Sunday Family Day Part Deux, Apples, Pear Tart and Hard Cider

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“It was definitely a Sunday tart, gazed at with admiration and eaten with relish on those Sunday noons, with the narrow street outside on the same level as the room and the sky purplish-blue when the weather was stormy, or aflicker with gold when the sun was shining.” – Proust

How could I not make it?  We began the day with the chief goal of not leaving the house and enjoying the bounty of foods bought from small farmer’s and ranchers at the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market the day before.  By eight a.m. we were dunking slabs of Phillippe’s rustic boule slathered in hand-beaten French butter into our plate of Oeufs a la Coque, made from De La Ranch eggs cooked precisely three minutes.  Beaumont was intent on copying our actions verbatim, deliberately piercing the runny yolk with his bread spear splashing saffron hued eggs onto his fingers and plate.  He seemed like a miniature gourmand trapped inside a small child’s body frustrated by the new bodies inability to follow the old minds thought.  For a flashing moment I saw Beau as an old man deliberately enjoying his meal.

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I looked over to the wall of books in our dining room and “Dining with Proust” just caught my attention as if it were meant to be.  I flipped through the pages and immediately stopped on this line:

“The chief reason for going to the farm when they felt the need of a little refreshment was a wish to see her and to be in her home, much as some people frequent certain restaurants, though the reason they give may be that the cider is better there than elsewhere or the cheese particularly good.”

That line set about a catalyst of food dreams inspired by books needing to become realities.  The first food dream manifested itself as apples bought from the Asian woman at the market stuffed with a mixture of leeks, creme fraiche and goat cheese.  Lisa and I both read Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis.  Rue Tatin is the kind of book that is so graphically written that you feel like you are there eating with her at her home in Normandy.Ultimately Lisa, Beau and I will live in France and this book accelerates the process.

Baked Apples stuffed with Leeks and Goat Cheese (paraphrased from Susan Loomis)

4 Apples, I used Fuji – peel and core creating a large cavity to stuff

5.5 ounces fresh Goat Cheese

2 T. Creme Fraiche

2 Leeks – use mostly just the white part.  I cut into large dice and soaked in salted water to remove dirt and grit that hides in the layers

4 T Butter

2 cups hard Cider

Directions:

Saute washed leeks in two tablespoons of butter till super tender.  You want to cook the leeks slow so they do not color.  Mix with goat cheese and creme fraiche.  Pour into apple cavity.  Top with remaining butter.  Put into baking dish with cider and cook for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  Enjoy with a beautiful green salad.

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After a long walk in the Desert with Lucy we rested and prepared for round two.

Proust’s Pear Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Ingredients for one nine inch tart

One sheet Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

Four Pears

2 ounces Butter

1 c. Powdered Sugar

Directions

Roll puff pastry sheet out slightly larger on a floured surface.  It should drape over your tart tin by two inches.  Fold over edge and crimp with fingers.  Quarter pears and remove core with paring knife.  Cut each quarter in half and arrange in a circular pattern in tart shell.  Brush pears with melted butter and sprinkle with half of the powdered sugar.  Bake at 400 till tart is brown and pears are lightly browned.  Cool slightly, sprinkle with remaining sugar and serve with powdered sugar.

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Salumi: How many Chefs have been led astray by this Book?

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Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn…  What an amazing book, absolute food porn for us Chefs and foodies alike.  The problem is two fold, first, it has me curing everything in sight.  I got five Kuni Kuni pigs from Cook Pig the other day.  I normally use them all for Porchetta but got a bug up my ass and decide to make a ton of charcuterie.  I suppose I should back up and mention that I am Chef of Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta, California…  a relatively new restaurant hopefully popping up on the national level soon.  One of the big features of our operation is a charcuterie bar reminiscent of a high end sushi bar.  The intent was always that we would make our own charcuterie but I never had much time till now.  I suppose the whole opening a restaurant thing got in the way.

Figue Training 09So today sous chef extraordinaire Alex Hernandez and myself set about curing everything in sight.  Filetto cured with Aleppo Pepper and Orange; citrus and fennel cured lonzo, pancetta, spicy guanciale and my first attempt at coppa…  I scared our sommelier Celeste because I told her that I would hang my meat in her wine box since the temperature and humidity was perfect.  I think the thought of over 100 pounds of meat hanging next to her great wine selections scared her…

 

Here are photos from the day’s work sprinkled with a few other forays into Charcuterie world:

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Lamb Mortadella made from Elysian Fields lamb…  It tastes so good!  I have been serving it with house made Fig Pickles

IMG_20130712_123929_178Truffled Veal Sausage that I featured for my Bastille Day menu…  The focus was Famous Last Meals from the Bastille.  The Marquis de Sade ate these.

IMG_20130727_160925_333 IMG_20130727_144426_338cures and a rather tattered kitchen notebook dating back to 2003

IMG_20130727_145246_158 IMG_20130727_144354_346 IMG_20130727_142702_887All in all we cured 100 pounds of freshly butchered pork.  We used the salt box method which essentially is rubbing every single crevice of meat in coarse sea salt, vacuum packing everything then letting it sit refrigerated for a few days.  The basic procedure for all whole muscle meats is the same.  What varied and will vary is the seasoning in the final curing.  Since my palate of flavors includes France, Italy Spain, Basque region, Lebanon, Greece, Morocco and anywhere else in the Mediterranean I have a lot of historical flavor combinations to pull from, not too mention the mixing of cultures.  In six weeks we will have a tasty selection of house meats for our charcuterie bar.

