Friday, October 27, 2006

Anniversary #2

18thC Cuisine has marked its 2nd anniversary with receipt of enough foie gras to try many recipes. Look for upcoming posts on different ways of preparing this delicacy and also on the archaeology of the ceramic dishes used to cook it sans a flour crust.

Many thanks to my loyal fans--here's to another year of exploring the past in French kitchens!

Enjoy Foie Gras, home of some of the best foie gras and other French treats--charcuterie and truffles.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Judging Paper Chef 22, the Slow Edition

Owen is amazing–he manages to elicit the most creative dishes from sometimes humble and oftentimes obscure ingredients–and he always throws in a curve at the last minute! But cooks from around the world always come up with combinations that fit in both home-style and haute cuisines. This month’s edition drew barberries, pumpkin, spinach and slow ingredients and when Own emailed me the writeup, my mouth immediately began to water! Eye-popping haute dishes and earthy, unctious home-style casseroles–now the dilemma–how to decide!

First the home category . . . Noodle Cook prepared a smoky dish of grilled and carmelized vegetables–one a capsicum pepper [too hot for me!]–and deglazed the pan with slow-aged balsamic vinegar served over couscous. My kids would eat this dish up before the cook could get a taste!

The Laughing Gastronome introduced me to Middle Eastern cooking and a new use of yoghurt. Her Chicken Barberryani was a spinoff from a famous traditional Iranian recipe using a rice mixture as the “container” of a finished casserole. Emma served it with a beautiful combination of greens and caramelized pumpkin.

Jonskifarms, even though laboring with a broken arm, turned out a complicated and winning entry in the Home category, complete with an interesting history of the dish–again using a slow-cooked rice and yoghurt crust, Oven-baked Rice with Barberries and Butternut Squash on a bed of spinach, also of Persian influence. This dish would bubble merrily away in the back of my fireplace tucked in among the ashes. Congratulations!

Haute category’s entries begin with Columbus Foodie’s fresh-looking salad of goat cheese, blueberries, and crunchy pumpkin seeds dressed with balsamic vinegar. This was her first entry and her salad would certainly do any restaurant proud–her plating was very appetizing and colorful.

Anita’s entry of Parsee Dhansak made me want to lift the lid and dig right in–I could fairly smell the toasted spices and richness of the lentils and pumpkin wafting through my kitchen. She was concerned that the plating did not do the dish justice, but served in an earthen crock with crusty bread this main dish could happily grace any harvest table in the richest restaurant.

Congratulations to our Haute winner, Bron, whose Pumpkin Tortellini stuffed with spinach and cheese served with a berry-wine sauce was a stunner! The colors alone shout Haute cuisine and the tart-sweet taste combination make this a winner in any category. Her plating and photos were superb.

Kudos for a job well done for all of the entrants–your dishes look wonderful and should taste even better. Thanks, too, to Owen for hosting such a fun competition. This edition’s entries would certainly compare to any TV competition–great job.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Deportment 101

Nicolas LANCRET, Paris, L'automne 1738

When it's all said and done, things haven't changed all that much . . .

"It is proper that her [bourgeois housewife] behavior at table be fitting. But before coming to sit, she should be seen moving throughout her household so that everyone is aware that she is attending to all matters: let her come and go busily, then sit down at last. She should even have everyone wait for her a little. And when she is seated she should, if possible, serve everyone; she should be the first to cut the bread and to pass it around her, beginning with her tablemate with whom she will share a bowl. In front of him she should set the thigh or wing of fowl, on in front of him carve beef depending on what is served, whether it is meat or fish. She should not be chary in this serving, if she is able. She should be careful not to moisten her fingers up to the knuckles with the broths, and that her lips not get smeared with sops, garlic or grease; nor should she stuff her mouth too full, nor take too large bites. Only with the tip of her fingers should she pick up the morsel she dips into the Green Sauce [fresh green herbs stamped with salt, pepper and vinegar] or the Cameline [unboiled cinnamon sauce] or Jance [boiled ginger sauce]; and then she should bear it carefully to her mouth so that not a drop of the broth or sauce drips down her front. Likewise, she should drink carefully so that not a drop falls, else she will be looked upon as vulgar and piggish. She should refrain from reaching for her goblet while she has a morsel in her mouth, and she should always wipe any grease from her mouth—at least from her upper lip, because if there is any grease there, drops of it will show up on the wine, which isn’t pretty.

She should take only small sips; even is she is thirsty, she should not guzzle in a single gulp from her goblet or cup, but rather in small sips, and often, so that others will not say she is swilling down greedily. She should not swallow the rim of her goblet as many wet-nurses do who are so simple-minded and gluttonous that they pour their wine into their belly as if they were filling an empty boot. She should avoid becoming drunk, because neither a drunk man nor a drunk woman can keep private counsel; besides, when a woman is drunk she can no longer protect herself; she prattles her thoughts and is open to everyone’s advances. She should keep herself from falling asleep at the table; it is really improper, and too many indecent things happen to those who let that happen. It doesn’t make sense to doze when you should be awake; many who do so end up falling to one side or the other, or backwards, and break their arm or ribs or crack their head."

Jean of Meun, Romance of the Rose,13thC, II. 13,355-444.
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