Early Modern Sauces: Meat Essences, Emulsions

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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It’s in the three centuries between 1400 and 1700 that the sauces of our own time have their roots. Recipes call for fewer spices and a lighter hand with them; vinegar and verjus begin to give way to lemon juice; coarse bread and almond thickeners are replaced by flour and by butter and egg emulsions (see box). And in France, meat broths become the central element of fine cooking. This is the era in which experimental science began to flourish, and some influential French cooks conceived of themselves as the chemists—or alchemists—of meat. Around 1750, François Marin echoed the Chinese description of flavor harmony from 2,000 years before, but with some telling twists (see box).