Of course, you can even now, with no trouble at all, find anywhere in England a pork pie that will sit on your stomach all day. In the open-air market at Oxford the longest lines are still for the frozen food truck, with its list of cornish pasties, shepherd's pies, curries and egg-and-bacon flans.
But nowadays the fish-and-chips shops in London are being elbowed by wine bars. There are vast campaigns for Good Food and for Real Beer. The Oxfordshire Campaign for Nursery Education is publishing the Children's Guide to Pubs, where children are welcome and catered to rather than relegated to wait in the car while their parents quaff in comfort. And the English countryside is dotted with a new species that is the object of study from visitors the world over: The English Country House.
The English Country House is the closest anyone has come to a commercial version of very good, very rich friends. The idea is for potential innkeepers to seek beautiful old estates to convert into hotels, but very small hotels with maybe a dozen rooms and extensive gardens.
The staffs are sometimes as plentiful as the guests, and the furnishings are period and perfect. Everything is lavished with the kinds of flower arrangements that are called "important." And most important of all is the chef, probably quite young and usually quite adventurous in his approach to food.
For chefs the country houses form a sort of country-wide salon, an informal club of ambitious professionals who keep abreast of each other's work and compete for recognition. For these young chefs it is a rare opportunity to run their own kitchens serving a small dining room in lavish style.
Among the earliest of the country houses were Sharrow Bay in the Lake District and Gravetye Manor near East Grinstead southwest of London, and both are still among the most respected.
Gravetye is run by Peter Herbert, who acts as a sort of godfather to the movement from his immensely popular -- and proper -- Elizabethan stone mansion amid 30 acres of manicured gardens all coordinated as to color and texture. The 14 bedchambers and the public rooms are paneled in old, old oak and punctuated with stone fireplaces and leaded windows.
Like most of the country houses, Gravetye stocks its larder with luxuries -- foie gras, caviar, crayfish, lobster. Its gardens supply many of the vegetables. And along with its New English cooking there is also a bow to tradition: The menu includes savories such as welsh rarebit, and suggests, "Please say if you prefer your vegetables well done."
Chef Allan Garth injects old standbys with personal touches; his chicken liver pa te' contrasts green peppercorn heat with the sweetness of raisins, and his gravlax, arranged like a flower with petals edged in green herbs, has been cured with mustard as well as dill. He serves that very English fish -- brill -- under a red-gold blanket of mustard and onion farce; his mousses are flavored with marzipan and armagnac, sauced with peach and raspberry pure'es. And the wine cellar maintains a wealth of old-fashioned virtues.
Equally old-fashioned but much newer, Buckland Manor was opened by a London accountant and his wife less than three years ago, although its Cotswold stones date back to the 13th century. The inn, with its 11 bedchambers, is served by a staff of 38 including two full-time gardeners for the formal rose garden, croquet lawn, putting green, swimming pool, wooded walks and orchards. As in many country houses, the guest rooms are stocked with fruit and flowers, mineral water and bathrobes, all manner of toiletries and remote control television. Dinner is ordered while you sip sherry or champagne in the parlor, and the wine list is a lovingly devised collection. Whatever can be grown on the premises is. And whatever can be made on the premises -- right down to the whole-wheat rolls and melba toast -- is made there. The breakfast grapefruit and orange juices are squeezed the night before only so that the noise does not disturb late sleepers.
The 28-year-old chef, Robert Ellsmore, learned under Anton Mosimann of the Dorchester in London, who is considered by some not just England's finest but one of Europe's finest new-style chefs. Ellsmore teams his chicken mousse with brie and in summer elaborates corn on the cob with herbed beurre blanc. His menus are in French but his English roots are apparent in the two-inch-thick filet mignon of outstanding English beef stuffed with stilton and wrapped with lean bacon. And the American preference for cold drinks also gets a nod: "My ice machine knows about Americans," said Adrienne Berman, the proprietor.
