I used to wonder how chefs – or indeed anybody – came up with bright new recipes, using unanticipated flavours, and I have often suspected that most of it was accidental.
Now, with a bit more experience, I know that almost all of it is a result of adding creme fraiche or honey, or both. Practically anything tastes better if you add creme fraiche and honey.
However, the accident theory got a bit of a boost when I invented a new sauce yesterday. New to me, that is. It happened like this.
My wife and I were consuming an average dish of chicken from the supermarket, and it included a sauce described, with a certain amount of hyperbole, as creamy, bacon and mushroom. I was getting toward the end, and I was beginning to wonder if it had been worth the bother of cooking it. It was pretty dull.
I reached across for my glass of red wine (shiraz), which was nearly empty. As I lifted it toward my mouth, it struck something and fell from my hand. In a deft move – the kind for which I have become something of a legend – I caught it in the other hand. I expected the remaining wine to have fallen on to my plate or on to the table, or into my lap. But no – it had completely vanished.
I hope I’m getting the drama of the moment across to you. It was magic. The vanishing wine. Could I get it to reappear in the shape of a rabbit? Probably not.
I then noticed that there was an almost empty tub of Anchor butter on the table, and in it were the entire contents of my wine glass. Not just some of it, but all. Do not try this at home.
So I had a small amount of butter, accompanied by a small amount of wine. What should I do with it? Obviously, I should mix it together and pour in on to the remains of my chicken dish. Why wouldn’t I?
Reader, it was delicious. Transformational. I had created poulet au vin beurre, or something more accurately French.
Don’t tell me – you’ve been eating it for years. Everyone does it. I don’t care. For me it was just amazing. And I never saw it coming.