Monday, August 13, 2007

The Baron Brisse.

Today, August 13th …

As promised, this week we will be inspired by the mid-nineteenth century menu and recipe book of the Baron Léon Brisse. Not much is known about him. He was a (presumably) aristocratic Frenchman who appeared to have to earn a living. He began his working life in the department of Water and Forestry under Louise Phillipe, but left in 1850 to pursue his interests in gastronomy and writing (it seems that he left his employ in the wake of a scandal of sorts).

The baron was perhaps the first food journalist. He wrote regularly for La Liberte, and in 1868 published Les Trois Cent Soixant Six Menus du Baron Brisse (The 366 Menus of Baron Brisse). The book included 1200 recipes, many of which are quite outlandish – a fact for which he was criticised at the time. How was he to know? He did not actually cook himself, he was a collector of recipes.

In his preface, the baron makes one highly unusual comment. Cookbook authors almost always advocate frugality in the kitchen (or at least denounce flagrant waste). The baron says:

“I have not attempted to give recipes for using up scraps, as this art is only useful when you run short of provisions; it is quite a mistake to imagine that warming up cooked meat is economical, as all good transformations must be expensive.”

His suggested menu for August 13 is:

Potage Crécy
(Crécy Soup)
Matelote de carpe et d’anguille
(Stewed carp and eel)
Poupiettes de veau.
(Stuffed fillets of veal)
Pintade rôtie.
(Roast guinea-fowl)
Haricots verts au beurre noir.
(Green beans with black butter)
Biscuit de savoy.
(Savoy cake)

I do hope that I have solved your problem of what to cook for dinner tonight. The Baron has also enabled me to fulfil my promise to you a few days ago of giving you a recipe for a Savoy cake.

Savoy, or sponge cake.
Break fifteen eggs, keep the yolks separate from the whites, stir a pound of powdered sugar into the yolks, and flavour with either grated lemon peel or vanilla, beat until frothy; whip the whites to a thick cream, add to the yolks, and stir in a pound of flour; pour into a buttered mould, or into small cases, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and bake; when done, glaze the cake with whipped whites of egg, flavoured with lemon juice and sugar, and serve when cold.

Tomorrow’s Story …

The Baron Brisse Menu 2.

Quotation for the Day ….

Chef: Any cook who swears in French. Henry Beard and Roy McKie

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