Friday, November 18, 2005

Heroes in the Kitchen.

Today, November 18th …

You may not be at all interested in what gets eaten at the White House. You may consider anything smacking of political paparazzi-ism (is that a word?) beneath you. You may, alternatively, be gloriously inspired to re-create this meal when you realise that it was eaten by Tricky Dicky himself on this day in 1970. If not, stay with me anyway, for there is still much of interest in this menu.

Vol au vent Américaine

Supreme of Pheasant Smitane
Wild Rice
Timbale of Spinach
Carrots au Beurre

Baked Alaska

If America’s first family choose to have their menus in French, why would they not be consistent? Why not “riz sauvage” (or would it be “riz fou”?) and why not Bombe Alaska?

The “history” of Baked Alaska is disputed, and more fakelore than history, but what is certain is that it was a brave chef who first sent it to the table. Covering a slab of cake and ice-cream with meringue and baking it till set and golden is not an activity for the faint-hearted. Particularly if it is for a president.

So how about the opposite concept? Ice-cream on the outside, meringue inside, and right in the centre some hot brandied marmalade. It was the invention of Nicholas Kurti, a physics professor at Oxford who specialised in ultra-low temperature physics, thereby qualifying him as an expert ice-cream cook. It works because: microwave frequencies are absorbed strongly in alcohol but not well in ice, and microwave ovens heat from the inside out. Voila! “Inverted Baked Alaska”!

The earliest published recipe for ice-cream is in 1718, but would exceed my word limit, so I will give you one from Hannah Glasse (1747).

" Take two pewter basons, one larger than the other; the inward one must have a close cover, into which you are to put your cream, and mix it with raspberries, or whatver you like best, to give it a flavour and a colour. Sweeten it to you palate; then cover it close, and set it into the larger bason. Fill it with ice, and a handful of salt: let it stand in this ice three quarters of an hour, then uncover it, and stir the cream well together: cover it close again, and let is stand half an hour longer, after that turn it into your plate. These things are made at the pewterers."

How brave are you?

Tomorrow … Heroes in the Kitchen.

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