Friday, February 12, 2010

Recipes for Perfect Love.

I don’t know about real life, but in cookery books a number of things go by the name of Perfect Love. Well, actually they go by the even more romantic French version of the name – Parfait Amour. With Valentine’s Day imminent, I thought I would offer you some examples of this culinary Perfect Love.

I must mention firstly, a liqueur of disputed heritage called by the actual name of Parfait Amour, because it features in several dishes with the same name, as you will see below. The liqueur is pinkish-purplish in colour, and spicy-citrusy-floral in fragrance – the devil being in the details of the particular manufacturer’s formula. Not everyone is a fan of this decidedly girly-sounding drink, including the author in 1877 of Kettner’s Book of the Table (who was not, in fact, the Victorian restaurateur Auguste Kettner, although he did supply the recipes). His opinion fell somewhere betwixt underwhelmed and mildly disgusted:

“Parfait Amour unhappily is a liqueur which lives by its name and nothing else. We all like to taste that unknown bliss which is not to be found on earth, and we hope to find its semblance in the bottle. The liqueur is too true as a satire. Starting with the idea that love is a bitter-sweet, Parfait Amour is made of the bitter zest of limes, mollified with syrup, with the spirit of roses, and with spicy odours. It is in fact a kind of orange bitters spoilt. Whoever drinks of Parfait Amour says in his heart, This is a mistake. And therein lies the success of the liqueur: it has a rosy colour, it has a fine name, and it is nought. One trial is enough.”

A parfait is also an ice-cream dessert, as we all know, and what could be better than ice-cream for dessert on Valentine’s Day, especially if it is chocolate ice-cream? Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary’s etymological definition of parfait specifies the chocolate:

“French parfait frozen dessert made with cream and mocha (1869; subsequently also ice-cream of a single flavour, often in the form of a sugar loaf)”

My Valentine’s Day gift to you is a random selection of recipes for Parfait Amour – may much of it find its way to you on the day.

Parfait Amour.
The French, in preparing this somewhat poetically-named liqueur, use the fresh citron as a foundation; as that fruit is seldom seen by us au naturelle, though well-known in candied form, I recommend the rind of lemons when first in season, taking away only that portion which contains the essential oil.
The peel of a dozen lemons should be bruised in a mortar, the strained juice added, then mixed with an equal weight of Cognac brandy; put these into a stone bottle, cork it down well, and keep it in hot water for ten days. Reduce a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon and two ounces of coriander seed to a fine powder, mix these in a quantity of clarified syrup, equal to the brandy and lemon juice. At the expiration of the ten days, add the sugar and spice to the former. Shake the jar or bottle well, and let it stand for ten days more in hot water, then filter through blotting paper, into case or liqueur bottles.
If you desire two sorts of “Perfect Love,” red as well as white, you may convert half the latter into a roseate liqueur by adding a drachm of cochineal and an drachm of alum to the other materials.
The Epicure’s Almanac: or, diary of Good Living, by Benson Earle Hill, published in 1842.

Sorbet Parfait Amour.
Pour into a freezer one pint of raspberry water ice, one pint of orange water ice, and a pint of cherry water ice; mix thoroughly and add to them half a gill of Curaçoa, half a gill of maraschino, one gill of kirsch or one gill parfait amour cordial and half a pint of champagne just when ready to serve. Dress in tulips made of gum paste or pulled sugar.
The Epicurean, by Charles Ranhofer (Chicago, 1894)

Chocolate Parfait Amour.
Dissolve half a pound of chocolate [cacao beans ground into a paste and compressed into a cake] highly flavored with vanilla in sufficient water. In a bottle of brandy digest one ounce of bruised cinnamon, half an ounce of cloves, and a pinch of salt. In three days add the dissolved chocolate; macerate one week, closely corked ; then strain clear.
Cocoa and Chocolate: a short history of their production and use. Walter Baker and Co., 1886

Punch au Parfait Amour.
Place one quart of water on the fire with two pounds of sugar until melted, add a teaspoonful of orange flower water, strain and freeze. When nearly stiff, add the snow of eight whites of eggs, mix well, and add two pony glasses of Parfait-Amour.
Dainty Sweets … Archie Corydon Hoff (Los Angeles, 1913)

Parfait Amour (Transparent Jelly of)
Pare the rinds of two lemons and a small cedrat as thin as possible, and infuse with half a dozen cloves (bruised) in a boiling syrup made with twelve drachms of sugar; add a little cochineal to make it of a delicate rose colour. When cold, mix with the infusion half a glass of kirschenwasser, filter, and having put the ounce of isinglass to it, finish as directed (See Clear Fruit Jelly)
The Cook’s Dictionary and Housekeeper’s Directory, Richard Dolby, 1833

Parfait Amour Soufflé (Français of)
Rub upon a pound of lump sugar the zestes [sic]of two lemons, and two large cedrats, scraping off the surface as it becomes coloured; infuse this sugar in nine glasses of boiling milk, with the addition of a dozen cloves, for half an hour; strain the infusion through a napkin, mix it with the usual ingredients, and finish as directed (see Soufflé Français.)
The Cook’s Dictionary and Housekeeper’s Directory, Richard Dolby, 1833

Previous Valentine’s Day Topics.

Chocolate Soup.

An aphrodisiac tart.

Moravian love cakes.

Quotation for the Day.

A number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad.
Jane Grigson