Country houses are concentrating in the Lake District, in the Cotswolds and in Devonshire -- in other words, where people want to spend their holidays anyway. North of the Cotswolds and nine miles from Stratford-on-Avon is Mallory Court, a 10-room inn on a tiny road near Leamington.
Small-town though its location is, the inn is quite formal. Flowers are everywhere, on the drapes, wallpapers and sheets as well as amassed in vases. And rooms are stocked with everything from bath sponges to hair dryers to ice water with crystal goblets. The Blenheim room, once the master bedroom of the mansion, has an extraordinary art deco bathroom -- with free-standing chrome shower and twin tubs -- that overlooks the herb gardens, rose gardens, swimming pool and fields.
After visiting a few country houses, one grows to expect the exquisite little canape's with a champagne cocktail in front of the fireplace to nibble while ordering dinner. One considers normal the thin homemade melba toasts and the crusty homemade rolls. And is not surprised when the very young sommelier at Mallory Court knows his wines as a mother knows her children and equally loves to boast of them. As for the wondrously silky chicken quenelles stuffed with walnuts and roquefort that chef Allan Holland constructs -- well, one so easily becomes accustomed to excellence.
Gidleigh Park in Devon is about as far off the road as a car might get, set on 30 acres of woodland with a river running through. Eight years ago Americans Paul and Kay Henderson turned the home into a 12-bedroom inn and hired John Webber -- who had also trained under Mosimann -- to join Kay in the kitchen.
Between them they devise tarts of quail eggs and smoked salmon mousse, veal and kidneys with dual sauces of white wine cream and of madeira and sherry vinegar, wild local salmon with a tarragon butter sauce and fresh pineapple topped with a frozen vanilla mousse, black pepper and a caramel Tia Maria sauce. Even more glorious than the cooking are the ingredients that are cooked: tiny whole carrots, infant potatoes, local fish, Scotch beef, Dutch veal, English lamb and pitchers of clotted cream from cows that are known by name. The cream, of course, also appears at teatime.
The wine list is unusual in its concentration on American wines, but is otherwise also extraordinary -- it even includes a '64 Lebanese wine. If Gidleigh Park has a particularly cosmopolitan air, it is justified, for the staff receives travel allowances and Webber has been to the U.S. twice.
Castles, too, qualify as country houses; in Taunton at The Castle you can sit under a tapestry in a medieval lounge to order your soup of john dory fish with minced oysters or breast of local quail on mixed lettuces. Duck is carved into long thin strips and arranged on a not-too-sweet peach sauce of luscious color, accompanied by a pepper souffle'. For dessert armagnac and white chocolate ice cream has figs folded into it. Chef Chris Oakes is young and still inconsistent, but immensely imaginative.
And in a spirit of camaraderie these chefs recommend each other's inns, and are likely to send visitors to lunch at the Carved Angel in Dartmouth, where by the sea you can eat the perfect simple fish dinner: grilled dover sole with fresh peas and new potatoes. For greater adventure you can have crudites of baby vegetables with three sauces or salmon in a golden buttery sauce with samphire -- a very fashionable tangy sea vegetable also known as sea beans. Dessert is pure Devon -- a bowl of local berries with thick clotted cream.
Chefs from all over will also send friends to Hambleton Hall which overlooks Rutland reservoir a couple hours north of London. Despite the grand staircases and magnificent flower arrangements and amenities to match the best, I found less luck there than most -- dry sliced steak and fatty slippery duck mated with harshly seasoned vegetables. Only the appetizers were particularly good -- delicious foie gras terrine with fresh currants and near-raw kidneys roasted in suet with what we know as "mountain oysters" and bitter orange sauce.
While most country houses are in traditonal styles, Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, just opened last year by chef Raymond Blanc, is quite modern. And quite expensive, even by country house standards (with a cover charge for dinner on top of service).
