Before concluding this chapter a few words or so must be said regarding garnishes. It cannot be denied that of late these have been fearfully overdone, with the result that in many cases it is absolutely impossible to tell the nature of the dish set before one. I am not now alluding to those awful specimens of how "not to do it," exhibited occasionally by over clever, but fifth-rate cooks, who torture a nice quiet shoulder of mutton into the semblance of a hideous duck, with glass eyes and a gruesome tail of shred sinews; or who send up one's much longed-for ice in the form of a candle with a wick of burnt almond, in a (sham) Dresden candlestick!) Such things are all very well for a wager, but are not high class cookery, in any shape or form.
Every dish should be as daintily served and decorated as is consistent with its nature, and with the least amount of handling. Any garnish that suggests the "pawing" (I can use no more refined phrase) of one's food is distasteful, and no amount of so-called decoration will make up to the connoisseur for the repulsion such dishes evoke! Some years ago there was a craze (American I believe in origin) for coloured dinners, when every dish had to bear its share of a certain fixed scheme of colour. Now, such an idea is all very well when the colour chosen can be obtained naturally, as, say, a red and green, or a brown and cream mixture; but when it comes to the host's liveries, or the hostess's toilette being matched by the menu, it is carrying the idea too far, and is an atrocity one must admit, sorrowfully, that women alone could have inaugurated. Their food is far too serious a thing with men to put it at the mercy of any colouring bottles, however harmless. For savoury dishes, red, brown, cream, green of various shades, and yellow, can all be produced readily by the use of various vegetables, eggs, milk, Ac., not to mention prawns, caviare, olives, etc, without dragging in ail kinds of extraneous matter, tasteless at best, but very often utterly subversive of the original dish to which they are added.
Finally, a few words must be said with regard to rechauffes, from which some of the daintiest, if also the homeliest entrees can be produced. The great secret in preparing these is care. The British cook reads rechauffe, and correctly too as far as that goes, as "heated up," or "warmed over," to use her own detestable phrase, when she does not offer the even more repulsive "hotted-up." If properly prepared, meat is often nicer the second day than the first, for many things gain by keeping. Take curry for instance, always (if properly made) better the second day than the first; whilst a stew, or a fricassee, not to speak of a hash, is immensely improved by the prolonged steeping of the meat in its gravy, on the condition, of course, that it is never allowed to re-boil in the course of its reheating. Our ancestors knew this when they cherished those delicious hash dishes of theirs with their dainty little spirit lamps under them, and the outer hot-water jacket often seen with them; these same dishes, by the way, have been reintroduced from America as novelties, under the name of "chafingdishes." Any persons possessing one of these articles have only themselves to blame if the hash is a failure.
Try it this way and it is sure to be a success, if only the directions are carefully followed out: Have ready some nicely made brown sauce (if the meat is brown, say mutton), add to this a few drops of essence of anchovy, a very little Harvey (for table cookery cruet sauces are permissible), a tiny squeeze of lemon, a dust of cayenne or coralline pepper, and, lastly, a little, very finely-minced parsley and chives or shallot. Lay the meat into this and leave it to steep, covered, till the dish is wanted; then light the lamp, and let it all just not come to the boil, and serve at once. This will be found a very different dish from the hash as ordinarily understood. White meat can be heated in the same way, only using white instead of brown sauce, flavouring it with lemon juice and peel, a very few drops of chilli vinegar, and a little mushroom ketchup, being careful to keep the colour, by the addition of a spoonful or two of new milk or cream, to a very pale cream if it is not actually white, which it can easily be if bechamel be used for the foundation instead of veloute.
A salmi of game is made in precisely the same way, the only secret lying in the flavouring.
It is difficult to class entrees very definitely as the various kinds are apt to run into one another. For instance, chicken fillets are frequently served on a border of quenelle meat, or farce; or cutlets are finished off with a financiere ragout, etc.
Moreover, it must be remembered that entrees are not necessarily always made of meat, but can be prepared from fish or vegetables, but such dishes will be given separately in the series set apart for these.