YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

La Creme de Careme : Recreate la grand cuisine in your own kitchen : Don't Eat the Socle

February 22, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

Care^me's most famous creations, his pieces montees, consist of pastries and confectionery displayed on elaborate stands called socles, which look as if they must be pottery. Actually, the stands were usually created in the kitchen out of such (mostly) edible ingredients as butter, marzipan, sugar, pastry and stale bread.

But some of the grandest were molded out of fat--by preference, sheep fat whitened with a little lemon juice, because of its hard, waxy consistency. A mixture of sheep and beef fat could be used if you were in a hurry or were planning to tint the fat and didn't require it to be perfectly white.

The decorations on the surface of the socle might be gum, pastry, wax, butter or even fresh leaves and flowers arranged on thread to make swags. To form colored butter into decorative shapes, Care^me advised putting it on ice and working it with a wooden chisel. If you've tinted the socle fat lilac, Care^me wrote, make the ornaments white and pink; if red, sky blue and yellow; if green, either bright or pale rose.

But whatever you did, you'd eat only the stuff displayed on it. The socle itself was strictly for looks.


This is a lovely recipe as it stands. Care^me's serving instructions are to mask it with a ragout of carp roe, crayfish tails, oysters, mushrooms, artichoke bottoms and truffles, which does seem like gilding the lily.


1 1/2 cups flour

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Put flour in large mixing bowl. Cut butter and shortening into small pieces and add to flour. Work mixture with pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal. Mix with hands or rubber spatula while adding ice water, 1 tablespoon at time, just until dough holds together. Turn dough out onto floured board and knead few times to combine ingredients thoroughly.

Pinch off lemon-sized portion of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside. Roll remaining dough out to fit 8-inch pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate and crimp edges. Prick bottom of dough all over and bake at 375 degrees 10 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.

Roll out reserved piece of dough and cut into decorative shapes such as fish or leaves to top pie filling. Keep decorative shapes covered in plastic wrap until use.


2 pounds salmon fillets

3 slices bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup minced shallots

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup dried mushrooms, soaked in warm water

2 tablespoons minced parsley



1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Remove bones from salmon. Cut fish into 1-inch chunks and set aside.

Saute bacon in butter until it starts to crisp. Add shallots and cook until shallots start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms and cook 5 minutes longer. Drain reconstituted mushrooms, chop and add to saute pan along with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until fresh mushrooms begin to brown and dried mushrooms soften, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add salmon pieces and stir gently. Transfer filling to prepared crust. Top filling with decorative crust shapes. Brush exposed crust and cutouts with egg wash. Bake at 375 degrees until crust is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.


1/4 cup butter

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons lemon juice



White pepper

Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside.

Put water in bottom of double boiler, bring to boil and lower heat to just below boiling. In top of double boiler, off heat, mix egg yolks and lemon juice, then set on bottom of double boiler and whisk eggs until smooth. Slowly whisk in melted butter until thick.

Remove from heat and season to taste with cayenne, salt and white pepper. Serve wedges of pie while hot and pass hollandaise.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

657 calories; 437 mg sodium; 291 mg cholesterol; 47 grams fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 31 grams protein; 0.58 gram fiber.


The idea of poaching brains in veal stock with bacon and other flavorings and then throwing the stock away is the kind of expensive showoffiness that many people associate with haute cuisine. It does give a nice flavor to the brains, though, and an elegant appearance, and to tell the truth, you needn't throw the stock away. You can reduce it to a sauce and serve it on, say, green beans. The aspic is strictly for looks and could be omitted. By the way, Care^me made mayonnaise with tarragon vinegar instead of lemon juice.


1 tablespoon gelatin

1 cup cold water or clarified veal stock

Sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit 1 minute. Place in saucepan and heat to simmer, stirring with wooden spoon. Pour into flat dish and chill until set.


2 pounds veal brains

2 quarts veal stock

12 slices bacon

1 lemon, sliced

4 cloves

1 onion, cut in half

3 sprigs thyme

Handful of fresh parsley

Rinse brains in several changes cold water. Put veal stock in saucepan, add brains and poach 20 minutes. Remove brains from stock with slotted spoon and slice. Reserve stock.

Los Angeles Times Articles