Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Crown, The Kennedy Dinner at Buckingham Palace and Sole Princesse


I binge-watched THE CROWN II – there, I said it. The show was diabolically addictive and nearly impossible to turn it off. I finished it in 2 days (8 episodes the first day and 2 episodes the second) and had period-film withdrawal when it came to an end --like I’d been kicked out of a dream.


Why????

The story is killer – and it’s bound fairly decently to British history, in all its ormolu bedizened glory.

      Queen Elizabeth II   Claire Foy      Prince Phillip      Matt Smith

The Crown I-II begins with Elizabeth II at the end of WWII --  her courtship, marriage and early life with her blond Prince Phillip, ending in the 60’s. The cast of characters and historical events flash around the Elizabeth like Roman candles flashing through the firmament.

Statesmen Churchill, Mountbatten, McMillan and Eden – and the Royal family and their friends and associates keep the story sparkling along with great costumes and sets to frame the drama magnificently at superb stately-home locations.

Sir Anthony Eden

Harold MacMillan

Lord Mountbatten

Winston Churchill


The palace’s private quarters were mostly built-sets  (yet not copies of the real private quarters), done with exquisite detail and then edited seamlessly into the real grand houses where most of the shooting was done – no wonder Netflix spent $100 million on the program.

The Set for The Crown’s private royal apartments by designer Martin Childs

Connecting passage built between Philip and Elizabeth's bedrooms
Queen’s bedroom with the catchy ciel de lit / baldaquin bed crown and ‘curtainage’ 

This was a location: High Canons, Buckettsland Lane, Well End, Hertfordshire

The 10 episodes in The Crown II take us on a solo royal journey with Prince Phillip as he tours the world as an ambassador on the royal yacht ­­–– from Sri Lanka and Ceylon to Melbourne and Antarctica. He returns to drama with his queen, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones’ romantic hijinks and the Nazi peccadillos of the Duke of Windsor that come home to roost and make another mess that needs fixing.

Royals – English and American. President Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

One of my favorite episodes of The Crown II is #8. It dramatizes the dinner between the Queen and American royalty – the President and Mrs. Kennedy (it’s about food, what a surprise - I've written about the Kennedys and food Here and HERE).

Eltham Palace, London as Hartnell showroom

Eltham Palace

Fresh from her triumph in France, Jacqueline Kennedy arrives at Buckingham Palace radiant in her Chez Ninon Paris knock-off and for all Elizabeth’s shy attempts to up her fashion game for Jackie at her favorite designer, Norman Hartnell’s showroom (staged in a spectacularly re-purposed Eltham Palace entryway), Elizabeth looks rather like a dowdy bedspread in her tulle compared to the sleek, ice-blue column of satin on the first lady.



The script has the 2 ladies bonding over their shared battles with introversion and love of dogs and horses. Knowing Jackie loved architecture and antiques, the Queen gave her a warm, guided tour of some of the rooms.

What Liz had thought was sincere shared feelings of friendship was betrayed by snarky comments by a loose-lipped Jackie at a party a few nights later, It was genuinely hurtful to Liz. In the end apologies soothed the royal breast and Liz is magnanimous -- she treats Jackie with enormous
kindness.


 The dinner itself went off without a court crisis. It was a private dinner rather than a state affair so more personal and intimate (30-odd instead of 100 or more guests to wrangle) and better for getting to know the new president (and a smaller audience should Liz be upstaged).

What about the food? Liz's chef from 1953 to 1964 was Charles Mellis.   He divulged the queens tastes to Chatelaine and I'll share them with you.  Liz is not a fancy eater.

Mellis revealed Elizabeth liked the American custom of  having salad with lunch.  She had a great affection for our Chicken Maryland (fried chicken with cream gravy), served with fried banana and bacon, sweet corn pancake with horseradish sauce.  Dinners always started with small hors d'oeuvres like tomato canapés topped with peanut butter (???) or peppers stuffed with shrimp.  Some of her other favorite dishes were sole with asparagus and cheddar and Tournedos continental (a steak with tomato, mushroom and maître d'hôtel butter).  Mellis observed that the Queen was not fond of dessert and often had Scotch woodcock ( scrambled eggs on toast with anchovies, capers and parsley) after dinner  - she liked oven baked fries.

