In small households, where a large quantity of cold meat is undesirable, this is far preferable to a large haunch, and of course it is exactly the same thing, so far as taste and appearance are concerned, when cut. Next, by way of game, have some roast larks, served up in little paper cups containing a rich forcemeat.
Only one fowl, and that a moderate-sized one, will be necessary to make both the chicken cutlets and the rissoles. We will now calculate roughly the saving in this dinner when compared with the old-fashioned one we have mentioned.
. In the first place, Julienne soup can be made far cheaper than mock-turtle; but wre will leave the question of the cost of the soup out altogether. Next the fish; here again the saving only consists in the fact that it is possible to have a small fish when it is not put on the table, but impossible to have only just enough when it is. Now, warmed-up fish is never nice, yet how often do we see a splendid turbot or cod-fish go down, not a quarter of it eaten !
A cod-fish, by-the-by, is not a particularly easy dish for a cook to serve properly done and yet looking really nice. I shall never forget the look of dismay on a certain face when the cover was taken off a remarkably fine cod that had been specially sent down from a famous City fishmonger. The cook, too, was really a good one, and knew that raw cod-fish is simply uneatable. Probably the man, in bringing up the fish, had shaken the dish somewhat roughly, or set it down on the table with too much of a bang. However, the whole of the meat had fallen from the bones in a sort of shower on to the dish, and the gaunt skeleton remained alone, an awful sight, like some of those pictures of the desert with the remains of a camel being hovered over by one or two vultures. In fact, it looked so exceedingly ridiculous that nearly every one laughed, in which laughter the host wisely joined. It was indeed a pretty kettle of fish !
It is, however, in the entrees and joints where the great saving will be found. First let us roughly guess the cost of the old dinner : Sirloin of beef, or haunch, about 14 lb., 14s., taking of course present prices; two capons, 1 os.; tongue, 6s. 6d.; small ham, 12s.; pigeon pie, say 3s. 6d., which would be cheap ; oyster patties, eight at 6d. each, 4s. ; beef olive, 2 lb. of steak, etc, 2s. 6d.; curried rabbit, the rabbit being is. 6d., 2S.; stewed kidneys, say is. 6d. Now this all added up comes to £2 16s. Next let us take the other dinner : One fowl, 3s. 6d. ; mushrooms, one tin, 9d.; cream, 3d.; lobster, 2s.; eggs and spinach, is; leg of mutton, 8 lb., 8s.; calf's liver for forcemeat, 3d.; larks, one dozen, is. 6d.; about 1 1/2 lb. of ham or bacon, is. 6d. ; which, added up, comes to 17s. 9d.
Of course it will be said that in the first dinner there was plenty left to keep the house for several days, and in the second but very little. This is perfectly true ; but it is this of which I complain. The old-fashioned style was, when ten people came to dinner, to cook enough for thirty. This seems to me to be folly. Of course some allowance must be made for the character of the visitors; the little dinner a la Russe we have mentioned would be exceedingly unsuited to hungry schoolboys, or an agricultural labourers' feast; but then one doesn't ask these sorts of people to late dinners. The average guest is one who has had a substantial lunch—in the case of ladies—or one whose appetite is jaded with worry and anxiety, and requires a certain amount of tickling. The same dinner would not do for a dealer on the Stock Exchange, and a healthy country gentleman, who spends half his time on horseback, and has not a care in the world. We mention this, as one of the arts of giving dinners is to adapt the dinner to the guests, and the guests to one another.
But we must now turn to the practical part, which is, how to make the chicken cutlets, etc. First, early on the morning previous to the dinner, boil the fowl in some clear stock or some water; take it out and let it get cold; cut off all the meat, cutting the breast into thin slices; scrape all the bones, and place the latter back in the stock to boil down. If water has been used, the usual vegetables must be placed in— viz., an onion stuck with six cloves, a small head of celery, a turnip, carrot, a bunch of parsley, and pepper and salt. When the whole is reduced to about a quart, strain it carefully off; remove every particle of fat, and if not clear, clear it with the white of two eggs, by whipping them up with a little cold water, adding them to the stock, boiling briskly for a few minutes, and then running the whole through a jelly-bag. Next, again place the stock in an enamelled saucepan, and let it boil down to about a pint. Take a third of this and put it into a little enamelled stew-pan for the aspic jelly. Now, this jelly requires rather a decided flavour; add therefore a couple ot beads of garlic, and let these simmer sufficiently long to give the stock—one-third of a pint—what may be called a foreign smell. The fowl-bones will probably have been sufficient to cause this to set into a firm jelly when poured out on to a plate and allowed to get cold; should, however, it not be firm enough, a little gelatine must be added to it. Should the jelly require a little colour, a small piece of toasted bread, such as is used for toast-and-water, will be found best for the purpose—of course put in when the jelly is hot. When the jelly is set, it must be cut up—two silver forks are best for the purpose—and piled up in the centre of the silver dish, for the chicken cutlets to be placed round it.
Next we have two-thirds of a pint of strong stock left in the saucepan. Add to this about half an ounce of gelatine and a couple of bay-leaves, and let it boil till the gelatine is quite dissolved; take out the bay-leaves, and pour it off into a basin, and take off any little scum that may have risen from the gelatine. Next pour some cream—about half a tumbler—into an enamelled saucepan; as soon as it begins to boil, pour the warm stock on it, take it off the fire, stir with a spoon for a few minutes, and pour it into a small basin for use. Now this white sauce, which is exceedingly nice, when cold will be a hard jelly, looking like blancmange.