In Goldfinger (1959), we learn that, while in France, James Bond has a preference for dining at railway station restaurants, where there were ‘better than even chances’ that the food would be excellent. Naturally, then, when stopping overnight in Orléans during his epic drive through France and into Switzerland in pursuit of Goldfinger, Bond dines at the Buffet de la Gare, enjoying two oeufs cocotte à la crème, a sole meunière, and an ‘adequate’ Camembert.
James Bond’s view of station buffets did not simply reflect Ian Fleming’s own experiences. Thanks to an initiative of the French National Railway Company (SNCF), station restaurants had long enjoyed a reputation for serving good, regional dishes at reasonable prices. Such restaurants were identified as ‘buffets gastronomiques‘ and they included the buffet at Orléans station.
Typically, a meal at a buffet would comprise soup or an hors d’oeuvre, a fish or egg dish, a meat dish, some cheese, and, to finish, a piece of fruit or some ice cream – all for between an economical 600 and 765 francs. (So much for the idea that James Bond dines only at the most exclusive establishments.) Bond’s meal largely follows this menu, consisting of, as it does, an egg dish, a meat dish (in the form of fish), and some cheese.
The recipe presented here is inspired by a dish that was on the menu at the Buffet de la Gare at Orléans more-or-less during the time of Bond’s visit. The recipe for the original dish, attributed to a Monsieur Palies, concessionnaire at the restaurant, was included in Les Plats Régionaux des Buffets Gastronomiques, a collection of recipes from the menus of the various station restaurants published by SNCF in 1951.
To cook the chicken – see ‘Butter-basted chicken with watercress‘
For the sauce
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2-3 mushrooms, sliced
- 100ml red wine
- 100ml veal stock
- 40g butter
When the chicken is cooked (as specified in ‘Butter-basted chicken‘), remove the bird from the roasting tin and allow it to rest before dividing it into eight portions. Pour the juices in the tin into a bowl. These can be discarded.
Place the roasting tin on the hob over a medium flame. (If the tin isn’t flameproof, scrape any remaining juices and the adhering food particles into a frying pan or saucepan.) When the fats, food particles etc. begin to sizzle, add the shallots and mushrooms. Stir to coat the vegetables, then pour in the wine and then the stock, deglazing the pan. Allow the liquid to simmer fairly vigorously, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes until the volume has reduced by approximately a half. Add the butter and stir so that the butter is well mixed in. Continue to simmer until the sauce has become smooth and has thickened.
To serve, spoon the sauce onto plates and place pieces of the chicken on top. Accompany with green beans and fried or roast potato slices.