Given the Queen's simple tastes, Chef Mellis didn’t push the envelope for this dinner even though Jackie wasn’t an unsophisticated American rube that had to be cooked-down to.  He made a simple meat and potatoes dinner for the Kennedys, or, as a spokesman reported with just a hint of irony, “a good old English dinner” – read boiled and bland.


The dinner commenced with a Crème Clamart, a cream of green pea soup sometimes enriched with egg (Clamart is the pea capitol of France) followed by a Filet of Sole Princesse -- a fillet of sole, poached or breaded and fried, with a mushroom scented velouté and asparagus. I believe the saddle of lamb 'l’Anglaise' is a big boiled slab of meat but it may well be simply roasted  (no wonder the good old English dinner comment -- I would have preferred the Prime Minister’s luncheon dish of filet of beef á la Favorite with artichoke bottoms and Parisian potatoes that is referenced in the NYTs article). This is served with buttered beans and browned potatoes – usually cubed or cut into ovals. The mimosa salad is a chopped egg layered salad served in a glass bowl so the layers are seen. The meal finishes with a fine standby, the Grand Marnier soufflé. Not an inspired celebration of French cuisine to be sure.

When deciding what to cook from the menu, I decided to try the sole.

Jack Kennedy and Elizabeth watching Jackie and Philip warily

Jackie served both sole and salad mimosa often at the White House so she must have liked them. Trying to find a recipe for that sole princesse was a lot harder than I thought. My old 60's copy of Larousse Gastronomique gave the basic outline for the dish – sole, with a sauce and asparagus but most of the recipes I found were bastardized  modern versions of the dish. Larousse says that it can be breaded and fried but is usually poached. The classic sauce is a fish-based velouté but many more modern recipes use a hollandaise. 

Since I was stuck inside with the cold snap in the East, I decided to make some puff pastry for a case to hold the asparagus (you can use regular pastry or buy pre-made frozen vol au vent cases or cut a piece of purchased puff pastry).  I was pleased that mine puffed up successfully (because with puff pastry you never know). I also figured I’d try the old fashioned velouté since it’s about the same amount of work as a hollandaise and a bit more unusual.

I make my fish stock by saving and freezing shrimp and lobster shells and any bits of fish and cooking it up when I have enough – giving me about 1-2 c of reduced stock and freezing it. The result is that my shellfish-based velouté  tastes like a lobster bisque –  delicious. If you can’t spring for truffles – use truffle butter to get the truffle flavor. You will be very pleased with the result. The madeira sauce is just the dark knight the dish needs – it works superbly with that lobster-y velouté  and the asparagus – a delicious stuffing for the puff pastry basket. Pretty much everything can be put together in advance and warmed up and quickly cooked at your dinner (just warm the sauces gently or they will separate).


Fillets of Sole Princess - serves 2 as light main course

4 small fillets of sole
1 cup fish stock
2 T white wine
herbs like chervil, parsley
s&p to taste
1 recipe Normande Sauce (which used a fish velouté as its base)
2 baked pastry cases for asparagus
6-8 asparagus spears, cooked and sliced in half and cut to fit case
1 recipe for madeira sauce
truffles or  2-3 T black truffle butter (I use D'Artagnan's version) optional

Salt and pepper the sole and fold them. Warm the stock and wine and herbs. Lay the fish in the liquid and gently poach for a few minutes – it cooks quickly.

Toss the truffles and the asparagus in the madeira sauce to coat and warm through.

Melt the truffle butter if you are using it.

Put the pastry cases on the plate and put the asparagus and truffles in the cases – spoon some of the truffle butter over the asparagus if you are using it and then a little more of the madeira sauce.

Place the fish next to the pastry case, put some of the truffle on the fish if you have them or the rest of the truffle butter over the fish. Then spoon the Normande sauce and a drizzle of the madeira sauce over the fish and serve.

Normande Sauce

½ c fish fumet/stock
1 T dried mushrooms or fresh mushroom trimmings
½ c velouté sauce (*see recipe below)
¼ c cream
2T butter
2 T cream

Cook the stock with the mushrooms until reduced by half. Strain out the mushrooms and combine with the veloute and cream. Reduce by half. Add the cream and butter gently to keep the velvety texture. Strain and keep warm.

*Velouté

1 T butter
1 T flour
1 c fish fumet
s&p
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne

Cook the flour and butter for a few minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Add the fish fumet slowly and cook very slowly for 20 minutes (to 45 if you have time and patience), stirring frequently. Strain.