But Blanc is in the running to be considered England's best chef, and one wouldn't doubt it from a dish like the following: a combination appetizer of exceptionally flavorful quail and fleshy wild mushrooms, sauced with essence of quail and mushrooms; asparagus in puff pastry; and corn pancake with foie gras. Salmon tartare was formed into a tiny cake frosted with sour cream and decorated with dill and caviar. Scallops and their roe accompanied a flan of roe on a thin bed of spinach and custard seemingly cooked just by the heat of the plate.
And though a student was practicing his carving techniques on our pigeon in truffle sauce, that bird baked in a handsomely decorated salt crust was as juicy, gamey, crusty and delectable as a pigeon might aspire to be. Dessert of frozen Grand Marnier parfait was all dressed up in a tiny handled cassolette in a caramel cage. Afterwards, too, there were delicacies -- fresh brandied cherries in fondant, tiny mirroirs of cassis and lacy almond tuiles.
Blanc, like Mosimann and the Roux brothers -- of Waterside and Gavroche restaurants -- has developed a cult. And the closest proteges are running his old restaurant, Le Petit Blanc, on the outskirts of Oxford. Here also are Blanc's signature baby vegetables, which the staff members pick themselves at 6 a.m. four times a week. But the food is far less expensive (and less ambitious), the setting less formal. Chef John Burton-Race, 28, makes a white chocolate terrine that tastes almost like clotted cream, and he presents his food with a special artistry; his avocado with crab and pink grapefruit is as pretty as many a grand buffet.
These young culinary evangelists are generally started on their missions from the kitchens of London, particularly from the grand hotels. But except for Blanc, four chefs stand out as sources -- the Roux brothers, Anton Mosimann and Pierre Koffmann at Tante Claire, himself taught by the Roux brothers.
If ever a restaurant demonstrated the meaning of alchemy it is Tante Claire. The dining room is ordinary -- long and narrow, with striped wallpaper and modest prints on the wall. The wine list is good, the sommelier is very polished and the menu is short and sweet, with little description to pull you in one direction or another. But the food, deceptively simple, is extraordinary.
A cold sausage of foie gras looks rustic, cut in a thick round slab. But those chunks of foie gras have never been better complemented than by tiny green beans and shreds of carrot to contrast with the unctuousness. Long pink slices of lamb were so tender one wondered what could have made such texture, and the delicate meat on a bed of spinach with mild cooked whole cloves of garlic melded into a haunting taste. Rabbit was raised to a new level with its meat browned and crusty but still very tenderly juicy, on a herbed cream sauce that somehow intensified the meat's flavor.
As for the Roux brothers, they are controversial. Their food is fussy or complex, depending on your point of view. But Waterside, outside of London in Bray, is as romantically beautiful a riverside restaurant as ever was built. Fish is braided, mousses are wrapped, and noodles are stuffed, but the simpler the better here: lamb mignons, chicken breast and raspberry souffle' were superb but the more tortured the food looked, the worse it tasted. At Gavroche, in town, the cooking seemed more consistently professional though it still ranged from bland to oversalted. Again the ingredients -- lamb, tiny chickens -- were superb, and here the sauces were less likely to be overthickened or oversweetened.
For old-fashioned virtue the Connaught is London's bellwether. You want to know how exquisite a standard mixed platter of seafood in cream can be? Try it here. And do you wonder what would be the perfect cre me bru le'e or bread pudding? The English practically invented custards, and the Connaught protects their preeminence.
But the grandest source of modern inspiration is the menu surprise by Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester Terrace Room. The room itself is pastel art deco, all velvets and silks. And the food is even more beautiful. Bread brought in a bread basket. Mousse de foie in an aspic imbedded with tiny vegetable flowers. Miniature mushroom turnovers. Thin slices of salmon barely cooked, just glazed with strands of sorrel in its sauce. Lamb with vegetables in the tiniest perfect bits. And after dinner the chocolates in a woven chocolate basket.