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Tarte Tatin: Memories of My Maman

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Tarte Tatin has been popular worldwide since its birth at Jean Tatin hotel since its creation in the late 1800’s.   Jean Tatin opened his hotel (l’Hotel Tatin) in the 1800’s.  In 1888 his two daughters Caroline and Stéphanie took over when he passed away.  Caroline managed the books while Stéphanie cooked.  From morning to night, she worked in her kitchen.  She was a great and gifted cook but not the brightest of people. Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth.

The sisters were always busy during hunting season and their restaurant was exceedingly popular. One day, Stéphanie, running late because she had been flirting with a handsome hunter, rushed into the kitchen, threw the apples, butter and sugar in a pan and then rushed out to help with the other duties. The odor of caramel filled the kitchen, Stéphanie realized she’d forgotten the apple tart, but what could she do now? She decides to put the pàte brisée on top of the apples, pops the pan in the stove to brown a bit more and then turns it upside down to serve. Raves of delight emanate from the dining room. The story continues a bit from that first day. Curnonsky, the famous gastronome of the time, hears about the Tarte and declares it a marvel. Word of this new gastronomic delight reaches Paris. Maxim’s owner hears about it and he decides he must have the recipe.  He supposedly sent a cook/spy, disguised as a gardener, to Lamotte-Beuvron to discover the secret. The spy is successful, brings the recipe back to Maxim’s, and it has been on the menu of that famous restaurant ever since.  Our version features fresh California figs which currently are in season.

Figue Tarte Tatin│ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Chef François de Mélogue

 Yield: 10” tart

ingredients:

¾ c.                Sugar

¼ c.                Butter

15                    Figs cut in half

1                      Orange, zested

1 pinch          Cinnamon

1 recipe         Tarte Tatin Dough

Directions:

In a heavy gauged pan, preferably a 10” cast iron pan, caramelize sugar and butter.  Add zested orange and cinnamon.  Arrange fig halves in pan.  Top with dough, tuck in edges around the sides and then bake in a 500˚ oven till the dough is golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.  Let cool slightly then flip over onto plate, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Tarte Tatin Dough

 Ingredients:

12 oz.             All Purpose Flour

¾ t.                  Salt

1 t.                   Baking Powder

½ pound       unsalted Butter

½ c.                ice cold Water

 

Directions:

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together.  Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture.  You’ll know it’s mixed in correctly when it looks like coarse corn meal.  Add just enough ice cold water to make a dough.  You want to be very careful NOT to over mix the dough or else it will be tough.  Flour develops gluten which acts very similarly to a muscle.  It’s what gives our bread and pastries structure.  Let the dough rest for one full hour, or overnight.  Roll the dough out to a 12” circle.

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Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Sometimes copying is the sincerest form of flattery.  This dish originated in my repertoire after a cook book written by the folks of Boulevard.  Who doesn’t love a cook book with an obvious slant towards adding bacon to everything.  I never ate there but I love them!   Here is my version:

Asparagus with 63 degree egg

Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Chef François de Mélogue

Ingredients for four servings:

20                    Asparagus Spears, cooked, cooled

4                      63 degree Eggs, peeled

½ c                 Parmesan Fondutta

4                      sliced crispy Speck

4 oz                baby Frisee

 

 

Mise en Place:

 

1                       63 degree egg: cook eggs in circulator at 62.5 for one hour.

2                       Lay speck in a single layer on silsheet.  Cook in 200 degree oven for three hours.

 

To Order:

 

  1. 1.              Lay five asparagus spears on rectangle plate.
  2. 2.              Spoon fondutta over stalks.
  3. 3.              Top with speck then egg.
  4. 4.              Cover asparagus base with frisée tossed in olive oil.

 

Parmesan Fondutta

Ingredients for four servings:

 

1 c                  Cream

1/2  c             Parmesan

2                      Egg Yolks

pinch             Nutmeg

Mise en Place:

 

Boil cream, add cheese and nutmeg.  Whisk in egg yolks.

The True History of French Cooking: The Italian Myth of Catherine de Médicis Debunked

The True History of French Cooking
The Italian Myth of Catherine de Médicis Debunked

