Monday, November 30, 2009

Justifiable Homicide, Chef Style.

Those of you who have ever felt themselves to be insufficiently appreciated cooks will enjoy today’s story – an often repeated and somewhat apocryphal tale, quoted on this occasion in The Stag Cook Book: Written For Men By Men (New York, 1922)

In the early seventies a French nobleman, living in the neighborhood of Barbizon, was found seated at the table with his face in a plate of soup. Because of the fact that a butcher knife had been inserted via the back between his fourth and fifth rib on the left side, he was quite dead. Clues led nowhere. It became one of the mysteries.
Long afterward an old man tottered into the office of the Prefect and announced that he wished to make a confession.
"Proceed," said the official.
" 'Twas I," responded the ancient, "who delivered the death stroke to the Duke de la … thirty-five years ago."
"What inspired you to make this confession?"
"I do not comprehend. The details, if you please."
"By profession I was a chef," said the self-accused. "The Duke, at a fabulous price, enticed me into his service. His first request was that I make for him a perfect consomme. Voila! For three days I prepared this perfection. With my own hand I placed before him the soup tureen. With my own hand I ladled it out.
He inhaled its divine essence; and then, Your Honor, he reached for the salt, Mon Dieu I destroy him!"
The Prefect embraced the artist and took him out to lunch. Thus art was vindicated and the incident closed.
In the chemistry of cooking, "enough is too much."

Today’s recipe, taken from the same book, requires the prior preparation of some consommé, and according to the contributor, should only be attempted by an artist.

Tripe à la Mode de Caen à la Roy Carruthers.
Contributed by Samuel G. Blythe (1868- 1947) American author and newspaperman
Only an artist should attempt to make Tripe à la Mode de Caen because only an artist can make it. It requires the soul of a poet, the spirit of a painter, and the exaltation of a violin virtuoso in the maker as a prerequisite for its concoction. Of course, it may be eaten by the commonalty, but it is too good for them. It really is a dish for the intelligentsia.
There are not more than a dozen people in the United States who have the temperament and the touch required. One of these is Roy Carruthers. And herewith, as my favorite recipe, I set down the complicated but necessary, procedure for producing this work of art:
Take four pounds of fresh honeycomb tripe and one pound of fresh manyplies tripe (the thickest part) and wash thoroughly in many changes of fresh water. Drain
well, and scrape to have all absolutely clean. Take two calf's feet and carefully bone each foot and cut into pieces two inches square. Have a large earthen pot, scrupulously clean, and line sides and bottom of this pot with very thin slices of larding pork. Place tripe and cut up feet in pot. Add two small red carrots, two white onions with two cloves stuck in each, and half of a sound, seeded pepper.
Make a bouquet of two leeks, two branches of celery three branches of parsley, and a sprig of thyme, marjoram, a blade of mace and a bay leaf - only one. Put this bouquet
in the pot and pour in a half pint of white wine, a pint of cider and a quart of consomme or white broth. Season with a full teaspoon of salt and half a spoon of black pepper.
Now make a stiff dough with a pound of white flour and two gills of water, roll out on a table until you have enough to cover the pot, and cover closely, making sure there can be no evaporation.
Place pot in a very slow oven and cook for fifteen hours.
Then lift up the cover, skim of£ the fat, and remove the bouquet of herbs and the vegetables.
Chop together six shallots, or scallions if shallots are not procurable, the red part of a carrot, a bean of sound garlic, two ounces of raw ham and an ounce of raw lean
pork. Place this hash in a saucepan with a tablespoon of melted butter, cook gently on the fire for five minutes, stirring lightly, and then pour in half a gill of cognac and
let it reduce briskly imtil it is nearly dry.
Put the contents of the pot on the saucepan, add a gill of pure tomato juice, mix lightly with a wooden spoon, and cook slowly for forty-five minutes.
Then dress the tripe on a deep hot dish, sprinkle a little freshly chopped parsley over and send to table very hot with twelve slices of toasted French bread.
That is real Tripe à la mode de Caen. All others are imitations.

Quotation for the Day.

… “At the first shrill notes of the pipe
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider- press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks;

Robert Browning; from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

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