The Leadenhall Market in the City of London, demonstrating at the retail level the new English fascination with food, displays berries in profusion -- loganberries, raspberries, strawberries, black and white currants, blackberries, gooseberries small and large. Melons are imported from Israel, plums and aspargus from the U.S., papayas from Brazil, lychees, figs, mangoes from the world over. Its fish range from tiny fresh shrimp with their heads to huge crabs the size of Dungeness crabs. In this urban public market England's excitement with food is obvious.
And the restaurants show the commitment to the ceremony of dining -- they serve breakfast and morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. They divide their menus not just by foods but by temperatures: cold dishes, hot dishes, warm dishes.
True, England's variety does not necessarily imply quality. If there is any doubt of that, take a look at the Oxford market: puppy meal, Go Cat, dry chews shaped as shoes and pretzels, Bonies, Cheesnax, Chicstics. There are 18 of these specialties, all dog foods. Still, in England as in America, tastes are changing. STEAMED FILLET OF SALMON WITH TARRAGON AND BUTTER SAUCE (From Gidleigh Park) (4 servings) 3 cups fish stock (or clam juice) 2 carrots, cut as finely as possible into thin julienne 4 leeks, (tops removed) finely sliced 1 shallot, chopped 1 cup dry white wine Juice of 1 lemon 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus extra for foil 1/4 cup whipping cream Ground pepper 2-pound salmon fillet, cut across the grain 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves Salt Cayenne pepper
To prepare the sauce, bring the fish stock to a boil, blanch half of the vegetables for 2 minutes, remove and refresh them in cold water, and set aside for future use.
Add the shallots and white wine to the stock, and over high heat reduce to about 3 tablespoons of liquid. Add a few drops of lemon juice, and put in a blender at high speed for 2 or 3 seconds.* (Preheat the blender jar with hot water before adding the fish glaze).
Turn the blender to half speed, and slowly add the cubes of butter one or two at a time, then add the cream and season with pepper to taste. Do not allow the sauce to cool while mixing in the cream and butter.
To prepare the fish, place salmon fillets on buttered foil, cover with the raw vegetables, and one-third of the tarragon leaves, and season with salt, cayenne and remaining lemon juice. Fold over the foil and seal, and steam. Cooking time will depend on the type of steamer used. With good fresh salmon, the fish is done when the flakes just start to separate. With a large stove-top steamer, cook it about 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the remaining tarragon leaves and vegetables to the sauce and cook carefully (do not allow it to boil). Check seasoning, pour the sauce onto warm plates, and place the salmon on top.
* The fish glaze is so reduced that it may not reach the blades of a blender unless you make enough for say 12 people. We recommend you triple the recipe. It will keep for a month in a refrigerator, longer in a freezer, before adding cream and butter. VEAL MEDALLIONS WITH WHITE WINE AND CREAM SAUCE AND MADEIRA AND SHERRY VINEGAR SAUCE (From Gidleigh Park) (4 servings) 2 pounds medallions of veal loin or fillet 1 1/2 pounds veal kidney, trimmed of all fat and sinew FOR WHITE WINE AND CREAM SAUCE: 3 teaspoons shallots, very finely chopped 3/4 cup dry white wine 1/4 bay leaf 3/4 cup veal stock (or chicken broth) 1 cup whipping cream FOR MADEIRA AND SHERRY WINE VINEGAR SAUCE: 1 1/4 cups madeira plus 1 tablespoon 1 1/4 cups veal stock (or chicken broth) 1/2 teaspoon strong-flavored sherry wine vinegar (use this to taste) 2 teaspoons arrowroot (approximately)
To prepare the white wine and cream sauce, bring wine to a boil with shallots and bay leaf and reduce by three-quarters. Add the veal stock and reduce again by half. Add the cream to the mixture and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Season to taste and remove the bay leaf, but leave the shallots.