Madeira Sauce

¾ c demiglace
1-2 T madeira
2 T butter
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the stock till thickened a little more. Add the madeira, then add the butter in a few pieces stirring all the while over a very low heat to have a thick, glossy sauce


Puff Pastry

Butter layer

1/2 lb cold unsalted butter (I love Irish butter for this)
1 t  Lemon juice
1/2 c (65g) bread flour *
pinch of salt

Dough

1 1/2 c (200 g) bread flour (freeze it)*
1 3/4 T (28g) duck fat or butter
1 t Salt
1/2 c cold water (start with 1/3 and add as needed, you may not need a whole cup)

* with pastry -- it's a good idea to weigh if you can.   

Mix the butter and the flour and lemon and salt into a paste, make a 5” square and chill on wax paper till firm

Make the dough,  knead lightly and refrigerate.

Make the dough into a rectangle around 7 x 10"-- or just big enough that it will fold in and meet in the center when you put the butter in the center in a diamond with points facing the sides and not the corners - you may have to make it a bit larger but it doesn't have to be exact -- as long as the butter is completely enclosed.  Fold the dough around it like an envelope, bringing the 4 outer points to the center of the butter and seal.   If it’s hot, chill. Otherwise roll it to a rectangle and fold it like a brochure and chill ½ an hour. Roll it out to a rectangle again and fold again like a brochure - do this again 5 times, resting for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge each time (weather changes this - in winter, 30 minutes is fine in summer you may need 1 hour -- keeping it cold is vital to keep the layers).

I left mine overnight in the fridge after the last turn. Take it out and roll it to about 1/8- 1/4" thick (the pastry will be very high at 1/4") the next day. After cutting your shapes, cut a little into the pastry leaving a frame (taking care not to cut all the way through) so you can pull the center out when it bakes making a well (you can see a technique HERE), I put it back in the fridge for 15-30 minutes when the weather is warm -- if the dough still feels cold after rolling it out, you can just bake it. Remember to cut with a sharp knife if you can or a sharp-edged cutter -- the more you use a sawing action, the more likely your pastry edges will catch and the loft will be uneven (I had one that plopped over to the side like a slinky).  It's best to make a few extra if for safety. You will have a nice amount to freeze for later and it freezes very well (I found some 1 year old in the back of the freezer and it still worked!).

Heat oven to 425º.  Place your pastries on parchment and lay another sheet of parchment over them.

Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 375º, remove the parchment and turn the sheet.  Cook for another 7-12 minutes until nicely browned and cooked through, open the oven door and keep them in the warm oven for 10 minutes or so with the door open.  Remove and then pull out the center section -- the top will be cooked but the center will be a touch sticky - just pull it out -- a large tweezers is good for this.   You can pop them back in the over a few moments before  you serve them to warm them through if you do these in advance -- they keep well for a few days.



Friday, December 22, 2017

Pelligrino Artusi, The Art of Eating Well and Quail Pasta Pie



Pelligrino Artusi was born in 1820 in Forlimpopoli, Italy (a small town above the calf of the boot in the Emilia Romagna).


Bologna 

From the age of 15 to 30, Artusi spent his time in Bologna enjoying student life and the food of that vibrant city (although for some reason it is unclear that he actually attended the university). After his youthful university idylls in Bologna, he returned home to Forlimpopoli to join the successful family business in 1850. But his return became a nightmare


il Passatore

Artusi’s wealthy merchant family was traumatized and forever changed by the arrival of a famous roving brigand named il Passatore, "the Ferryman" to Forlimpopoli in 1851. Il Passatore rounded up the town’s leading citizens, took their money and raped their women – including Artusi’s sister who went mad from the shock. Distraught, the family left the town and fled to Florence where Artusi remained for the rest of his long life (he lived to be 91).


Florence 1870 Barbant/Benoit

Artusi’s business success and a substantial inheritance helped him lead a very comfortable life. He never married. He lived simply with his hometown butler and a Tuscan cook, Marietta Sabatini, of whom he wrote in the book: “My Marietta is a good cook and such a good-hearted, honest woman that she deserves to have this cake [Panettone Marietta] named after her, especially since she taught me how to make it.” In his will, he left her a considerable sum plus a portion of the royalties from the book to reward her talent and faithfulness (he admitted he pestered her relentlessly about food).

He entertained often and well - integrating the cuisines of the newly united Italy into his repertoire while virtually ignoring French Cuisine. He thought it was overrated (for this slight, he was left out of the French food bible, the Larousse Gastronomique). His food was simple, flavorful and very Italian, but this belief bucked the culinary headwinds of the day that believed to be good food it had to be French food.


