Thursday, July 23, 2009

The riches of the sea.

Today, July 23, is the day that we would have devoted to honouring Neptune, the god of the sea and water, if we were in Ancient Rome. Actually, now that I think about it, Neptune should be honoured here in Modern Brisbane, which has some pretty damn divine seafood that any god would be honoured to be offered. In fact, I think we’ll go and eat fish (and chips) tonight at the usual place, if we can find a coupla friends to go with us (you know who you are …)

What, exactly, the Romans did to celebrate Neptune is not entirely clear to me, but I am not an ancient historian (you can take that any way you like.) They apparently built small shelters (umbrae) of leaves and branches and so on, under which they enjoyed the Roman equivalent of picnics, drank cool spring water and wine, and otherwise desported themselves.

Today I make a symbolic offering to Neptune and all seafood lovers. I give you all a recipe for the famously, spectacularly, ridiculously extravagant fish soup supposedly made for the Russian Empress Catherine II.

Soup Of Fillets Of Perch ; from the Empress Catherine II.
(Potage de Filets de Perches a la Catherine II)
The consommé being prepared as before, trim, in small escalopes, the fillets of three perch, throw salt over them; an hour after wash, drain, and lay them in a saute-plate; afterwards make a quenelle of cray-fish, with cray-fish butter; mark an essence of fish thus: cut in lengths a small eel, a sole, a small pike, and the trimmings of the perch ; add four pottles of mushrooms, two onions sliced, parsley-roots, two cloves, a pinch of pepper and grated nutmeg, bay-leaf, thyme, basil, two new anchovies, the flesh of a sound lemon, a bottle of Champagne, and a little salt; boil it slowly for an hour, squeeze it through a tammy upon the fillets of perch, which boil for ten minutes; add six livers of burbots, six roes of carp, and twenty-four small mushrooms turned and very white; having simmered the escalopes of perch for some minutes, drain them and lay them in the tureen, and upon them place the livers, roes, and mushrooms; pour the liquor from them into the consomme, which thicken slightly with a light roux; when serving, add a liaison of twelve eggs, and four ounces of cray-fish butter; stir the soup, that the liaison may mix perfectly smooth; and, as soon as it begins to boil, pour it into the tureen, adding the points of a bundle of asparagus, prepared as for an entree; serve.
The Practical Cook, English and Foreign, J. Bregion and A.Miller, 1845

If anyone wants to make this soup for me today, I am willing to forgo the fish restaurant. I can be reached by email (see the top of the sidebar), which I will check frequently throughout the day.

Quotation for the Day.

[T]his planet is covered with sordid men who demand that he who spends time fishing shall show returns in fish.
Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.

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