To prepare the madeira and sherry wine vinegar sauce, reduce 1 1/4 cups madeira, veal stock and sherry wine vinegar by half in a thick-bottomed pan. Dilute the arrowroot with a tablespoon of madeira, and whisk just enough of it into the sauce so that the sauce coats the back of a spoon. It is important that the sauce be slightly thick, so that the two sauces will stay separate on the plate.
To prepare the veal, season the kidney and medallions and saute' them separately: to keep them pink, cook the kidney about 6 minutes, and the medallions for about 3 minutes each side.
Add a few drops of sherry wine vinegar to the madeira sauce, then reheat both sauces. Put some of each sauce on a 12-13-inch plate -- pour carefully from the outside of the plate, letting them meet in the center without mixing.
Dab the fat off the meat and place the veal medallions on the cream sauce. Slice the kidney finely and place it on the madeira sauce. FRESH PINEAPPLE, WITH FROZEN VANILLA MOUSSE, GROUND BLACK PEPPER AND A CARAMEL AND TIA MARIA SAUCE (From Gidleigh Park) (4 servings) FOR THE FROZEN VANILLA MOUSSE: 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons water 6 egg yolks 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 1/2 cups whipping cream FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE: 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons water 1/3 cup fresh orange juice 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated 1/4 cup lemon juice 3 tablespoons Tia Maria 2 tablespoons butter FOR SERVING: Freshly ground pepper 4 3/4-inch slices fresh pineapple
Make the frozen mousse by combining the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Beat egg yolks in a mixer, pouring sugar syrup in at the beginning, for 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be thick, smooth and pale yellow. Add vanilla. Lightly whip the cream and fold into the egg/sugar mixture. Freeze in a covered container (for 5 to 7 days maximum).
For the caramel sauce, cook the sugar and water in a thick-bottomed pan on medium heat until the mixture is golden brown, being careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and add orange juice, orange zest and lemon juice. Add the Tia Maria and reduce slightly. Brown the butter in a hot pan, then pour it into the caramel, keeping back any sediment.
Grind black pepper onto the pineapple slices, place a scoop of vanilla mousse in the center, and coat with the hot caramel sauce. Serve as quickly as possible. BUCKLAND MANOR CORN ON THE COB WITH WINE BUTTER SAUCE (Makes about 1 cup) 3 tablespoons white wine 3 tablespoons vermouth 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon shallots, chopped 3 tablespoons whipping cream 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter 1 tablespoon chopped chives 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh chervil
Combine wine, vermouth, vinegar and shallots in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and let reduce to 1 teaspoon. Add 1 tablespoon whipping cream and remove from heat. Beat in half a pound butter, bits at a time. Keep warm on top of a warm, but not boiling double boiler.
In a separate saucepan, combine chives, parsley, basil, chervil and remaining cream. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk into butter sauce and serve over corn on the cob (or out of corn season, use with any vegetables or with fish). ALLAN GARTH'S BAKED BRILL STRINDBERG (From Gravetye Manor) (4 servings) 1 1/4 pound fillet of brill (grey or lemon sole or winter flounder may be substituted) 1 1/2 tablespoons butter plus extra for dish Salt and pepper to taste 2 onions, chopped 1/8 cup mild sweet mustard 1 egg yolk 1 1/2 cups whipping cream 2 cups fish stock (or clam juice) 2 teaspoons dill, chopped
Cut the fish into four equal portions. Season and place in a buttered dish.
Sweat the onions by gently saute'eing them 2-3 minutes in butter. Beat egg yolk and mustard, then combine with onions. Thinly cover the fish with this farce mixture.
Reduce the cream and 1 cup fish stock or clam juice by half.
Pour the remaining fish stock around the fish in the baking dish and bake the fish in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes. The farce should be slightly brown, and may be further colored under the grill. Correct the seasoning of the sauce and add the dill. Pour the sauce onto the plate and serve the drained fish on it. ALLAN GARTH'S MARZIPAN MOUSSE (From Gravetye Manor) (10 servings) 1/4-ounce package gelatin 4 tablespoons cold water 2 cups milk 14 ounces marzipan 8 egg yolks 4 tablespoons amaretto 2 cups whipping cream, whipped
Soak the gelatin in 4 tablespoons cold water.
