Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Salad, by Dumas.

Today, February 20th …

Alexandre Dumas gave us The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask – some of the greatest adventure novels ever written. His real labour of love however was his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, although he never saw it published. Dumas died on December 5th 1870 while Paris was under siege by the Prussians, and his great dictionary was not published until 1873, after the end of the Franco-Prussian war.

On this day in 1865, Dumas was at a dinner for twenty hosted by his friend Doctor Jobert de Lamballe.


Croûtes au pot.
Purée de perdreaux à la Beaufort.

Crépinettes de gibier.
Petits vol-au-vent à la Monglas

Carpe du Rhin à la Chambord.
Dinde truffée à la périgourdine.

Filets de perdreaux à la Richelieu.
Gâteaux de volaille à la Tourville.
Noisettes de chevreuil aux truffes
Salade de homards à la Bagration.
Punch rosé.

Poulardes truffées
Pâtés de foie gras

Cardons à la moelle.
Truffes au vin de Champagne.
Petites timbales Sans-souci.
Brioche mousseline à la d'Orléans.

The Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine is a truly monumental work – an encyclopedia with recipes, covering everything from ‘Abaisse’ to ‘Zuchetti’ and written ‘to be read by worldly people and used by professionals’. Dumas was not just a gourmet (it is said that his love of food was equalled only by his love of women), he was an excellent practical cook at a time when men were either professional cooks, or kept right out of the kitchen. He was particularly proud of his salad, and he explained its story in detail in a letter to his old friend Jules Janin. He is talking about his legendary Wednesday evening suppers.

‘… Finally, I made a salad that satisfied my guests so well that when Ronconi, one of my most regular guests, could not come, he sent for his share of the salad, which was taken to him under a great umbrella when it rained so that no foreign matter might spoil it.

“How” you will ask me, my dear Janin … “how could you make a salad one of the important dishes for your supper?”

It is because my salad was not just like any other salad.’

Dumas goes on to give his secret away:

‘It was a salad of great imagination, composite order, with five principal ingredients:
Slices of beet, half-moons of celery, minced truffles, rampion with its leaves, and boiled potatoes.

… First I put the ingredients into the salad bowl, then overturn them onto a platter. Into the empty bowl I put one hard boiled egg yolk for each two persons – six for a dozen guests. These I mash with oil to form a paste, to which I add cherviel , crushed tuna, macerated anchovies, Maille mustard, a large spoonful of soya, chopped gherkins, and the chopped white of the eggs. I thin this mixture by stirring in the finest vinegar obtainable. Finally I put the salad back in the bowl, and my servant tosses it [Dumas has earlier mentioned that this should be done an hour before it is to be served, and the salad should be turned over three or four times during that hour.] On the tossed salad I sprinkle a pinch of paprika, which is the Hungarian red pepper.

And there you have the salad that so fascinated poor Ronconi.’

[From: The Dictionary of Cuisine, edited, abridged, and translated by Louis Colman.]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Chewing a Walking Stick.

A Previous Story for this Day …

The Milk shake was the topic of our story last year on this day.

Quotation for the Day …

Wine is the intellectual part of a meal. Alexandre Dumas, Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine.


~~louise~~ said...

GREAT post Janet. Hope you don't mind, I borrowed the link for a post I did today honoring Alexandre Dumas. It's the 24th here in the US and the day he was born!

The Old Foodie said...

Any time Louise, it is always good to share stuff.

~~louise~~ said...

Thanks Janet. I really appreciate it. Your post blends perfectly:)

TSGordon said...

"Dumas Pere, L'Ecole de la Cuisine Frnçaise" was not widely known outside of the Chicago area. Sadly, its founder, Chef John Snowden, remains relatively obscure, and you won't find more than a handful of graduates who continue to practice his methods today. Not being much of a reader, or a writer, It never occured to me to research the connection.

Amazingly, you can freely download Dumas' culinary masterpiece in PDF form. After skimming the first 150 pages, I can see it's truly a remarkable work. Now if I just knew a little French!!

Janet, I mention it becuse I have just received a delightful copy of "Modern French Culinary Art," by Pellaprat. The illustrations may have been considered to be superb in 1965, but these dishes look decidedly unappealing today, in the wake of current 'foodie' trends. However, they can provide some very clear guideposts from which a clever chef might create tomorrow's masterpieces.

That said, "Keep me on the List!" -I hope to become a recognized chef in my own right someday.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks TS - I will now find a copy of Pellaprat for myself - love those old food images! Please do keep reading and commenting, and best of luck with your career wishes.

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

I have read that he introduced risotto to France, when his wife fired the cook the day of a dinner party. He found nothing in the larder except for a sack of rice. One guest had brought a sausage, and another some tomatoes, and from this he devised a meal that had all Paris talking.