While all these little miscellaneous culinary tips won’t change your life, mastering them adds to your style and that can make your meal shine as much as your conversation.
Do we serve smoked salmon before foie gras, or after?
Traditionally, according to the principles set down by that great standard-setter, Auguste Escoffier, one serves fish, whose flesh is finer and whose taste is subtler, before meat. Thus, smoked salmon before foie gras. But it is perfectly possible to do the reverse - response from Normand! - because the smoky notes of salmon persist on the palate, to the point where one might esteem them better placed after the foie gras.
Foie gras: to spread or not to spread?
Definitely not! It isn’t pâté, or rillettes; foie gras, in principle, should to be eaten with a fork, accompanied by a small piece of bread, toasted or not, or brioche or gingerbread. It can also be served directly on bread, but in pieces, not mashed. It is a question of respect for the integrity of the product as well as elegance.
Does one raise a glass to make a toast?
In the 17th century the word “toste” meant a slice of toasted bread dipped in wine, which one drank in celebration of someone, usually a woman. Thus, as yet we did not raise our glasses. This custom arrived with the English, who appropriated and Anglicised the term. In principle, one should stand, raise one’s glass and invite the others to do likewise, whilst the person “toasted”, of course, remains seated.
Salted or unsalted butter?
Ideally, offer a lovely choice on the table: unsalted butter, semi-salted, with algae or smoked, so that everyone can serve themselves to their taste.
That having been said, here are a few recommendations:
- with oysters: unsalted butter because oysters are salty, except where you serve oysters refined in oyster beds (fresh water) like the Marenne Oléron or the Arcachon; - with smoked salmon: on toast, unsalted butter if necessary, but there is better: a delicate layer of raw cream; - with foie gras: nothing at all, foie gras has fat enough; - for cooking poultry: we prefer unsalted butter because poultry must be salted evenly, as much in the cavity as on the outside.
Champagne: flute or coupe?
As Gwilherm de Cerval explains in his Petit Livre du Sommelier (Sommelier’s Handbook) (pub. Marabout) the coupe, with its ‘old school’ side, has charm and he recounts that the first coupe was moulded on the breast of Marie-Antoinette - but it allows the bubbles and flavour to escape too rapidly. The flute, however, preserves the bubbles and temperature, but encloses the bubbles to the point where they can seem a little aggressive. So, is there no hope? Yes, a wine glass! The best compromise for blossoming flavour and bubbles.