Les Amis d'Escoffier Society Boston, LTD.

Dedicated to Auguste Escoffier the King of Chefs

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Nellie Melba and Peach Melba

Nellie Melba
This is a short tribute to Auguste Escoffier, the so famous French cook who was active mainly at the turn of the XIX th. century and during the early 1900's.

This is over all the story of a famous dessert : the peach "Melba". Nellie is Nellie Melba, Australian diva, world-recognized opera singer, specialist of Wagner and who, when scheduled to sing at the Covent Garden opera house in London during the "Entente Cordiale" years (note of the translator/author : so called because the French president and the King of England had signed a friendly treaty of fair behavior and reciprocal support, used to stay at the Savoy hotel, was a source of inspiration for the chef Auguste Escoffier.

Escoffier had been, for a very short period, a cook for the Napoleon III army in 1870 and since 1880, he confirmed his wishes for making the gastronomic "cuisine" be simpler and lighter. He was proposed by Mr. César Ritz to lead the restaurant of the famous hotel settled in the Strand in London and he so arrived with a well trained brigade at the Savoy. César Ritz has already acknowledged his successes in other European palaces in Lucerne (Switzerland), Baden Baden (Germany) and Monte Carlo, aristocratic places of that time.

The "Guide Culinaire" (Culinary Cook Book)of the "august" chef includes the most famous recipe of Escoffier dedicated to the opera singer : the Peach Melba and also the Poularde Tosca (note of the translator/author : "poularde" is a fat hen in French ; the hen becomes fat and develops an outstanding delicate taste thanks to its castration; a castrated
chicken is called "chapon" in French) because the diva was not exclusively a Wagner opera singer. Both recipes are very simple and fine, especially for that time, because Nellie Melba, back from an American tour, was on diet at that time...

The Peach Melba, recipe, as it is reported in the Guide Culinaire by Escoffier himself, is a minimalist recipe : "Poach the peaches into a vanilla syrup, lay them into a timbale, on a lay of vanilla ice cream and coat them with some raspberry purée". Escoffier, like his colleagues, did not give too much precision and too many details with regards to the list and quantities of necessary ingredients and to the preparation of intermediary steps like the syrup, the ice cream and the fruit purée. One must find them elsewhere in his books. Same for the Poularde Tosca : "stuff a fat hen with rice and pan it in a short stock and then lay it on fried bread and serve it with pot roasted fennel bulbs and serve apart the thickened stock melt with butter". The Guide Culinaire is obviously written to be read by professionals.

I then deliver on this web site, the original Peach Melba, recipe, however updated to modern standards and with the necessary details. The story of this recipe is questionable and Escoffier himself, becoming an old man was not so clear about it for anyway this is not so important as long as a beautiful legend remains...

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