Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Musical Food.

Today, October 10th

This day in 1948 was the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano. The recipes translated and set to music by Bernstein were from La Bonne Cuisine Française by Emile Dumont, and his specific choices were 1. Plum Pudding 2. Queues de Boeuf (‘Ox Tails”) 3. Tavouk Gueunksis 4. Civet à Toute Vitesse (“Rabbit at Top Speed”).

I had thought to give you the song-recipes, but it appears that they are top-secret and unavailable due to strict observance of copyright, which is of course a good thing. The slight mystery to me is the Tavouk Gueunkis. The song starts by saying it is “so Oriental” (I did learn that much), and presumably it is a chicken dish (tavouk = chicken, right?) Someone help me here, please.

Plum pudding recipes are aplenty in the Christmas recipe archive, so it wont do for today’s recipe. I had a lovely Ox-tail ravioli at a local restaurant recently, so felt like a change. Rabbit it has to be.

There is a lovely little book published in 1859 called The gourmet's guide to rabbit cooking, by an old epicure (who is presumably the Georgiana Hill of the title page.) It gives 124 receipts for rabbit, but first, the author explains its culinary value thus:

Firstly, to quote from our friends the French, who possess an aptitude for delicacy of expression of which an English cook is totally deficient, the charm of rabbits consists in their being so easily and agreeably accommodated (mark the word), and in their capability of producing a variety of compositions, which, if proceeding from the hands of an able artiste, may, or elegance, be ranked amongst the most recherche dishes that can dignify the table of refined and enlightened amphitryons. Another thing recommendable in rabbits is their cheapness. Even one solitary rabbit will make a pretty appearance at a dinner, whereas its equivalent money's-worth of butcher's meat would be quite an uncomfortable object to contemplate. They are likewise easily obtained, being in season nearly throughout the year, are quickly dressed, have very little weight of bone, will keep well, and, besides being considered wholesome and easy of digestion, have, according to the following old rhyme, a property ascribed to them which confirms us in our estimation of their merits, and exemplifies the wisdom of the originators of cookery, in causing so favourable a combination of forces as ensues from their alliance with the admirable esculent which usually accompanies them in their culinary career :

For onions, you know, are generally said
To be an excellent remedy for a cold in the head;
And rabbits, I'm told by those who are smart,
Are a capital cure for a cold in the heart.

The author of the cookbook does give plenty of recipes for rabbit with these admirable esculents as an ingredient, but a couple of other more unusual combinations caught my eye and distracted me from my search for the speediest recipes.

Laver is a “marine algae” (i.e seaweed), is having somewhat of a comeback I understand, and is often served with gammon and suchlike, so perhaps not so strange with rabbit. Caviar, on the other hand, must be an unusual ingredient in a rabbit dish, yes?

Rabbit and Laver.
Cut up a very tender rabbit fry it in butter until it is quite done and appears beautifully brown. While it is doing put four ounces of fresh butter into a saucepan and when melted add the juice of a whole lemon a little Cayenne pepper and two table spoonfuls of fresh laver. Let it become almost boiling hot lay your rabbit upon a well warmed dish pour the laver sauce over it and serve as quickly as possible The perfection of this dish depends upon the promptitude of sending it to table for unless it is eaten hot the fineness of its flavour is lost.

Rabbit and Caviare.
Choose a fine fat rabbit cut it into joints season it lightly and put it into a stewpan with a quarter of a pound of fresh butter shake it over the fire until you think it is half done then pour in half a pint of white wine and allow it to stay upon the hob to simmer. Prepare a table spoonful of unpressed caviare and put it into another stewpan by the side of the fire moisten it with a tea cupful of gravy and soon after pour in half a pint of rich cream let it reduce slowly and when both are done dish up the meat upon the caviare.

On this Topic ...

We considered the dangers of rabbit aboard ship, and the essential differences between rabbit and hare in previous posts.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Family Fare.

Quotation for the Day …

Intellectual men who quickly wolf down whatever nourishment is necessary for their bodies with a kind of disdain, may be very rational and have a noble intelligence, but they are not men of taste. Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin (1804-1869).


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

How interesting that two forms of artistic expression were combined in this way. I do think that musicians understand the passion of food.

Catofstripes said...

My researches seem to have followed in your footsteps. Tavouk Gueunksis is breast of chicken if you look at the French language first line.

The Emile Dupont cookery book is available from second hand sellers via, I've seen prices from 53 euros but postage on top of that to Australia might make it uneconomic.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello t.w - it might be fun to create a meal around the recipes, and play the music at the meal(very short pieces they are though)

Hello M. I considered buying the book, but by the time I got it would have been too late for the planned post. I'll keep my eye out for a bargain.

Anonymous said...

Tavuk göğsü is a turkish dessert pudding:

Head Food and Wine Maven said...

I went for it and bought the 1890s Emile Dumont cookbook for around $25. I scanned all of the original recipes and put them online as well as translated them.

Bernstein took these recipes from La Bonne Cuisine - Manuel économique et pratique (ville et champagne). They're not from Dumont's La Bonne Cuisine Française - Manuel guide de la cuisinière et de la maîtresse de maison. I searched the latter and there is no recipe for tavouk in that cookbook. Exotic foreign dishes like tavouk were only added later (and the title became Fine Cooking, instead of Fine French Cooking). By the way, tavouk is a sweet Turkish pudding with chicken (based on a rice porridge with milk and sugar.)

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks for this, Maven - you have provided a great service for food historians and enthusiasts!