Restless in commerce, he began to write. First, a biography of the revolutionary Foscolo, then a critique of the handsome satirist/poet Giuseppe Giusti. Neither gained Artusi any recognition but did put him in touch with the publishing circles of the day. He lived and wrote on the Piazza Massimo d'Azeglio in Florence.


Piazza Massimo d'Azeglio (built like an English Square in 1865)


He wrote La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangier bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) in 1891 – 20 years after the unification of Italy. He assumed the manuscript would be a desirable prize for any publisher but all of them rather rudely turned him down. He was told if a famous chef didn’t write the cookbook – no one cared how good it was and wouldn’t buy it! In the end, he paid for 1000 copies of the book to be printed on his own. It took a few years for the book to sell in more than dribs and drabs, but then it began to take off exponentially. There were many, many reprints. By the time Artusi died, 200,000 copies had been sold – rivaling the popularity of Pinocchio  - 100 years later it has sold millions. You could say he was the Julia Child of his day – awakening Italians to the beauty of their cuisine.


His introduction to the work, with a wink to those who did not believe in his vision, contains a prescient passage, “So just because my book smells of stew I supposed that you, too, disdain to take it seriously? But let me tell you, and I say this reluctantly, that with our century tending toward materialism, and life’s enjoyments, the day will soon come when writings of this sort, which delight the mind and nourish the body, will be more widely sought and read than the works of great scientists, which are of much greater value to humanity.” Way ahead of his time, he also encouraged the idea of good cooks setting up shop to make food to be delivered to unfortunate households with no talent for cooking – in the 1890s! Artusi had, “…a suggestion that others may pickup, develop and use…. I am of the opinion that a well-managed institution of this sort – accepting private orders and selling already cooked meals—could be established, grow and prosper…”


His idea for the book was simple. Good combinations of ingredients, simple instructions and charming anecdotes. When you think about it, not that much different from the formula The Silver Palate used that revolutionized cookery books in the 1980’s. His anecdotes, sage advice and observations are marvelous and make the recipes come alive. You feel the warmth of his affection for his food in his prose. As Lorenza de’ Medici opines in the introduction, so many English translations have discarded them and the book loses much of its charm without them.

Guelphs and Ghibellines

One of the best-known divertissements in the book concerns truffles. Which is better, white or black? Artusi dramatically compares the choice of black or white to the choice between the Guelphs and Ghibellines (beginning in 1140, the war pitted the Holy Roman Empire against the Papacy, city dwellers against country folk) and announced, “ I am a supporter of the whites, and in fact I openly declare and maintain that the black truffle is the worst there is. Other people do not share my opinion; they believe that the black truffle is more fragrant, while the white truffle has a subtler taste. But they are not taking into account the fact that black truffles quickly lose their aroma.” He goes on to describe a preparation for truffles by sharing an expression, “Bologna la grassa per chi vi sta, ma non per chi vi passa – Bologna whose bounty is for those who live there, but not for those just passing through.” The technique of layering of sliced white truffles and Parmesan with the best olive oil then warmed in a copper dish deserves to be kept a closely guarded secret to be kept away from tourists.


The recipes came from all over Italy, acquired from friends and professional cooks from the lowliest inn to the finest castle as well as from his own formidable collection of antique cookbooks. Many of the recipes do not use measurements or oven temperatures or times so you have to extrapolate a bit – it’s worth the effort.

He also has common sense rules of eating. The most important of which would be eat only when you are hungry and drink when you are thirsty. Drink wine, but not too much and exercise.

The end of the book has a list of menus throughout the year – they are mouthwatering and beautifully orchestrated meals like the December version:

DECEMBER DINNER

First course: Cappelletti Romagna style (filled with ricotta and capon)

Stew: Signora Adele’s Gruyere mold (a baked ring of cheese custard filled after cooking with sweetbreads)

Cold Dish: Capon galantine (stuffed with veal, pork, ham, truffles and pistachios) or boned thrush in aspic

Roast: Hare or woodcock with green salad

Dessert: Panforte from Sienna (an Italian fruitcake), German brown bread cake, plum pudding

Fruit and Cheese: Pears, apples, mandarin oranges, dates

I decided to make a dish that at first glance seems to be overdoing it. It’s a pigeon pie but the crust is stuffed with creamy, pigeon-laden macaroni (I used quail, but it would also be great with leftover turkey or chicken). If you love a good crust as much as I do, it’s a killer idea and it works.  This is great to do the day before and combine the day you want to serve it.