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Catherine de Médicis was born in 1519 to a French mother, Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, and Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, in Florence, Italy. She was fourteen (1533) at the time she arrived in the French court of Francis I to marry Henry II, future King of France. Twelve ladies in waiting, also her age, numerous cooks, servants and the like accompanied her. The cooks and servants took care of the large group on the ship over to Marseilles and the overland trip to the Francis I court. As Esther B. Aresty states in her lovely book entitled The Exquisite Table – a History of French Cuisine, “But as far as installing cooks at the court of Francis I to serve her own needs – that would have been bringing coals to Newcastle, and unthinkable in any case with a monarch like Francis I. At that time his court was far more elegant than any court in Italy.” Historian Jean Heritier describes his court as “The foremost court in Europe.” There is no doubt that the Italian Renaissance had an effect on France. “… a French Renaissance had been in stride since the fifteenth century. True, the seeds had wafted over from Italy into France, as they had in other countries, but wherever the Renaissance took root, what matured from the semination emerged differently in each country – on canvases, in books, and in architecture.” Francis I brought great Italian artists like Da Vinci to work for him. “Francis adopted the pose of a chivalric King, the first gentleman of his kingdom, although his autocratic statecraft was imbued with a shrewd realism. His patronage of the arts was intended to augment the splendor of his court. He brought Leonardo da Vinci and other great Italian artists to France to design and ornament his châteaux. He employed Guillaume Budé in creating a royal library and in founding professorships of Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which formed the nucleus of the later Collège de France.” When Catherine arrived she was described as being unassuming and undemanding, even the Venetian ambassador labeled her as molto obediente.

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From 1547 – 1559, Catherine reigned as Queen of France. To paraphrase “The Exquisite Table”, it is the misunderstanding of a quote attributed to Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), French essayist and philosopher, which has led some scholars astray. Montaigne was a prominent figure at the court late in Catherine’s reign as Queen. He is often quoted as praising Italian cooks at her court. “One encounter with such a cook, “late in the kitchen of Cardinal Caraffia,” and spoke of that cook’s “magisterial gravity” when discussing his art, “the weighty and important considerations… (in) lofty, magnificent words, the very same we use when we discourse upon the government of an Empire.” In fact he was joking and furthermore it didn’t take place at the court but actually when he was interviewing the cook as a perspective employee. To quote Mrs. Aresty “The conversation struck Montaigne as so hilarious that he was inspired to write an essay on “how to make little things appear big.” He called it On the Vanity of Words. In 1570, when Montaigne traveled to Italy he said, “Provisions are not half so plentiful… and not near so well (prepared).”

“French cuisine had been growing in its own national direction long before Catherine de Medici came to France, and was as fully formed by 1533 as cookery and dining then allowed. At best, all national cuisines were still medieval. Forks were not in general use. Spoon and finger foods were the rule: hashes, stews, potages and meats sliced thin enough to be speared on the point of a knife to be eaten by hand, or laid on a slice of bread and swallowed in a few gulps.” To understand the style of food in vogue in the Aristocratic courts one has to look back at how it came to be. For French references we need to look at the early works of Guillaume Tirel, a.k.a. Taillevent, master Chef to Charles V (1337 – 1380). The earliest known copies of Taillevent’s book date back to 1392. The recipes were organized by ingredients and methods. Le Viander is divided into sections on meat, entrements, fish, sauces, etc. His recipe for Civé de Veau could be considered a very early version of Blanquette de Veau. In the recipe he tells his audience to roast the veal on a spit or grill without overcooking. Then cut up the pieces and cook in fat with onions, mix with stale bread boiled in beef broth and wine, add the normal range of medieval spices that were infused in verjus. Also important to note are two other French books of the same period; Menagier de Paris written for the amateur cook and Chiquart’s masterwork, Du fait de Cuisine, which is considered by scholars as “Europe’s first true cookbook”. All three of these French books were written 100 years before Catherine’s birth. All three books had influences that directly led to the development of modern French cookery. Without trying to sound too corny I have always envisioned the progress of French cooking to be like a torch being passed from one kitchen to another, throughout the generations. Each Chef adding his or her particular spin and dimension to the culinary body. French food did not make gigantic leaps from Carême to Escoffier to Bocuse to today’s crop of great Chefs. There were many small steps in between that history has overlooked.

By the time of the 1600’s, the difference in the cuisine of Italy and France was very pronounced as evident by the two major works of that period, Le Vrai Cuisinier François by François Pierre La Varenne (1615 – 1678) and Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi, cuoco secreto di papa Pio Quinto by Bartolomeo Scappi (1540 – 1570) published I believe in 1570 but was still considered the benchmark of Italian cuisine. La Varenne warned his audience “to cook just long enough” while Scappi advocated overcooking. “Scappi presented the noble Maccaronis of Italian cooking in great variety; there were no macaronis in Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois, though present in fifteenth century English cookbooks. The Italian influence was in fact felt more strongly in England, where macaroni (macrow to the English) and spicy forcemeats called “Balles of Italy” appear…” In La Varenne’s works, he classifies preparations considered basic to French cuisine, bouillons, liaisons, roux, farces, etc.

In conclusion, I think it would be foolish to argue which cuisine is better than the other; first and foremost it is a matter of opinion and secondly they both are wonderful, vibrant and different. It is equally foolish to believe that two countries so close didn’t have culinary influences on each other. Both were conquered and occupied by similar peoples. Lastly, I think it is also foolish to believe that one single event defined a countries palate. A palate is a work in progress. Both nations had an established cuisine well before Catherine arrived on the scene.

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Important Culinary Books

in the history of French Gastronomy 1373 to 1651

“Gourmandise is an enormous book, always open to whoever knows how to read it, and whose pages offer a series of moving tableaux, whose horizon spreads as far as the eye can see.”

