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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Ravigote Sauce

The original plan was that I would make a summery dinner for my cousin at her house in New Hampshire. She fired up the backyard grill for vegetable and mozzarella “Napoleon” stacks, we tossed a pasta salad together and I don’t remember what else...but then some friends called, a few more showed up at the door, and then they invited their friends. Soon we had a houseful of guests and I just kept cooking. More Napoleons were served, I improvised a few pasta dishes, found greens for salad, whisked together a dressing, and quick-thawed some chicken breasts, which also went on the grill, slathered in barbecue sauce.

In my writer’s imagination, as we made a game of muscial chairs around the dining table, I thought of the epic scene from Nana by Emile Zola, where the reckless, scheming courtesan threw a sprawling, gorgeous dinner party with makeshift tables filling all the rooms of her apartment in order to cram in everybody who rang the doorbell, both invited guests and crashers alike.

The menu at at this fictional bacchanal included an asparagus puree and consommé for starters, truffled rabbit and parmesan gnocchi mid-course, and mains such as chicken à la maréchale, foie gras, and filet of sole with—ravigote sauce!

Ultimately, the party that Zola so delicious detailed didn’t go entirely well (the guests were suffocating because of the heat rising from the all the candelabra and each other; the wine uninspiring, you know), but it still lasted until dawn. I’ve never forgotten it.

Someday I might like to have a huge party and recreate the entire menu from Nana, but in the meantime I’ve taken great satisfaction in just making the ravigote sauce and serving it over steak.

Recipes for ravigote vary, but usually revolve around Dijon mustard, shallots, tarragon, and red or white wine vinegar and I’ll wager Daniel Boulud’s version is the best. Try the sauce hot or cold, with sole or steak, as I mentioned—or how about on top of a burger!

Ravigote Sauce
Adapted from Daniel Boulud


1⁄4 cup aged red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 cup cooking stock from Tête de Veau or beef stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup minced chives
3⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup minced chervil
1⁄2 cup minced tarragon
1⁄4 cup capers, rinsed and minced
2 small shallots, minced
1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
1 garlic clove


In a small saucepan, reduce the cooking liquid or stock by half over high heat, about 5 minutes. Cool, then transfer to a blender along with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Transfer to a bowl along with the chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, capers, shallots, and egg. Using a microplane, grate the garlic into the bowl, then stir everything to combine.

“Nana could not have produced a dozen napkins out of all her cupboards...and scorning to go to a restaurant, she had decided to make a restaurant come to her. This struck her as being more chic.”
Nana, Emile Zola

Thanks to Saveur magazine for the photo! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Peter. I lack the imagination to come up with super-yumminess to top beef and fish beyond the trite tried and true. This ought to help in spades in that regard!