Artusi's original recipe is for 10 - I cut it in half (Artusi's pastry recipe should be much bigger if you double it).  Also, he called for 2 pigeons for the larger pie -- I think 2 quail are good for the half size -- about a cup of meat.  Serve with a salad and you have a lovely meal.


Timballo di Piccioni, Squab Timbale #279, serves 4-6

1 recipe shortcrust

250 g flour (about 1 3/4 plus 2T)
80 g butter, chopped into chunks
2 t sugar
5g salt
2 t wine
2 egg yolks, beaten
juice from lemon wedge
cold water as needed ( I used a few tablespoons)

Filling

2T butter
2 quail ( I used french jumbo quail from D'Artagnan)
salt and pepper to taste
giblets of quail and chicken if available
1 1/2 cup stock  (you need a cup left for finishing the dish)
1 slice prosciutto
1 carrot, chopped small
1 small stalk of celery, chopped small
1 small onion, chopped small

5 oz macaroni

2 T butter
2-4 T grated parmesan to taste
2 slices prosciutto, slivered
a few slices of black winter truffle and/or 1/4 -1/2 c dried mushrooms, rehydrated

Béchamel

2 T flour
2 T butter ( I used black truffle butter -- my favorite)
1 1/2c milk (you can add 2T cream to this if you want it richer)
pinch nutmeg, salt and pepper


For the shortcrust

Put the flour in the food processor. Add the butter, salt and sugar and pulse. Dump out into a bowl and add the rest, working the dough with your hands till blended. Lay out a sheet of wax paper dusted with flour and squeeze out handfuls of the dough on the sheet and smear them one at a time and pile them one on top of the other. Place this in the fridge to chill for a least an hour or over night. You can divide it into 2 (with one slightly smaller) and roll out if your dish is shallow and make a larger and smaller disk if it’s deep and not wide -- I found that it filled a small pie plate perfectly.

For the filling

Spatchcock the quail and sauté it and giblets if you have them in the butter until browned and remove. Add the vegetables and prosciutto and sauté till softened. Return the quail to the pan, skin side up and add the stock. Simmer on low till the quail is done – ½ hour or so. Remove the birds and strain the stock - I had a little over a cup left and reduced it a bi. Bone and chop the birds and reserve the meat (save the bones for more game stock for your next pie).

Cook the macaroni al dente and add the 3/4 c of the reserved stock slowly (about 1/4 c at a time with 15 minutes between each addition).  The pasta will absorb it beautifully and the flavor is out of this world.  Give yourself a little time to do this before and not at the last minute.  Set aside.

For the béchamel

Make the béchamel by melting the butter and stirring in the flour. Cook it slowly for a few minutes. Add the milk a little at a time to prevent lumps. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Season the macaroni mixture with Parmesan, butter and slivers of prosciutto. Add the last 1/4 cup of the stock, the reserved quail meat, truffles and/or rehydrated mushrooms and the béchamel. Toss together and taste for seasoning.

Preheat oven to 375º

Butter a dish and lay 1 piece of pastry in the dish. Fill with the macaroni mixture and put the top piece of pastry over the top and seal the edges – cutting holes into the top to vent the steam.

Cook for 30-40 minutes until crust is nicely browned.

   

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Hallowed Bones of The Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Braised Beef with a Creamy Vegetable Sauce


Photo from  Carlton

Although the Cistercian branch of the Catholic Church was founded in 1098 at Citeaux Abbey in France,  the order was not bound to their origination point.

Rule of St Benedict, 8th c copy

Soon the monks began to travel far and wide to spread the Rule of St. Benedict, a rule which encouraged work, prayer, love of fellow man and self denial –– ora et labora was their credo.

Photo Carlton

Within a few years, their monasteries were cropping up all over old Roman Europe. In 1142, the Church of All Saints/Sedlec Abbey was created outside of Prague at Kutná Hora. The Cistercians of Sedlec Abbey quietly cared for their lands until 1278 when King Otakar II of Bohemia sent a Sedlec abbot to Jerusalem. The abbot brought back a handful of earth from Golgotha that he spread over the cemetery –– this made their cemetery a burial destination spot for the wealthy dead. The great plague of the 14th century added 70,000 souls to the site and even more during the great wars of the 15th century. There was just not enough real estate to house the bodies in a traditional way. Old bodies were unearthed to add new ones. The old bones had to be treated ‘respectfully’.