~ Grimod de la Reynière

It has been suggested that French cuisine was unsophisticated prior to Catherine de Médicis. I suggest that there was a sophisticated national cuisine prior to Catherine that kept with the palate of the times and that while the Italian Renaissance did effect French cooking, it started with Platine in 1505, twenty-eight years prior to Catherine’s arrival in France. Catherine may have brought something with her, but most of what she is accredited in contributing has appeared in writing prior to her existence.

The Grand Masters of French Cuisine starts with the oldest French cookbook written in 1290 entitled Traité où l’on enseigne à faire et appereiller tous boires commes vin, clairet, mouré et autres, ainsi qu’a appareiller et assaisoner toutes viands selon divers usages de divers pays or “Treatise where one is taught to make and dress all drinks such as wine, claret, Mouré and others, as well as how to dress and season all meats according to the diverse countries”. Although other books were probably written, the second oldest French book comes 100 years later, in 1380 entitled Le Grand Cuisinier de toute cuisine, “The Great Cookbook of All Kinds of Cooking”. This book has come to be known as Viandier written by Guillaume Tirel whose nickname was Taillevent. In this cookbook, Taillevent gives us wonderful recipes such as Civé de Veel (an early version of Blanquette de Veau), Poached Mullets with sauce Cameline (a sort of relish), Grilled Mullets, Hochepot de Poullaille (Chicken Casserole), Sutil Brouet d’Engleterre (Chestnut Purée from England), Oeufs rôtis à la broche (spit roast eggs), Pâté d’anguilles (eel pate), and Cretonnée de Pois Nouveaux (Green Pea Puree with Chicken) among others.

On first look the food appears to be ancient compared to what we eat now. As a student of gastronomy I can tell you that Blanquette de Veau is still being prepared, as are grilled Mullet, Chicken Casserole, Chestnut Puree, Eel Pate and pureed Green Peas. One could say that the generous uses of what I term medieval spices are no longer in use today. I agree, but that was the fashion of the time. Spices had a great value and only wealthy people could afford them. Spices did not have the luxury of modern vacuum packing and transportation. Therefore spices lost much of their potency through inefficient packing and lengthy travel times from point of origin to the kitchen in France and Italy. I will admit I am not a scholar on early Italian works; some could even argue I am not a scholar on early French works. Perhaps Riccardo, Rogov, or someone else could help us with what the Italians cooked in the mid to late 1300’s. I am certain the cuisine would be similar.

The next book of note to appear on the scene is Le Ménagier de Paris (The Goodman of Paris), written between June of 1392 and September of 1394. Among the recipes, suckling pig stuffed with egg yolks, sausage, chestnuts, cheese, saffron and ginger; Chicken liver and gizzard stew, and eel stew stand out. The middle-aged author wrote the book for the benefit of his 15 year old bride, whom he felt could only give him “petit et ignorant service” without it. Apparently she had begged him to forgive her for her youth and the slight and imperfect service she could render. He wrote the book to quickly educate her on domestic science. The recipes, for the large part, are borrowed from Viandier, but a few new ones did appear.

In 1420, Chiquart Amiczo a book entitled Du Fait de Cuisine (On the Matter of Cookery). He was the Chef to the Duke of Savoy. His book dealt with food preparation as well as planning and arranging enormous feasts that lasted for several days. To quote Early French Cookery, “…staggering logistics involved in preparing for such a feast, even only two days’ duration. In order to allow for something like 57 dishes to be served, the cook must ensure the availability of 100 heads of cattle- to be slaughtered on the spot – along with 130 sheep, 120 pigs, 200 piglets, 200 lambs, 100 calves, 2,000 hens and 12,000 eggs to say nothing of the incredible quantities of wild game and fish, spices, herbs, fruit, sugar, wines, candles, firewood, filter cloth and so forth.” Du Fait de Cuisine gives us valuable information on the royal cuisine of the time.

Maestro Martino whose recipes appeared in the mid 1400’s in “De honesta voluptate et valetudine” (Of Honest Indulgence and Good Health) by Baptiste Platine de Crémone, did have dishes that appear to be more familiar with what we would label as Italian cooking today. In his book he lists dishes like Riso con brood di carne (a forerunner to Risotto Milanese), Ravioli in tempo di carne (ravioli for meat days), and Zucche Fritte (zucchini salad). But upon inspection, I see that medieval spices such as saffron, cinnamon and ginger figure prominently in these preparations. It is interesting to note that Riso con brood di carne is of Arabic origins. But, unlike Risotto Milanese, this dish uses eggs instead of grated cheese. The use of rice is also mentioned in Taillevent’s book. Platine, as the work was commonly known as, first appeared in print in France in 1505 under the name Platine en françois très utile et necessaire pour le corps humain, que traicte de honest volupté et de toutes viands et choses que l’ome mange, quelles vertus ont, et en quoy nuysent ou proffitent au corps humain, et comment se doyvent apprester ou appreiller, et de fair à chascune dicelles viands soit chair ou poysson sa proper saulce et des propriétés et vertus que ont les dites viands. Et du lieu et place convenable à l’ome pour abiter et de plusieurs gentillesses par quoy l’ome se peut maintenir en prospérité et santé sans avoir grant indigence d’avoir aultre médecin sil est homme de rayson or Platine in French, Very useful and necessary for the human body, which treats of honest pleasures and of all meats and things that men eat, what their virtues are, and how they hurt or help the human body, and how they should be prepared and dressed, and how to make for each one of these meats, either flesh or fish, its own sauce, and the properties and virtues that which he can maintain his prosperity and health, with no need to have any doctor, if he be a man of reason. One hell of a title to retype! Platine became very popular in France was published repeatedly for 100 years. The book details all the things eaten in the sixteenth century. He mentions 15 different salad plants. He describes how whale blubber was the fat used by poor people; that porpoise was a noble fish and that one should let it age. That it is better roasted than boiled. And if you are to boil it, it is better in wine than water. He also describes Catalan cookery.

