There is perhaps no word so little understood, or rather so misunderstood, as the word " economy." Just as there is a vulgar and popular impression that political economists are a hard-hearted, selfish class, so domestic economy is too often regarded as a synonymous term for meanness and want of hospitality. Conversely, too many are apt to confound extravagance with liberality. Economy in regard to money has been defined as " the judicious use of money." So in cooking economy simply means the judicious use of materials. In fact, economy is closely allied to common-sense, whereas extravagance is the twin sister of ignorance. Good cooks are never wasteful. The difference between a good dish and a bad one often consists simply in the fact that in the one all the flavour has been extracted from the materials used ; in the other, part—often the best part—has been lost and thrown away. Nowhere is waste and extravagance so wanton and reckless as among the extreme poor, and the more ignorant the worse they are. The savage method of cooking roast pork illustrates our point. As savages are more ignorant even than the lowest of our own lower orders, we ought to expect to find them more extravagant and reckless. Such is the case. On one occasion an Indian wigwam or hut, containing a live pig, caught fire. After the fire had subsided, and the embers were raked away, the remains of the unfortunate animal were found inside, which on being tasted proved to be far superior to the raw flesh to which the Indians were accustomed. Consequently, on great occasions, when a dish of roast pork is required, it has been the custom ever since to drive a pig into some small hut or house, and then set the house on fire. Now, this method has all the charm of simplicity, but still it is not altogether an economical method; though there are some dens and hovels even in this country where no one could regret the experiment.
But to take a simple case to illustrate our point, we will describe that very common sauce, lobster sauce, and contrast it as it is with what it ought to be, trusting that our description of the latter will be attended with the practical result of enabling those •who read it to make it for themselves, should they so desire, besides something in addition.
First, we all know the lobster sauce which too often is handed round as an accompaniment to some boiled fish, such as turbot or brill. It consists simply of melted butter, with small pieces of lobster—some white, some pink—cut up in it; but as to the liquid sauce itself, it does not contain even the slightest flavour of lobster whatever. On the other hand, good lobster sauce is of a bright red colour, and tasting so strongly of lobster that it is too often apt to entirely overpower the flavour of the fish. Yet this latter has probably been made out of exactly the same materials as the former. What, then, is the difference ? Simply this :—In the one case all the flavour of the lobster has been extracted, and in the other it has not. Cutting up the meat of a lobster and putting the pieces into melted butter is no more making lobster sauce than cutting up a calf's head and throwing the pieces into boiling water would be making mock-turtle soup.
We will suppose, now, the very ordinary case of some lobster sauce being required for a small party, say eight persons; the ordinary method being for a lobster to be ordered, the white part of the meat cut up and put into some melted butter, while the pickings, so called, generally make a tit-bit at the kitchen supper, with the usual accompaniment of at least a pint of vinegar. Now, what is the difficulty ? First, even a small lobster is amply sufficient to supply sauce for double the number. Every one who has eyes, and knows how to use them, must have observed how invariably it is the case that in small households fish sauce of any description is always made in gigantic proportions. We have seen melted butter of the consistency of a pudding brought up for four persons, in quantity sufficient for the table d'hote at the Grand Hotel in Paris. Make up your mind, therefore, as follows :—Order a moderate-sized lobster, and have a dish of lobster cutlets as an entree' in addition to the sauce for the fish.
Now, there are few prettier dishes than lobster cutlets, and few easier to make, yet how rarely is it met with in small households !
First, get a lobster containing some spawn and coral. Cut open the lobster and remove the whole of the meat, including that in the claws, and cut it up into small pieces, and put it on a plate and place it in a cool place, to be used as we shall explain by-and-by. Next take the spawn and coral and place it in a mortar with about twice the quantity of butter, and pound it well together, adding a good pinch of cayenne pepper. You will by this means obtain what is called lobster butter, and without it it is impossible to make either good lobster sauce, or patties, or cutlets, or bisque— the latter being, in other words, lobster soup.
This lobster butter has a strong lobster flavour, and is of an exceedingly brilliant colour. It will keep a long time, and good cooks should always try and have some by them, as ofttimes lobsters contain neither spawn or coral. Scrape all the lobster butter out of the mortar, and place it in some small jar for use. Next (we are supposing that eight persons are the number at dinner), take about a dessert-spoonful of the cut-up meat and put it by for the sauce—this quantity will be amply sufficient—and take all the rest of the meat and place it in a mortar, and pound it up with the following materials, previously chopped very fine : a piece of onion as big as the top of the thumb down to the bottom of the nail, a small tea-spoonful of chopped parsley,and a piece of lemon-peel the size and thickness of the thumb-nail. But while these are being pounded, let us return to and finish making the lobster sauce. First, make a little rather thin melted butter, using milk instead of water ; add sufficient lobster butter to make it a bright red colour, this lobster butter containing as a rule sufficient cayenne pepper for the whole sauce. Add the dessert-spoonful of lobster meat, about half a salt-spoonful of anchovy sauce, and the same quantity of lemon-juice, and the sauce is complete. The quantity of melted butter made should be regulated by the size of the ladle in the sauce-tureen. There are over twelve ordinary ladlefuls in half a pint; as a rule each person takes one ladleful, therefore half a pint of lobster sauce is more than sufficient for eight persons. If you don't want waste, tell your cook to pour a tumblerful of water into a sauce-tureen, and see how much it looks, and never to make more melted butter for eight or even ten persons. The melted butter should not be made, however, until it is nearly dinner-time, as £ro£erly-made melted butter is apt to decompose or run oily if exposed to heat too long.