The Food Almanac: Monday, October 10, 2012

Meuniere, beurre maniere, lemon — get your day off to an appetizing start with food facts and trivia from Tom Fitzmorris

In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu, notes food facts and sayings.

Today's Flavor
This is Meuniere Day in all Francophone areas of the world. The French word meuniere means "in the style of the flour miller's wife." Which is to say, coated in flour before being cooked, probably in butter. The butter and the flour that shook loose brown a little. It's then doctored up with lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce, resulting in a sauce for the fish, or veal, or whatever.

Here in New Orleans we make full use of the concept, enough that a uniquely Creole version of meuniere has evolved. It uses all the same ingredients, but in a different way. The flour and butter are made into a light roux, which is then added to a little stock, with lemon and Worcestershire. This can be made in a large batch, instead of a few servings at a time. It also allows for the fish to be fried instead of sautéed. This style of meuniere probably was invented in the 1920s at Arnaud's, where it sped up production of the restaurant's signature trout meuniere. Arnaud's style of meuniere spread to many other restaurants, getting thicker, darker, and meatier in flavor as time went on.

Today is also rumored to be National Angel Food Cake Day. Angel food cake was a reaction to devil's food cake. And, of course, not nearly as satisfying. Angel food cake's distinction is its lightness; it's made with only the whites of eggs, whipped into a fine foam, with the sugar and flour and flavoring added to it. No matter what you do, it comes out dry, and needs something juicy added to it. Hey! Here's an idea. A layer cake alternating devil's food and angel food. Why not?

Edible Dictionary
beurre manière, n., French — Also called beurre manié. It literally means "butter manipulated by hand." Flour is worked into softened butter until it's a uniform blend. So it's essentially an uncooked roux. It's used to add thickness to sauces, the advantage being that the flour doesn't clump up in the sauce and adds a bit of richness. The resemblance to the word meuniere is coincidental, although both words define mixtures of butter and flour.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Lemon, Ky., is in the western part of the state, 36 miles on the other side of the Ohio River from Evansville, Ind. Lemon is on the Green River, a tributary of the Ohio. It's just a few houses that may be the center of a large farm in the area. It's unlikely that lemon trees grow there. Nor can many malfunctioning automobiles be seen. The nearest restaurant is Little B's Pizza and Sandwiches, two miles away in Calhoun.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
You can make a credible meuniere sauce in seconds by swirling pats of butter around in a very hot pan, then adding dashes of lemon juice (or red wine vinegar), and Worcestershire to it as soon as the butter is completely melted.

Annals of Kitchen Accidents
Earle Dickson, the man who invented the Band-Aid, was born today in 1892. He was motivated by his wife Josephine, who — like most of us who spend a lot of time in the kitchen — cut herself often enough to need a quick, ready remedy. In those days, you used gauze held in place by tape to wrap a cut. But that had a way of slipping off. Dickson's insight was that if a pad of gauze were attached to a piece of tape the proper size, it would remain in place longer and be more effective. His employer, Johnson & Johnson, started making the new bandage in 1924, and it became the fantastic success it remains today.

Annals of Formal Wear
This is the birthday of the tuxedo. The year was 1886. Tobacco heir Griswold Lorillard showed up for the autumn ball at his club in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., wearing a dinner jacket custom-made for him in England. Its radical design departure: no tails. The daring new look swept through high society, where it remains the standard uniform for men in formal settings. I wear a tuxedo every chance I get. It makes even dumpy, balding men look fabulous. You don't need a reason: just show up for dinner in a tux. The worst thing that could happen is that you might be mistaken for a waiter.

Food in Music
Today in 1966, Simon and Garfunkel released their third album. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. That's a line from "Scarborough Fair," the hit song in the album. It came out on the radio when the weather was just turning cold, and I think of fall every time I hear it . . . Speaking of fall songs: Today in 1903 was the birthday of composer Vernon Duke (born as Vladimir Dukelsky). He wrote many standards, of which the best is "Autumn In New York." The song is always on my mind this time of year . . . Today in 1926, the musical "Hold Everything," about a boxer, opened on Broadway. It included the song "You're The Cream In My Coffee" . . . Today in 1970, Neil Diamond had his first Number One hit, "Cracklin' Rosie." The name was a play on crackling rosé, a cheap pink wine popular for about three days in the late '60s.

Food Namesakes
Swedish vocalist Neneh Cherry was born today in 1964 . . . Luc von Brabant, a poet specializing in erotic works, was born in Belgium today in 1909.

Words to Eat By
"I hate television. I hate it as much as I hate peanuts. But I cannot stop eating peanuts." — Orson Welles, actor, director, magician, and very dedicated gourmet, who died on this day in 1985.

"He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food." — Raymond Chandler, mystery writer.

"You may have the universe if I may have Italy." — Giuseppe Verdi, opera composer, born today in 1813.

Words to Drink By
"The days of wine and roses
Laugh and run away
Like a child at play." — Johnny Mercer, American singer and songwriter.

Related Stories
4 Unlikely Ways to Use Classic French Sauces

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.