The Italian influence continued with Opera nuova intitolata Dificio de recette, printed in Venice in 1541. The book was translated into French the same year and appeared as Bastiment de recettes (Edifice of Recipes). In 1551, a Parisian bookseller published Manière de faire toutes confitures (Manner of Making all Sorts of Confectionery). There is dispute whether the author was French or an Italian living in Paris. In 1552, Nostradamus published a book, which is most likely the first French pastry book entitled Le Confiturier Français.

Olivier de Serres’s book “Théâtre de l’Agriculture et mesnage des Champs (Theater of Agriculture and Care of the Fields) was printed in 1600 and completely revolutionized agriculture in France. De Serres encouraged their use in cooking and experimented with varieties never grown in France before. He suggested planting rice in Camargue and was the first person to talk about the advantages of the potato as food. Yes, well before Antoine Augustin Parmentier promoted their use in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

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In 1604, Lancelot de Casteau’s Ouverture de cuisine appeared, written in French outside of France by a non-Frenchman. It is one of the first books to list an international collection of recipes for both savory and sweets. Lancelot de Casteau described himself as a native of Mons, near Liège. Lancelot describes the menu of a banquet in 1557 where he served turkey, multi colored gelatins, medieval favorites such as roast swan, peacock pies and bustards. Further in the book he describes Italian specialties: raviolis, Bologna sausage and Parmesan cheese.

The next major work was that of Joseph Du Chesne. Le Pourtraict de la Santé (Portrait of Good Health) was published in 1606. In it he advises that nothing will restore “beaten health” like a leg of lamb with fresh breadcrumbs and lemon juice. He continues by telling us that sardines are best fried in butter and served with lemon juice. My favorite advice has to be that after dinner “everyone should stay at the table, without moving, for a good half hour, chatting agreeably with each other.” AMEN.

In 1607, a book entitled “Thrésor de santé ou mesnage de la vie humaine” (Treasures of Good Health or the Care of Human Life) was published. It is the first book to discuss regional favorite such as Saucisson de Lyon and Andouillettes de Troyes.

And finally, this brings us to “Le Cuisinier François” written in 1651 by Pierre de la Varenne. La Varenne was the founder of classical French cuisine. Dishes like: pumpkin pie, Boeuf a la mode, Oeufs a la neige, omelettes, beignets appear. Dishes like stuffed mushrooms, Chicken casserole with green peas, eel pate en croute, asparagus in cream sauce, and Ragout of rabbit are also included. He went on to write a pastry book as well.

In conclusion, I would like to see specifically how Catherine de Médicis, herself, affected French cuisine. For every chronicle of her feasts I can provide chronicles of feasts with similar lavish presentations. There is no doubt of an Italian effect on French cuisine, but it started before her, in 1505. I haven’t been able to find a book with a reference to her exactly, other than ones written in very recent history. I haven’t seen or heard of a book written by her Chef. I have however, listed many notable books from the French and Italians alike who wrote the books that the influenced the cooks of the time.

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“No rule exists for such compositions;

they are at the mercy of the artist’s genius.”

Grimod de le Reynière

Storming the Bastille, Just NOT during MY Dinner!

“I have lived all my life in the name of good taste.

Now I am to die by the hands of people with bad taste.”

 –          Madame du Barry

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On 14 July, as they do every year, millions of French men and women will celebrate the fall of the Bastille in 1789. The passing years have shown, however, that the guillotine might have better served as a better symbol of the momentous events now recalled as the French Revolution. The truth is that life in the Bastille was simply not all that difficult. In fact, for many of those residing there, the Bastille may have been one of the best pre-revolutionary restaurants of Paris. During his own stay there, the Marquis de Sade passed his time washing down truffled sausages with fine Bordeaux wines. On the day the Bastille was actually liberated, there were only six “prisoners” in attendance. One, imprisoned for failure to pay his debts, insisted on staying in his three room suite long enough to finish his roast pheasant dinner. Another demanded that the crowd help him carry away the more than 50 bottles of wine that he had set aside for his use.

In fact, when the crowd tore down the Bastille, they were unknowingly carrying out a plan for which Louis XVI had already set aside funds. In what may be another interesting footnote to history, of the six liberated prisoners, three were eventually executed by the same people who freed them, two emigrated to America and one, Andre Dubois, harmless but quite insane, went on to become a member of the French senate.

