Meet Charlotte Fleurance, the inimitably elegant grandmother of a wonderful French friend of ours. Having heard so much about the fantastic Christmas feasts she puts together, we had to know more. Listening to stories about her is like a peek into a bygone era where elegance and care were such an important part of hosting.
Charlotte and her husband ran a vineyard in France in the 60s where she managed the house and the garden, a garden which provided most of the vegetables for their meals. During harvest season, Charlotte cooked for over 30 people every day and even today could whip up a meal for 30 easier than most of us could cook for 8.
She had quite the knack for public relations too. While the menfolk visited the cellars for tastings with her husband, she chatted with the women, exchanging cooking and gardening tips and she always sent them home with a small potted plant and that gesture became something of a signature of their vineyard.
Charlotte Fleurance embodies the art of hostessing. She is the kind of hostess that keeps a guest book, not for reasons of vanity, but to be the best hostess she can be. She records names of her guests, dates of their visits, what she cooked for them, dietary preferences, and notes on how they liked the food. And she refers to her notes to make every visit for the guest a memorable experience. Her notes let her know exactly what the guest would like and she never repeats a dish when a guest visits again. Unless they specifically request a specialty or a favorite.
Charlotte happens to be from Nantes, a region in the west of France from where the famous Beurre blanc originates. This sauce, a very important part of French cuisine, is an extremely delicate sauce and really difficult to get right, a sauce that hostesses are often judged by. It is prepared just before serving and requires the hostess to leave her guests and stand over a hot stove, watching the sauce like a hawk and stirring non-stop. But Charlotte Fleurence, even though she loves a good Beurre blanc, would have none of that pressure. She rebelled against tradition and decided that her go-to sauce would be an equally delicious but far easier sauce, and so she adopted the Sauce Royale. This sauce is different from Beurre Blanc but is so good that one wouldn’t miss the sauce it replaces.
The Sauce Royale goes perfectly with salmon, steamed fish and seafood of all kinds, potatoes cooked in so many ways, asparagus and any number of other vegetables. It is so easy to prepare, almost foolproof and the best thing about it is that a hostess could prepare this in advance and simply reheat to serve. Be scintillating company and still serve up an elegant, delicate, delicious meal, an impossibility with Buerre Blanc.
125 g Salted butter
125 g Heavy cream
1 Egg yolk
1 Shallot or a small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Mustard
1 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Ketchup
A pinch of Cayenne pepper/Red chili powder
Add all these ingredients to a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Place the sauce pan on the heat and whisk till you get a lovely, smooth sauce.
This sauce can be reheated just before serving. It tastes particularly great the next day.