Photo Wikipedia

A great gothic church was constructed during the 15th century and a repository for the bones was built in the cemetery (it was remodeled in the early 18th century). There were so many bones! In the 16th century, a blind monk was tasked with tidying up the bones and he piled and stacked them in a respectful way. In the 18th century, the Cistercian monastery was abolished but the Schwarzenberg family bought the property and committed to maintaining the cemetery and all the bones.

Photo Wikipedia

It wasn’t till the 19th century that a Czech wood carver named František Rint was employed to do something more with the bones – he used them as material for art after bleaching and cleaning them. The results are astonishing.


Photo Wikipedia

I have wanted to go to Sedlec forever (as a great aficionado of the beauty of bones –– my first garden made use of found bones – a cow spine with purple clematis was a particular favorite as well as a hip bone arch around a fissure in an ancient wood stump). This is my Halloween homage to its mad genius ( you can watch a wild 10 minute film about it,  The Ossuary by Jan Svankmajer).

Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms made of bones (an ancient bohemian family) Photo Carlton

But what about food?  You must be hungry after viewing all these lovely bones (it is nearly Halloween after all, and appetites can be surprising around the holidays???). I have never been to Prague or the Czech Republic for that matter and hadn’t a clue about what I might make to celebrate the cuisine of the Sedlec neighborhood. Aside from pastries and dumplings, the dish that kept appearing was Svíčková , a braised beef that had a rich, creamy pureed vegetable sauce. Perfect for a cool weather.

The beef has a lightly spiced flavor and the sauce a tang of vinegar and lemon. The unusual sliced dumpling is lighter than air.  I used about 5 recipes online to come up with my version -- it seems to be a bit like an Italian sauce -- there are a million ways to make it.  Although warned about the perils of not having special Czech flour – the result was superior with ap flour (it was recommended to use Wondra instead on a blog thread I read).

I used my own recipe for cranberries – couldn’t be simpler.

Also, a bit of a milestone.  Lost Past Remembered just crossed 2million visitors last week.  I've been hard at work for 6 months and haven't had time to write so I find it gratifying that so many stop by to visit my quirky blog full of quaint and curious recipes, people, places and things.  I know I've enjoyed the last nearly 8 years enormously and learned a lot.  Thanks for stopping by.



Svíčková

1 ½ lb sirloin
1 piece fatty bacon sliced into thin little pieces for larding
juice of ½ lemon
1 large carrot diced
1 medium onion diced
1 small celeriac, peeled and diced
salt to taste (maybe a teaspoon?)
1 t allspice
½ t nutmeg
1 t pepper
2 bay leaves
1 t thyme
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T melted butter
1 cup stock (beef or chicken)
½ -3/4 c cream
pinch of paprika

Toss the vegetables and spices together with the lemon and vinegar in a small baking dish. Make small slits in the beef and stuff with bacon. Spoon the liquid over the meat and place on top of the vegetables. Spoon the melted butter over the meat. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300. Brush any vegetable bits off the meat and brown. Place the meat on top of the vegetables and pour the stock over the meat.

Cook for about 2-2 ½ hours till fork tender.

Remove the meat from the dish. Strain the vegetables and remove bay leaves, reserving the liquid. Puree the vegetables using liquid as needed and pour the leftover liquid on the meat after slicing. Add the cream to the sauce and paprika. Taste for seasoning (add extra vinegar for a bit more kick if desired.

Serve with sliced dumplings. Lay down a spoon of puree, place the sliced dumplings down then the stock-moistened meat and more of the puree and top with cranberry conserve.

Dumplings

½ c warm milk
1t yeast
1 t sugar
2 c flour
½ t mace
½ t turmeric
1 egg
pinch salt
1 roll or a 6” piece of baguette cut to ½” dice

Put the milk, yeast and sugar in a bowl and let sit till it begins to bloom (around ½ hour)

Combine the flour, spiced and egg with salt. Add the milk mixture and knead till elastic. Add the diced bread and form into a roll – about 7-8” long and 2 ½ - 3 “ wide (it will double in width when you boil it). Let it raise 45 minutes and then boil in salted water for around 16 minutes (turning it with 2 big spoons midway). Place on a warm plate and keep warm. Slice.