French gastronomes of all classes were concerned with the influence of the revolution on their dining habits. Grimod de la Reyniere, a well known banker and gastronome of the ancien regime considered the Revolution little more than “an unpleasant interlude when austerity had to be simulated and chefs given their notice. If it had lasted”, he wrote, “France might have actually lost the recipe for fricasseed chicken.” One of his chefs, Antoine Broissard took it a bit more seriously. When Broissard discovered that he could not locate any Nantes ducklings to serve for dinner one evening, he hung himself in his kitchen. One of the problems that Reyniere did not dwell upon was that many of France’s most devoted gourmets ended both their revolutionary zeal and their gastronomic endeavors by a meeting with the falling blade of the guillotine.

It may be of some historic interest to know just what many of these people ate just before keeping their appointment with the Widow, as the guillotine was known. Danton, surely the most charming of the revolutionaries and a great gourmet dined on stuffed squab, fresh asparagus and raspberry sorbet before his execution. Robespierre, Danton’s rival but not a man who specially appreciated good food, supped on a thick lentil soup just before his own moment of truth. The Duke of Burgundy dined elegantly on salmon mousse and apple pie and Armond, the Prince of Conde had a light snack of salmon in mousseline sauce. As to the women, the only form of equality between the sexes that the legislators of the revolution believed in was the guillotine which decapitated members of either sex with equal dispatch. Marie Antoinette, Madame Roland and Charlotte Corday, the three most eminent women of the revolution were among its victims.
Marie Antoinette, executed as much for her rudeness to her jailers as for her royal position, sipped Champagne and ate truffled pate de foie gras before she was taken off for her final humiliation. The twenty five year old Charlotte Corday, who had slain the revolutionary leader Marat, declined a final dinner but nibbled on a chocolate éclair while standing on the platform of the guillotine, annoying the executioner somewhat because of what he considered an unnecessary delay in carrying out his duty. Madame Roland, the feminist of the group, dined simply on poached eggs, a small wedge of Brie cheese and an apple. Madame du Barry, the last great courtesan of the royal days, and a woman of elevated taste in food as well as in lovers, is said to have dined on raspberries with fresh cream before being carted off to the guillotine. Du Barry’s final words were: “I have lived all my life in the name of good taste. Now I am to die by the hands of people with bad taste.”

At Figue Mediterranean, http://www.EatFigue.com, we are celebrating Bastille Day by serving our interpretations of famous last meals from the Bastille.  Among the dishes being served tonight and tomorrow are the Marquis de Sade’s Truffled sausages.  We are serving them with potato puree and sauteed apples.

The Marquis de Sade’s Truffled Sausages

26 ounces

lean Veal

9 ounces

pork fatback

18 grams

fine salt

2 grams

ground white pepper

1 gram

ground nutmeg

about 5 feet

medium hog casing

1.

Cut the meat and fat into pieces small enough to pass through grinder. Partially freeze.

2.

Grind the veal using a disk with 3/8″ (10 mm) diameter holes. Grind the fat using a disk with 3/16″ (5 mm) diameter holes.

3.

Combine the meat and fat with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Chill thoroughly.  Add as much chopped truffles as your budget will allow.

4.

Soak the casings in cold water until soft. Thoroughly rinse the casing inside and out.

5.

Set up a sausage stuffer. Fill the bowl of the stuffer with the forcemeat. Be careful not to leave any air pockets in the mixture.

6.

Slide the casing on the fill tube. Tie a knot at the end of the casing after it is fully on the fill tube.

7.

Fill the casing with the forcemeat. Do not overfill the casings. Guide the casing along the work surface as it fills.

8.

Tie a knot at the other end of the filled casing that comes off the stuffing tube. “Massage” the sausage to ensure that it is filled evenly. Twist the filled casing to make 5″ long sausages.

9.

Place the sausages on a rack and dry for a couple of hours in a refrigerator. Using a fine skewer or needle, puncture the skin over any visible air bubbles and puncture evenly along the length of the sausages.

10.

Use within a couple of days or wrap tightly and freeze.

 

Note: To cook the sausage, poach in 180 °F (82 °C) water until the interior temperature reaches 160 °F (71 °C). Drain and fry briefly in a hot pan to crisp the skin.

 

Bourride… Bouillabaisse’s Troubled Cousin

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Ah, I am going to piss off family members and bouillabaisse purists with this one.  Bourride is bouillabaisse’s troubled cousin.  Try referencing food dictionaries and you’ll see as many different versions as there are books.  Some claim the only true Bourride is made solely with monkfish in a white creamy sauce, possibly flavored with crushed fish liver and others add saffron and orange.  I once had a prominent French Chef taste my bourride and tell me it was good, but not a true bourride.  I started making Bourride at the behest of a lawyer/book dealer friend of mine at ‘le Margaux’ way back in 1993.  He told me it was one of his favorite dishes and asked if I ever made it.  I don’t know why I lied, but I did.  I said with utmost confidence that it was a specialty of mine and of course, I would be delighted to make it for him whenever he could get in, hoping that day would be far off enough for me to make it a few times.  He made a reservation for the next night and was bringing twelve of his closest friends to indulge.  Panic snuck in as I combed through various cook books trying to find at least two books corroborating the recipe.  When I failed in that I figured the oldest book I had probably was the closest to a true Bourride.  I settled on the version written in 1938 in the first edition of the Larousse Gastronomique.  I followed the three paragraph recipe with my mother’s indifference to measurement and impressed the twelve top.  Over the years I have continued to make Bourride and think of my friend every time.  If you want to try my saffron and orange version come on out to Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta, California and I’ll be happy to make it for you!

