Monday, January 05, 2009

Lion on the Menu.

The New York Times of February 20, 1875 ran an item about a very special dinner in Paris the previous December in which the fierce Mr. Lion was doubly honored in giving up his life to the valiant lion slayer and providing a magnificent meal to some very appreciative gourmands.

M. Constant Cheret, the well-known lion hunter, says Land and Water, recently sent the editor of La Chasse Illustré a magnificent quarter of a lion which he had shot in the neighbourhood of Phillipeville, Algeria, in the course of the month of December. With a view to doing all possible honor to the sportsman’s gift, the editor invited his staff to dine with him at Restaurant Magny, a house renowned for its cook and cellar, and well patronized by Messieurs les Chasseurs. On this momentous occasion the great Magny himself superintended the dinner, and prepared the principal dishes with his own hand. The guests were nineteen in number, and the menu was one of the choicest; indeed Mr. Lion seems to have been the pretext for organizing one of the prettiest and most recherché gastronomical fêtes that we have heard of for a long time. The bill of fare was as follows:

Huitres de Marennes.
Beurre et Olives.
Potages tapioca et bisque.
Bouchée à la Reine.
Barbue Sauce Hollandaise.
Filets à la Rossini.
Estouffade de Lion à la Méridionale.
Coeur de Lion à la Castellane.
Coq d Bruyère flanqué de Bécasses.
Petits Pois.
Biscuit Glacé.

Chablis, Sauternes, Rousillon’s Champagne, Corton &c.

The dinner, as a specimen of the culinary art, was perfect; but of course the great attraction was the lion ham and heart. These dishes were prepared by Magny himself in the following manner:

Estouffade de Lion à la Méridionale.
Mariner the lion for a week with plenty of spice, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, parsley, and cloves; then pour red wine over it – some Burgundy or a strong Southern wine – until it is completely covered, taking care to add a little good cognac. At the end of the week strain the lion on a cloth, remove the sinows, cut it into nice fillets, lard them, and put them into a casserole with olive oil. When the outside is slightly browned, remove them from the sauce-pan, and place them en couronne in a large frying pan, along with a third of the marinade, some butter, and the third of a quarter of an orange. Prick a few fine olives with pins, remove the stones, and place them along with the filets half an hour before serving. Four hours’ cooking is sufficient.

Coeur de Lion à la Castellane.
Chop up a pound of fat bacon and a pound of lean veal, season it well with salt, pepper, and spice; pass it through a strainer, as you would in making a purée, after having warmed it on the fire. Now mix a pound of farce de volaille with it, adding a little cognac, some Madeira, and half a pound of mushrooms chopped up small. Remove the centre of the heart, fill it with the farce, roll it and envelope it in a pâtee. Cook it for three hours and a half, and serve it up with a demi-glace and a garniture of mushroom farcis.

When Mr. Lion was placed upon the table there was a religious silence, which, however, only lasted for a few seconds, for at the first mouthful, a murmur of approbation ran round the table, and the guests with one accord drank to the health of Mr. Cheret and M. Magny, coupling in their admiration the valiant lion-slayer and the clever artiste who had proved himself able to prepare such a delicious dish out of the flesh of this ferocious game, which is more frequently in the habit of eating others rather than of being eaten itself. In these days of economy it is pleasing to find that even lions in carcase can be utilized, and that no longer is a live dog better than a dead lion. M. Magny should come over to Regent’s Park and give Mr. Bartlett a few of these simple recipes.


Judith Klinger said...

Oh my, quite the menu and quite the recipes. I'm guessing if I marinated my shoe leather for a week, taking care to add some fine cognac, then cooked it for four hours that it would also be quite tasty. As the Italians are fond of saying, this sounds "molto particulare".

The Old Foodie said...

Yes Judith, it is hard to believe that it actually tasted of lion, isnt it?