Cranberry Conserve

2 c cranberries
¾ c sugar
½ c juice (cherry, pomegranate or orange)
½ cup port

Cook the cranberries with the sugar and liquids till softened. Cool and reserve

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Birth of Mediterranean Cuisine,Vincenzo Corrado and his Pine Nut Truffle Sauce


Vincenzo Corrado lived for 100 years. Born in 1736, he was a cultured, elegant man who gained prominence as a chef for a prince who regularly fed a virtual legion of cosmopolitan guests in the Italian city of Naples.


We know of Corrado today because he was the first to write of what we now think of as ‘Mediterranean Cuisine’ in his The Gallant Cook in 1773. The book would never have been written but for the encouragement of the Prince of Francavilla –– his flamboyant and discerning master. Francavilla wanted to share and celebrate his chef’s delicious and, as it turns out, healthy creations with the public. The book went through 6 editions from 1773 to 1806. His dishes were so ahead of their time ––– imagine shrimp on a mound of prosciutto drizzled with olive oil or squid stuffed with eel, anchovies, parsley and truffles with an olive oil lemon sauce! It’s simple, good food.



He was ahead of his time for another reason –– Corrado also wrote a book about vegetarian cooking. It was called Pitagoric Food after Pythagoras (some legends portray Pythagoras as a vegetarian who subscribed to simple eating habits for health and for spiritual reasons –– he believed in re-incarnation). In Cibo Pitagorico, Corrado preached the benefits of vegetables over meat –for their flavor and for health. Corrado included some of the first recipes for tomatoes –– in a soup and with pasta and pizza (yes, pizza). He also wrote a treatise on potatoes.


Not to say that he neglected the culinary grand architectural presentations of the day, he could create edible spectacles with the best of them.

18th century Naples

His route to his destiny was not an orthodox one. After his beginnings as a page in the court of Don Michele Imperiali, he went into the church and began studying math, astronomy and philosophy. Then he branched out to natural science and culinary arts. That’s where he found his passion. He never took his orders.


Palazzo Cellamare, Naples

The Prince of Francavilla gave him the title of "Capo dei Servizi di Bocca" – loosely translated as the ‘head of mouth services’ -- sort of the head taster or the court arbiter of taste/cuisine. He was in charge of the kitchens at the magnificent Palazzo Cellamare overlooking the bay of Naples that still stands today. This kept him busy, I would imagine. The Prince would entertain hundreds nearly every day at his rented palazzo filled with his highly valued art collection.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-98)

I discovered Giacomo Casanova’s recollections of one of these parties on the Mad Monarch’s site  "…the Prince led us to a pool beside the sea. A priest, Don Paolo Moccia, jumped stark naked into the water and without making any movement he floated like a pine plank. Next, Michele made all his pages dive into the pool together. These were boys of about 16 years old, as comely as cupids. On leaving the breasts of the waves almost simultaneously, they swam up under the public's eyes, "developing in strength and grace, and performing a thousand evolutions" It seems the Prince had an eye for the lads and these beauties were his “sweethearts”. Michele loved spectacle and set an impressive table.

Banquet at the Casa Nani alla Giudecca in Venice, 1755

For such a gargantuan operation, the kitchen was run like that of a great hotel. Corrado said of his work there, "The abundance, variety and delicacy of food, its splendor and sumptuousness of the tables required a host of men of art, wise and honest"

TABLE  illustration from Cuoco Galante --

In addition to the cooks who stewed and grilled, carved and sautéed, there were cooks for all the specialized stations of the kitchen – deployed in areas for the preparation of salads or for creating the fanciful pastries. There were also those who worked the gardens to supply the kitchens, people who cleaned it all up as well as an army of servers to present the feast to the guests.

 Small table in an illustration from Cuoco Galante --

Corrado wrote a good deal about his lavish presentations decorated with porcelain characters, vases of flowers, crystal and silver presentation dishes of 3 to 4 tiers overflowing with fruits and vegetables. There were bird cages full of chirping birds, and frames of flowers and fruit with tiny porcelain gardeners working at their citrus trees, complemented by priceless tableware – silver, china and crystal - the book gives suggestions on how to recreate some of his presentations for your own banquets

TABLE for 16

Corrado was fond of his patron and expressed a reverential deference for the lords and ladies that dined at his tables. The effulgent style of his master was no doubt influenced by his Spanish heritage that thrived under Neapolitan skies. The lord encouraged his kitchen artist to aspire to greatness, and Corrado was terribly grateful for the opportunity.