Bourride 1995

 

Bourride│ Provencal Seafood Stew, St. Pierre, Scallops, Mussels, Clams, Saffron Orange Brodo, Rouille

Chef François de Mélogue

 

Ingredients for four servings:

12                                Cockles

12                                Mussels

4                                  Scallops

1 #                              St. Pierre

½  head                    Fennel

1 large                       Onion

1 large                       Carrot

1 large                       Tomatoes

2 T.                              Pernod

loads of                     Garlic

2 c.                             White Wine

1 quart                      Shellfish Stock

1 c.                             Orange Juice

2 t.                               Saffron threads

1 c.                             Olive Oil

1                                  fresh Bay Leaf

2 T.                              fresh Thyme

1/4 c.                         fresh Basil

2                                  Egg Yolks

to taste                      Sea Salt

to taste                      White Pepper

4 large                       Potatoes

8                                  Garlic Croutons

1 c.                             Rouille

 

Mise en Place

  1. Carefully wash the cockles and mussels to remove any sand or grit. De – beard mussels.  Place all your seafood into a non-reactive pan.  Chop fennel tops and spread over seafood.  Add 3/4 c. olive oil, 1 T. Pernod, pinch of saffron, and lots of chopped garlic.  Marinate for six hours.
  2. Julienne fennel bulb, onion, carrots, and tomato, then sauté in olive oil.
  3. Add remaining Pernod and white wine.
  4. When it starts to simmer, add shellfish stock, more garlic, orange oil, saffron, bay leaf, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

 

To Order

  1. Add seafood; cook till they are just done.
  2. Put seafood into a serving terrine.  Whisk yolks and one cup of Rouille into cooking liquid, and then pour over fish.
  3. Serve with boiled potatoes, garlic crouton, and Rouille.

Bourride from Chicago Magazine 2004

Eating at your own restaurant is bit like witnessing a slow death…

Day One with New Camera 13

Let me clarify that.  I think when we die we get front row seats to a review of our entire lives…  we firsthand relive the proud moments of achievements completed and we watch, eyes fixated to the screen, the disasters of our lives feeling every bit of emotions we did the first time.  We cannot hide from ourselves.  You never can.

In 30 years of cooking I have never eaten where I worked.  It is near impossible to separate myself from being so intimately connected to simply being a guest.  It was voyeuristic to watch firsthand how people react to your soul being laid out on a plate naked for the world to gawk at, criticize, compliment.  It is one thing to get a good/bad review on the internet where people hide behind computer screens and critic your efforts anonymously and it is completely another thing sitting next to them, hearing their comments live, unfiltered.  I wasn’t sure I had the fortitude to do so.

My Dinner at Figue17

Last night my wife and I went on a date to Figue in La Quinta, California where I am Executive Chef.  We walked in the massive front door and were promptly greeted by one of our hostesses.  We settled on a few drinks and a charcuterie plate at the bar before going to our table.  We ordered two different bubbly cocktails.  I had the Poinsettia and Lisa tried the Fraises Embrouille.  I really enjoyed mine, it had the perfect balance of flavors, sweetness and tartness.  Lisa fraises embrouille lacked flavor and needed some amping up.  Celeste, our sommelier, had our drinks remade and it was much better the second time.

Char Bar

Our Italian American charcuterie plate was amazing.  On the plate was slices of charcuterie from various salumi producers in America who make Italian charcuterie, olive and mostarda.  The absolute best was the lardo made from Spanish Bellota pigs by la Quercia in Iowa.  Lardo is completely decadent and rich and amazing. We enjoyed the perfect bit with the richness playing off the saltiness of our house made focaccia.  The varzi salumi with it’s distinct cloves and nutmeg flavors from Creminelli in Utah was the perfect foil for the sweet, mustardy mostarda.  Javier, our waiter, brought the complimentary bread service which tonight was Turkish flatbread served with Labne, a house made yogurt cheese dusted with Aleppo pepper.  Mistakenly he called the bread Syrian mountain bread but I wasn’t here to correct while eating.  The bread was doughy and undercooked and felt like a dagger being stuck into my heart.  I live and breathe my food and it hurts to see it served incorrectly.  I pushed it aside and continued with the amazing focaccia.

My Dinner at Figue18

The hostess returned and took us to our table.  On the table are beautiful, hand made pottery diamond shaped plates made by the Wheel in San Diego that we use as share plates.  They are incredible plates.

Day One with New Camera 10

Normally when I eat out I scan the menu for dishes I really am excited to try.  Any belly, pork belly, hamachi belly, usually gets my vote.  Tonight I picked dishes I normally would never pick. I love scallops but I never order them.  Part of the problem is they usually suck.  It is more normal to get water added, or wet scallops, than it is to get diver picked dry scallops.  We also ordered the charred tuna crudo with Moroccan Charmoula.  The whole tuna served raw thing is so over played now that it is easy for me to look past that on any menu.  Tonight I ordered both and was reminded of how gorgeous and delicious they can be.