Heat the milk and the marzipan slowly.
Whisk the egg yolks with the amaretto. Pour over the hot milk and marzipan, whisking until throughly combined.
Return to a clean pan, and stir over low heat until it coats the back of the spoon, being careful not to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the soaked gelatin.
When the mixture is cooled, fold in the whipped cream and pour into desired molds. Leave to set for two hours. PEACH SAUCE 4 fresh peeled peaches (can substitute frozen unsweetened peaches) 2 tablespoons apricot jam
If peaches are fresh, poach in 1 cup water for 12 to 15 minutes, until tender. Cool. Frozen peaches may be used as is. Liquidize in a blender or food processor with jam, adding cooking liquid as needed to reach desired thickness. Pass through a strainer. RASPBERRY SAUCE 1/2 pound fresh or frozen, unsweetened raspberries 2 tablespoons raspberry jam 1 teaspoon kirsch (optional)
Liquidize fresh or defrosted frozen raspberries with jam. Strain. Add kirsch if desired. LE PETIT BLANC'S TERRINE DE CHOCOLATE DU PETIT BLANC (15 servings)
There seems to be an international contest to invent the most delectable white chocolate dessert. This one, if you use imported white chocolate -- which is made with cocoa butter -- would certainly be among the finalists. 1 pound imported white chocolate 3/4 cup white corn syrup 3/4 cup whipping cream 1 pound soft unsalted butter
Cut chocolate into cubes and put to melt in the top of a double boiler. Boil the corn syrup and cream together. Allow to cool slightly and gradually add the mixture to the melted chocolate. Whisk together well and set aside to cool. Beat butter until completely soft and set aside. Beat chocolate mixture in a mixer on maximum speed for at least 10 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Fold chocolate mixture into butter very slowly in a figure of eight. This must be done very carefully or you could crack or split the mixture. Using a spatula, pour mixture into a terrine, smooth the top with a warm palette knife, then freeze for 45 minutes. Remove from freezer, unmold and put in the refrigerator. Serve in very small slices. THE ROUX BROTHERS' GOUJONNETTES DE SOLE AU SAUTERNES (Goujonnettes of Sole with Sauternes) (4 servings)
This simple, light dish has great delicacy of flavor and color. The blending of the sauternes and pistachios is very subtle. This is an easy recipe to prepare, which only needs 10 minutes attention just before serving. 2 sole, each weighing about 1 1/4 pounds, or 4 fillets 2 large potatoes 2 good-sized carrots 6 tablespoons butter Pinch sugar Salt 4 large white mushrooms 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts 4 shallots 3/4 cup fish stock 1 1/4 cups imported sauternes wine 1 cup whipping cream Freshly ground white pepper
Using a fish filleting knife, fillet the sole and remove the skins. Cut each fillet into 3 strips, or goujonnettes, rinse in cold water or wipe with a damp cloth and pat dry. Place in the refrigerator.
Peel, wash and cut each potato lengthwise onto 4 slices or pave's, about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in a dish towel.
Peel and wash carrots. Using a small, sharp knife, 'turn' them into the shape of 24 small garlic cloves. Put them into a shallow pan with a little water, 1 1/4 tablespoons butter and a pinch each of sugar and salt and cook until tender. Set aside.
Remove and discard stalks from the mushrooms. Wash the caps or wipe with a damp cloth and pat dry. Using a small knife, 'turn' them like the carrots or finely dice them. Saute' in a little butter.
Make a pistachio butter by pouring boiling water over the pistachios and skin them. Place in a blender of food processor with 3 tablespoons butter and pure'e. Rub through a fine sieve and reserve.