In the foreword he offers thanks to his beloved patron:

"Questi due libri che del buon gusto trattano, con la guida e norma scrissi, e pur mercé la tua generosità mandai alle stampe, e Tu di propria mano ne segnasti il titolo il -Cuoco Galante- l'uno e il -Credenziere del Buon Gusto- l'altro, tutti e due a te li porgo come frutto di un albero dalla mano piantato... Mio Scopo egli è di richiamare alla memoria dei nobili uomini dei quali Tu fosti la gloria l'ornamento alla memoria e la lode. Ah? Ma qual Tu fosti non basterebbe di dire di cento e mille lingue, per cui io stimo meglio il tacere e con il silenzio benedire gli anni che ti fu appresso."

"These two books that deal with good taste, I wrote with guidance and the way I normally wrote and also thanks to your generosity I sent them to the printer and you with your own hand suggested the title "The - Gallant Cook" - the one and the "Purveyor of Good Taste" - the other, I offer both of them to you as the fruit of a tree planted by hand...my purpose is to bring noble men back to memory among whom you were the glory, the ornament to memory and the praise. Ah? What you were one hundred tongues or one thousand would not suffice, therefore I better regard my silence and with the silence to bless the years that I spent close to you."

What better way to introduce you to the delights of Corrado than his passage and recipes for truffles.  As you can see, they are not recipes as we think of them, more suggestions of ingredient combinations:

"I Tartufi sono di due specie bianchi, e neri; gli uni, e gli altri sono ottimi purché siano odoroti e fodi. Questi sono di maggior gusto de' Funghi, e di maggior condimento nelle vivande. Per condimento si usano come i Funghi. Servendoli soli si cuocono con oilio; pressemolo, aglio, pepe, acciughe, late di pignoli, e sugo di limone; o pure con butirro, pressemolo trito, e spezie, legati con parmegiano grattato e gialli d'uova. Si servono cotti in vino di Sciampagna e butirro sopra croste de pane fritto. Si fanno cuocere intieri sotto le ceneri calde, netti ed involti nella carta, e si servono in fette con butirro, olio, sale, pepe, e sugo di limone, o pure con salsa d'acciughe all'olio, Si conservano o in fette secche, o pure intieri nell'olio."

"There are two species of truffles, white and black. Both are excellent provided that they are fragrant and firm. Truffles taste better than mushrooms and provide better seasoning in cooking. For seasoning they are used like mushrooms. When served by themselves they are cooked in oil, parsley, pepper, anchovies, pine nut milk and lemon juice; or with butter, chopped parsley and spices, bound with grated parmigiano and egg yolk. They are served cooked in champagne and butter over crusts of fried bread. They are cooked whole under warm ashes, clean and wrapped in paper and they are served sliced with butter, oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice or with an oil-based anchovy sauce. They are kept (preserved) either sliced and dry or whole under oil."

I decided I would make the first sauce with pine nut milk, a brilliant ingredient I have never had before. If you are lucky enough to have a few truffles, you can make this on its own – a glorious plate of sliced truffles with a divine sauce.  I had one from D'Artagnan and decided that it would be spectacular with asparagus – and it was. If you haven’t got truffles lying around, may I suggest sautéing the asparagus with truffle butter or oil and enjoying the sauce that way? You will thank chef Corrado most effusively for his inspired combination and wonder why you haven’t had it before.


Truffles with Pine Nut Sauce on Asparagus

Sautéed sliced Truffles (available from Dartagnan - summer or winter depending on season)
Pine nut sauce
Asparagus, steamed, roasted or sautéed

¼ c pine nuts
3-4 T water
2 T chopped parsley
½ t anchovies, chopped fine to taste
2-3 t lemon juice to taste
½ t pepper
salt to taste

sliced truffles
oil or butter
good gray salt

asparagus

Soak the pine nuts in water for a few hours or overnight. Drain and rinse and put in a blender with 2 T water, process, then add more till you get a creamy consistency.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Add the lemon juice and anchovies to taste.

Steam your asparagus for 6-7 minutes (or bake them at 400º for 10 minutes).

Warm the butter or oil, gently sauté the truffles for a few minutes and add the salt.




Place the asparagus on the plate, scatter the truffles over them and pour on the sauce.
The flavors are so modern – belying the recipe’s centuries-old provenance.