Lamb cutlets, with the end 1 inch of bone scraped clean of meat, coated with egg and rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and finely-chopped ham, cooked and presented with vegetables and a 'Reform' sauce.
The dish was invented in the 1830s by Alexis Soyer, head cook at the Reform Club in London's Pall Mall, then, as now, a favourite meeting place for politicians. It reputedley arose following the late arrival of a difficult and hungry club member and a resourceful chef who had to make the most of what he happened to have in his kitchen.
Original Receipt in The Gastronomic Regenerator by Alexis Soyer, 1848
Cotelettes de Mouton a la Reform
Chop a quarter of a pound of lean cooked ham very fine and mix it with the same quantity of bread crumbs, then have ten very nice cotelettes, lay them flat on your table season lightly with pepper and salt egg over with a paste brush and throw them into the ham and bread crumbs then beat them lightly with a knife. Put ten spoonfuls of oil in a saute pan, place it over the fire and when quite hot lay in the cotelettes, fry nearly ten minutes (over a moderate fire) of a light brown colour; to ascertain when done press your knife upon the thick part, if quite done it will feel rather firm; possibly they may not all be done at one time, so take out those that are ready first and lay them on a cloth till the others are done; as they require to be cooked with the gravy in them, dress upon a thin border of mashed potatoes in a crown with the bones pointing outwards; sauce over with a pint of the sauce reform and serve. If for a large dinner you may possibly be obliged to cook the cotelettes half an hour before in which case they must be very underdone and laid in a clean saute pan with two or three spoonfuls of thin glaze keep them in the hot closet moistening them occasionally with the glaze with a paste brush until ready to serve the same remark applies to every description of cotelettes
Sauce a la Reform
Cut up two middling sized onions into thin slices and put them into a stewpan with two sprigs of parsley two of thyme two bay leaves two ounces of lean uncooked ham half a clove of garlic half a blade of mace and an ounce of fresh butter stir them ten minutes over a sharp fire then add two tablespoonfuls of Tarragon vinegar and one of Chili vinegar, boil it one minute then add a pint of brown sauce or sauce Espagnole three tablespoonfuls of preserved tomates and eight of consomme place it over the fire until boiling; then put it at the corner; let it simmer ten minutes, skim it well then place it again over the fire, keeping it stirred and reduce until it adheres to the back of the spoon; then add a good tablespoonful of red currant jelly and half do of chopped mushrooms, season a little more if required with pepper and salt stir it until the jelly is melted then pass it through a tammie into another stewpan. When ready to serve make it hot and add the white of a hard boiled egg cut into strips half an inch long and thick in proportion, four white blanched mushrooms, one gherkin, two green Indian pickles and half an ounce of cooked ham or tongue, all cut in strips like the white of egg, do not let it boil afterwards. This sauce must be poured over whatever it is served with.
Auguste Escoffier, the 'Emperor of Chefs' provided this simplified explanation in 1903...
Original Receipt in Escoffier 1903;
COTELETTES DE MOUTON A LA REFORME
Trim six mutton cutlets; season them; dip them in melted butter, and roll them in bread-crumbs combined with finely-chopped ham in the proportion of a third of the weight of the bread-crumbs. Now cook them gently in clarified butter. Dish them in a circle on a hot dish, and send the following sauce to the table with them.
Put into a small stewpan and boil one pint of half-glaze sauce and one-half pint of ordinary Poivrade sauce. Complete with a garnish composed of one-half oz. of gherkins, one-half oz. of the hard-boiled white of an egg, one oz. of salted tongue, one oz. of truffles, and one oz. of mushrooms. All these to be cut Julienne-fashion and short.
Modern adaptation reproduced by by Mark Hix. From http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/
The recipe has been altered over time - I've even seen black truffle included - but this is pretty close to the original. I wouldn't suggest using cheap meat of course, but coating the cutlets in breadcrumbs keeps them juicy and seals in the flavour. I quite like to keep the garnish separate so it can be eaten as it is or mixed into the sauce.
8 or 12 lamb cutlets, French trimmed (ie. with the fat taken off) and flattened slightly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
50g cooked ham, very finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
60-70g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
A good knob of butter
for the sauce
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Half clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp flour
1/2 tsp tomato purée
2 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
300ml beef stock, made up from a good stock cube will do fine
40g sliced tongue or ham, or both, cut into thin 3cm strips
1 small cooked beetroot weighing about 70g, peeled and cut into strips like the tongue
2 large gherkins cut into strips like the tongue
White of 1 large hard boiled egg, shredded into strips the same size as the tongue
First make the sauce: gently cook the shallots, garlic and cayenne pepper in half of the butter for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir well. Add the vinegar and redcurrant jelly and simmer f for a minute, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Season to taste, and whisk in the remaining butter.
Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs with the ham and parsley. Season the lamb cutlets and pass through the egg then the breadcrumbs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and cook the cutlets for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden, adding the butter towards the end.
To serve, add the shredded tongue, beetroot, gherkin and egg white to the sauce, or mix and serve separately. Eat with potato dauphinoise.
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