My Dinner at Figue21

The thin slices of charred tuna marinated in Moroccan spices served with orange segments and deep fried garlic chips sang in my mouth.  Every bite was an explosion of exotic flavors.  The scallops were perfectly seared by my sous chef Alejandro Hernandez and served with a pile of zucchini spaghetti and a carrot juice and saffron emulsion.  Like a bad infection, the underdone flatbread reappeared at our table.  I returned it, hoping never to see it again.  Celeste our unbelievable sommelier picked a Pic Poul that went spot on with both dishes.

My Dinner at Figue22

We moved onto two newer dishes, a Piquillo Pepper roasted and stuffed with Cypress Grove Sgt. Pepper’s Goat Cheese served over a Mache Salad dressed in a shallot vinaigrette that to me was jaw dropping in it’s flavors, richness and creaminess.  We also had the Spring Sweet Pea and Mascarpone Ravioli in a Lemon Vegetable Brodo with Truffled Pesto.  It was outstanding.  I had eaten my fair share of these raviolis in the kitchen but to get them table-side was orgasmic.  We decided to let Celeste go and surprise us with wine choices.  She knows my palate well enough.  She picked a Cinsault Rose that sang to the gods.

We moved onto probably my favorite dish on the current menu, a whole Daurade Royale served with Artichoke and Fennel Barigoule with Olive Tapenado.  Celeste served two wines, a Domaine Coulerette Chablis that sang and an effervescent Getariako.  Both were great in their own way.  One thing I always wonder is why more guests coming to a restaurant do not leave the experience in the hands of the Chef and sommelier.  It is a far more interesting way to eat and you will probably try things you are unfamiliar with.  Part of the problem is we fear letting go of control.  We think we are open minded and ready for spontaneous things.  When in reality we want to be firmly in control fearing the unexplored and the new and different.

While eating the Daurade the table next to us returned the Porchetta, a spit roasted acorn fed pig slow cooked over a wood fire on our custom made Italian rotisserie.  I ordered some to try it myself.  Another dish I love in the kitchen but would never order.  The customer felt it was too fatty.  I felt it was perfectly cooked and would not change a thing.  Sometimes dear friends the customer is NOT right.  The Pigue Newton, a fig and bacon compote we serve with it went extremely well.  Celeste had picked a Burgundy to match the pork.  Another great choice.

My Dinner at Figue27

While eating I noticed a gentleman I had spoken with a few days before sitting at the table next to me.  The attempt of dining incognito ended.  I bought two desserts for the porchetta table and introduced myself when they received it.  I said hello and talked with the gentlemen I met before and started a great conversation with the folks next to me who happened to be from my hometown of Chicago.  I also met the owner of a few area restaurants and discussed our concept with him.  Celeste is pictured above with the doctor who owns three area restaurants.

My Dinner at Figue23My Dinner at Figue25 My Dinner at Figue26

We finished the night off with a dessert me and former pastry Chef Sarah Smith had come up with while working at Copper Beech Inn in Connecticut a few years back.  It has been re purposed and modified with current pastry chef Carla Rojas.  It is a Strawberry Soup with a Vacherin of Mara de Bois Strawberries and Frozen Lavender Yogurt.

My Dinner at Figue24

All in all it was a great night and everyone made me proud.  I am so happy with my sous chef Alex and my entire kitchen staff.  Javier and the front of the house did really really well minus a few mistakes on menu knowledge.  Micheal my charcuterie bar Chef did an amazing job with the cold food.  I forgot to mention he served us a delectable parmesan shortbread with tomato confit and Bulgarian feta…  I slept very easily knowing we are on the straight and narrow road.  I may eat here again before thirty years pass…  If you come to visit ask for me!

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Café Liégeois

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This classic French dessert always tugs on my heart strings.  My maman used to make it all the time during the summer months when I was growing up.  Café Liégeois originally was called Café Viennois but during World War I when the Germans attacked Liège, Parisian restaurants changed the name to Café Liégeois.

Café Liégeois is a very simple recipe that allows lots of variants to be created.  Classically it is made from iced and sweetened espresso, coffee ice cream & sweetened whipped cream.  This last weekend I made a variant called Barcelona Liégeois made with iced espresso, chocolate sorbet , salted caramel, whipped cream, chopped Marcona almonds and a Pirouette cookie from Pepperidge Farms.

No recipe is needed other than for salted Caramel sauce and even that is so easy and flexible.  I start by caramelizing ½ c. organic sugar and about ¼ c. water in a heavy gauged pot over medium heat.  As you start heating the pan notice the small size of the bubbles.  As the sugar cooks and the moisture cooks off the bubbles will get considerably larger.  Pour in ¼ c. of Heavy Cream when the caramel turns an amber color.  Finish the sauce with two pinches of really good sea salt and a tablespoon of butter.

Construct your Café Liégeois with chilled sweetened espresso, a few scoops of chocolate sorbet, a tablespoon or more of salted caramel sauce, a few tablespoons of sweetened whipped cream, a few large pinches of chopped Marcona almonds and a Pirouette cookie.

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