Posts Tagged ‘France’

Cooking in 10 Minutes.

Cooking in 10 Minutes. Cover of 1994 US Edition.

  Cooking in Ten Minutes by Edouard de Pomaine.

“Do not imagine that ten-minute cooking is going to condemn you to an eternal round of       beef-steak without any of the frills of finer cookery.

Your gas stove has two burners, if not three.  What is to prevent you cooking slices of ox kidney saute’ in butter on the one, while you make a sauce bearnaise on the other?

During the same ten minutes you can prepare both the kidneys and the sauce.  The result is delicious.  I have done it time and again.  Thanks to the sauce the ordinary ox kidneys, despised by the fastidious, assume an aristocratic manner.

You can always prepare meat and a sauce, but are there many rapidly prepared sauces? That all depends on the liveliness of your imagination.  Invent the sauces.  The great thing is to prepare them quickly, and for this you must follow the advice which I shall give you for the preparation of some standard sauces.”

~~~~~

Here’s what Elizabeth David wrote about Pomaine in her book An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.  [pp. 175-182]

“In the days when Pomaine was writing, chefs did not dream of braising vegetables – lettuces, leeks, Belgian endives, for example – without a preliminary blanching.  That rule was immutable, and woe betide anyone who disregarded it.  Dr. de Pomaine bypassed it, and I adopted his method, particularly his recipe for cooling Belgian endives in butter and entirely without a prior water baptism.  That sort of unorthodoxy got one into trouble. …

Doctor Edouard de Pomaine’s real name was Edouard Pozerski.  He was of purely Polish origin, the son of emigres who had fled Poland and settled in Paris after the Revolution of 1863.  …

De Pomaine was the first writer to propound such happenings as the fusion of egg yolks and olive oil in a mayonnaise, the sizzling of a potato chip when plunged into fat for deep-frying, in language so straightforward, so graphic, that even the least scientifically minded could grasp the principles instead of simply learning the rules.  In cooking, the possibility of muffing a dish is always with us.  Nobody can eliminate that.  What de Pomaine did by explaining the cause, was to banish the fear of failure.

Adored by his public and his pupils, feared by the phoney, derided by the reactionary, de Pomaine’s irreverent attitude to established tradition, his independence of mind backed up by scientific training, earned him the reputation of being something of a Candide, a provocative rebel disturbing the grave conclaves of French gastronnomes, questioning the hold rites of the ‘white-vestured officiating priests’ of classical French cookery.

Of a dish from the Swiss mountains, Dr. de Pomaine observes that it is ‘a peasant dish, rustic and vigorous.  It is not everybody’s taste.  But one can improve upon it.  Let us get to work.’ … ”

Resources:

10 Minute French Cooking Blog

Wikipedia article on 10 Minute French Cooking

During the coast to coast walk across France, I could eat dessert with every meal. And for breakfast.  The story of my solo trek and the meals I enjoyed in the Pyrenees region is between covers now and includes recipes.  Kindle version is also available.  

Crème Catalan

4 egg yolks

4 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp flour

4 cups milk

half a stick of cinnamon

fresh lemon rind, grated

1/4 cup superfine granulated or caster sugar for caramelized topping

4 ceramic ramekins or a shallow ceramic serving dish

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the granulated sugar.  In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with a little milk to make a paste.  Pour remaining milk into a saucepan, add the cinnamon stick and grated lemon rind and bring to a boil, then remove the pan from heat and let the perfumed milk cool.  Strain the perfumed milk onto the paste mixture in a non-reactive sauce pan (stainless steel, glass or enamel) and heat gently, stirring constantly.  The mixture should thicken and when it comes to a boil, pour the crème (custard) into a shallow oven proof dish or into small ceramic serving dishes.  Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the custard with superfine sugar and gently burn the surface with a chef’s torch if you have one, or pass the ramekins under the broiler for a few seconds until the top of the custard is browned and sealed with the sugar.

 

***

 

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

