This day, Juy 24, was the birthday in 1802 of Alexandre Dumas (père), the French author of The Three Musketeers. Dumas was a dedicated and famous gourmet (‘foodie’, if you like), and wished to be remembered for his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine – finally published two years after his death – rather than his novels. He left a legacy of some of the best nineteenth century French food stories and quotations, many of which have been fodder for this blog in the past.
Here is a selection of my favourite quotations from the birthday boy:
“Wine is the intellectual part of a meal, meats are merely the material part.”
“When I eat truffles, I become livelier, happier, Ifeel refreshed. I feel inside me, especially in my veins, a soft voluptuous heat that quickly reaches my head. My ideas are clearer and easier.”
"The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber [the truffle], and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord."
Dumas was inordinately proud of his salad recipe which we have featured in a previous post. He was moderately famous in his own time – at least amongst his friends – for this salad, which he prepared with his own hands. He was also in possession of “a certain recipe for stewed carp” which has retained the air of mystery it had in his own time, and has refused to reveal itself (to me, at any rate.)
Instead, I give you a recipe for fish named in his honour by the very famous nineteenth century chef, Alexis Soyer. The dish will also perfectly fit the bill for those of you in parts of the world where it is still July 23rd and therefore still Neptunalia (see “yesterday’s” post.)
Filets of Mackerel à la Dumas.
Fillet your mackerel as you would whitings by passing the knife down the back bone, lay your fillets in a buttered sauté-pan (the skin side upwards) with two tablespoonfuls of oil, two of port wine, and season with a little pepper and salt; place them over a sharp fire ten minutes, then turn them and place them over again five minutes longer, or till they are done; take them out cut each fillet in halves and dish them round on a dish without a napkin; then put twelve tablespoonfuls of brown sauce (No. 1) into the sauté-pan, let it boil five minutes then add a teaspoonful of chopped mushrooms half ditto of chopped parsley, a little lemon juice, and a small quantity of sugar ;chop the roe of the mackerel and put in the sauce, let it simmer five minutes; pour it over the fillets cover them lightly with bread crumbs, brown lightly with the salamander and serve very hot. The sauce must not be too thick.
The Gastronomic Regenerator, by Alexis Soyer
Quotation for the Day.
I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who am I to judge?