In a classic fulfillment of the American dream, "Diamond" Jim Brady, born working class, worked his way from railroad baggage handler to salesman of railroad equipment and was rich by his mid-twenties. He owned an estimated $2 million in evening jewelry, and gave away as much to lady friends.
Brady liked to eat. George Rector, owner and proprietor of Rector's - Brady's favourite restaurant - described Brady as "the best 25 customers I ever had." According to historian Mark Kurlansky (about whom I enthuse in another post), he'd begin a dinner with "a gallon of orange juice and six dozen Lynnhaven oysters. The choice of Lynnhavens was typical of his gourmandism. A Chesapeake oyster, it was considered bland but had the distinction of being extremely large. He would then reputedly move on to crabs, turtles, ducks, steaks, maybe a partridge, and perhaps a twelve-egg souffle for dessert."
In Kurlansky's excellent book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, which details how that mollusc help shape the character and fortune of New York City for centuries, he gives the following account and recipe:
When [Brady] learned that everyone in Paris was talking about a sole-and-oyster dish at the Cafe Marguery, he demanded that Charles Rector add it to his repertoire. Rector yanked his son George out of Cornell and sent him to Paris to get the recipe. After eating the dish at Rector's, Brady said, "George, that sole was marvellous. I've had nine helpings and even right now, if you poured some of the sauce over a Turkish towel, I believe I could eat all of it." Rector assumed this was praise. This was the dish as served at Rector's:
Fillet of Sole Marguery a la Diamond Jim
Have 2 flounders filleted.
Place bones, skin, and heads in stewpan.
Add 1 pound inexpensive fish cleaned and cut into small pieces, 1/2 cup thinly sliced young carrots, and a small chopped leek, 3 sprigs of parsley, 10 whole peppercorns, 1 small bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme, 1 1/2 quarts cold water.
Bring to a boiling point very slowly and simmer until liquid is reduced to one pint, then strain through fine cheese cloth.
Place filets in buttered baking pan and pour over one cup fish stock.
Season with sprinkling of salt and pepper, and place in moderate oven (325 degrees) 15 to 20 minutes.
Carefully lift fillet from pan and arrange on hot ovenproof serving platter.
Garnish with 1 dozen poached oysters and 1 dozen boiled shrimps which have been shelled and cleaned.
Pour remaining fish stock into baking pan in which fillets were poached and simmer gently until
quantity is reduced to 3 or 4 tablespoons, no more.
Strain into top part of double boiler and add 4 tablespoons dry white wine, 1/4 pound butter.
Cook over hot water, stirring until butter is melted. (Have very little water in the lower part of double boiler, just enough to create a gentle steam.)
Add 4 egg yolks which have been well beaten.
Stir continuously until sauce is the consistency of a medium cream sauce.
Pour this creamy sauce over fish fillets, oysters, and shrimps, and place under broiler flame until nicely glazed or lightly browned. Allow one fillet per serving.