Twist up each goujonnette and insert a toothpick through each end to hold the shape. Stick 3 along the length of each pave'. Butter a skillet or gratin dish. Peel and finely chop the shallots and scatter them over the dish. Put in the potato pave's, the fish stock and sauternes. Season with salt.
Set the pan over high heat until the liquid begins to simmer. Cover with buttered waxed paper and cook in a 375-degree oven for 4 minutes. When the sole is cooked, remove the toothpicks and arrange the goujonnettes on a serving dish. Discard the potatoes. Set the pan over high heat and reduce the cooking liquid by two-thirds. Add the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Beat in the pistachio butter and correct the seasoning if necessary.
To serve pass the sauce through a sieve directly onto the goujonnettes. Sprinkle over the hot 'turned' carrots and mushrooms and serve immidiately.
From "The Roux Brothers New Classic Cuisine," Barron's, $24.95. THE ROUX BROTHERS' SOUFFLE ELEONORA (Souffle's Eleonora) (6 servings)
The marriage of the different ingredients in these souffle's make them creamy, delicate and fresh-tasting. Your guest will be delightfully surprised by them. Lining the bottom of the baking dishes with waxed paper or foil prevents the souffle' mixture from being splashed by water if it happens to boil. 1 pound, 2 ounces spinach 1/2 pound tomatoes (about 3-4 medium) 5 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 ounces fresh flat tagliatelli 6 ounces imported gruye re cheese 1 1/8 pound bayonne or parma ham or prosciutto 1/2 cup flour 2 1/3 cups milk 5 egg yolks Pinch of nutmeg Salt 2/3 cup heavy cream 12 egg whites Freshly ground black pepper
Remove the stalks and wash the leaves from the spinach. Cook in boiling, salted water until barely tender, refresh in cold water, drain and squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Set aside.
Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water, peel, seed and chop. Cook for a few minutes in a skillet with 1 1/4 teaspoons butter, then keep in a warmish place.
Cook the tagliatelli until 'al dente' in boiling, salted water, refresh and set aside.
Cut 6 very fine slices gruye re to cover the souffle' dishes. These should be 4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches deep. Very finely grate the remaining cheese. Brush the insides of the dishes with melted butter and coat them with grated gruye re. Reserve the rest.
Slice the ham very finely, then cut onto small strips and set aside.
Make a white roux by melting 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan set over a low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook gently for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
Bring the milk to the boil, then pour it over the roux, whisking with a wire whisk. Set the pan over high heat and, stirring continuously, bring the mixture to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and beat in the egg yolks. Season with a pinch of nutmeg and salt to taste. Keep in a warm place.
In a shallow pan set over high heat, reduce the cream until it becomes slightly syrupy. Add the cooked noodles, spinach and ham. Bring to the boil, then keep warm.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Using a whisk, gently incorporate one-third of the egg whites into the souffle' mixture, then using a spatula, fold in the remainder, together with half the remaining grated gruye re. Correct the seasoning if necessary.
Fill the souffle' dishes one-third full with the souffle' mixture, then sprinkle over the remaining grated gruye re. Divide the spinach mixture and tomato between the dishes. Pile the remaining souffle' mixture into the dishes, so that it comes about a half-inch above the top of the dishes. Lay a thin slice of gruye re on each souffle'.
Place the souffle' dishes in a deep, ovenproof dish lined with waxed paper or foil. Pour in enough very hot water (about 160 degrees) to come halfway up the sides of the souffle' dishes and bake in a 450-degree oven for 12 minutes.
From "The Roux Brothers New Classic Cuisine," Barron's, $24.95. THE CARVED ANGEL'S SAUCE ROUGEAILLE (Makes about 1 1/2 cups) 1 pound tomatoes 2 tablespoons French coarse-grain mustard Chopped parsley Salt and pepper
Drop tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove, peel, core and seed. Chop finely. Add the mustard, parsley and seasoning.
From "Fish Times Thirity, Recipies from a Dartmouth Restaurant." Suttons (Paignton), 1980.)