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Chaud Froid | Clarifying an Opaque Subject

"Philéas Gilbert says that the chaud-froid originated at the Château Montmorency in 1759, and that it was given its name by the maréchal de Luxembourg himself. The maréchal de Luxembourg had invited a large and brilliant assembly to his castle... While waiting for grace to be said, a valet announced the arrival of a royal courier [requesting the maréchal's] immediate presence at the king's council... The maréchal commanded that his absence should in no way delay the serving of the banquet, and left... The maréchal returned very late ... and demanded to be served... a fricassée of chicken embalmed in its ivory coloured sauce, which [he] tasted with pleasure... Some days afterwards [he] expressed the wish for the succulent cold fricassée to be served again. The dish was presented under the name refroidi, but... the maréchal... insisted that it should appear on the menu under the name chaud-froid."
The New LaRousse Gastronomique, 1977

The term chaud froid literally translates to mean hot cold. Classically, it was used to refer to sauces or foods that were prepared hot and served cold. Salmon or chicken portions that were poached, cooled and served cold were originally referred to as chaud froid presentations. The same held true for sauces, like Béchamel or Espagnole, which were simmered, cooled and presented cold. Once cooled these sauces were then referred to as chaud froid sauces. Basically, the food items being used in classical chaud froid presentations were not unusual items, they were common foods served cold rather than hot. These presentations could range from a single plate for a single person, to hundreds of plates for a banquet, to platter presentations being served from a buffet table.

Originally, aspic was considered a chaud froid sauce, simply because it was prepared hot, tempered and used to glaze portions of cold fish and poultry. The aspic added moisture to the edible portion, flavor, protection from drying out and a nice glossy finish. Therefore, originally both clear and opaque sauces were considered chaud froid sauces. Careme made wonderful tasting chaud froids that were glazed with a white sauce, decorated on the surface and coated with aspic.

With Careme's focus on detail and Escoffier's attention to categorizing every food item, aspic and opaque sauces found themselves at a fork in the road. Clear sauces (basically, gelatin enhanced consommes) prepared hot, cooled and served cold would forever be referred to as aspic. Opaque sauces (everything besides clear) would forever be referred to as chaud froid sauces. Separating aspic from the rest of the chaud froid sauces made communicating about dishes a bit easier. There were no questions as to what an aspic presentation required. Over time Béchamel became synonymous with the term chaud froid simply because it was easier to prepare than espagnole or demi-glaze and was more palatable and complementary to the foods that were typically served cold (specifically poultry and fish).

Aspic as a topic is presented in more detail at www.gardemanger.com/aspic.html.

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