mousse de Saumon Perigueux


    Salmon Mousse
  • 1 medium sized, fresh, salmon
  • 3 tablespoons tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 1.2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon juice and a few slices
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter softened
  • a few sprigs of dill
  • salt and pepper
  • Sauce Perigueux
  • duck fat
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 T cognac
  • 1 med onion, sliced
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 3 truffles
  • 1 T beef stock
  • 1 T flour


    Salmon Mousse
  1. (Prepared the day before.)
  2. Cook the salmon in the oven, let cool and peel the flesh (discard skin and bones).
  3. Crumble in a bowl.
  4. Butter the mold.
  5. Add salmon flesh cream, tomato paste, shallot, juices
  6. Add 5 tablespoons of lemon.
  7. Add salt and pepper.
  8. Mix everything 3 min in a food processor.
  9. Pour the mixture into the mold and press with a wooden spoon.
  10. Leave overnight in the refrigerator.
  11. Sauce Perigueux
  12. Fry the shallots in the duck fat.
  13. Add the wine and brandy, then light on fire.
  14. In a separate pan, brown the onion. Add a little beef stock.
  15. Prepare a peanut butter roux with a little duck fat
  16. Add the onions and shallots with their liquid, stirring everything into your roux. Simmer over very low heat for about an hour. Stir!
  17. Salt and pepper to taste
  18. Dice your truffles into small pieces.
  19. Strain the sauce, add the truffles.
  20. Reheat and serve.
  21. To Serve
  22. Slide a knife along the sides of pan and unmold onto a small, chilled plate.
  23. Use the sauce to decorate the plate, allowing a few drops to fall onto the mousse.
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