On Starch:  An excerpt from The Physiology of Taste, Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, translated by M.F.K. Fisher, The Heritage Press, New York, 1949

 

“Starch is a perfect food especially when it is least mixed with foreign matter.  By this starch is meant the flour or dust which comes from cereal grains, from legumes such as beans, and from many root vegetables, among which the potato at this moment holds first place.

Starch is the base of bread, of cakes, and of thick soups of all kinds, and for this reason forms a very great part of almost every person’s nourishment.

It has been observed that such a diet softens a man’s flesh and even his courage.  For proof one can cite the Indians, who live almost exclusively on rice and who are the prey of almost anyone who wishes to conquer them.

Almost all domestic animals will eat starch with avidity, and they are, in contrast, unusually strengthened by it, because it is a more substantial nourishment than the fresh or dry leaves which are their habitual fodder.

Sugar is no less negligible, either as a food or as a medicine.”

***

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born in Belley, in the Ain, in France, on the first day of April, 1755.  He lived and died a lawyer, like the other men of his family.  As Mayor of Belley he resisted the blood revolutionists in 1793, and was forced to flee his country, first to Switzerland and then to America.  He spent some two years in New York, giving language lessons and playing his violin in a theatre orchestra.  In 1796 he returned to France, and although he had lost almost everything, including his fine little vineyard, he was reinstated as an honorable citizen.  In 1825 he published at his own expense The Physiology of Taste, on which he had been working with amusement and pleasure for some three decades.  He died on February 2, 1826.  p. 23, (The Translator’s Glosses, M.F.K. Fisher).

French Gastronomy -The History and Geography of a Passion

Jean-Robert Pitte, Columbia University Press, 2002

207 pages, including index.

Leading off with a tongue-in-cheek discussion on whether gourmandism is a sin in France (or anywhere), the author is equally at ease citing evangelical and Pauline epistolary evidence as the classical Greek and Roman philosophical commentators on how to live life well.  For those concerned with the eating habits of Jesus, the author points out that once the fasts ended, Jesus ate and drank heartily with the best of them.

From there, the lively analysis moves to explain that French food is so varied because it lay on the path between the warring and striving clans of the past.  Political changes brought trade and the next thing you know, wealth builds, which buys good cooks, fine ingredients and the leisure to stay at table.

The Parisian dedication to eating and measuring success by wealth of the table long predates the ostentatious 1890’s or the studious culinary minimalism of the 1980’s.  The Venetian ambassador to the King of France in 1577, surely no bumpkin, commented on the diverse provisions and how rich and  poor alike eat well.  (p. 80)  In the early 19th century Parisians could buy strawberries in January, grapes at Spring solstice and pineapples year round. (p. 82)

The big advance in French cooking occurred with the change in meat preparation from roasting on an open fire or boiling in a suspended pot to a raised prototype stove called a potager.  Built of bricks and tiles, the potager existed in Italy a century before it arrived in French kitchens in the 18th century.  Hot coals were arranged inside the potager and cooks could simmer broths, stir sauces, and braise meats. “Henceforth, cooking was done standing up, close to the source of heat, a position more favorable for producing complicated hot dishes.” (p. 97)  Of course the elaborate presentation caused the food to cool by the time the dish reached the banquet table.

In more recent centuries, the author’s primary source archives expand.  Chapters dedicated to the French royal and imperial kitchens extend to the rest of Europe because any duke worth his salt wanted a French chef.  Contemporary French food nationalism, street eating habits and the revival of regional producteurs dedicated to traditional specialties come under Pitte’s scholarly scapel, always leavened with humor and graceful translation by Jody Gladding.  In the end Pitte is hopeful that the French will abandon fast food and nouvelle cuisine, returning to their gourmandizing (sinning) ways.

by L. Peat O’Neil

This review was published in Bloomsbury Review.




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