Friday, August 19, 2011

Blue Fish.

Parsley root intrigues me. It was an ingredient in yesterday’s post, and I have mentioned it briefly in the past (here, and here). Surely, other than the idea that it can be treated like parsnip or any other root, there is more in the world on this vegetable?

I went in brief search, and came up with the Recipe of the Day, in which it has a mere supporting role as a flavouring ingredient. The recipe however, reminded me of several other long-term puzzles jammed into my brain, resulting in the tangential thoughts that are my subject today. I offer these puzzles in the hope and expectation of some enlightenment from you.

-          How come ‘au bleu’ (or ‘au blue’ according to Ms Mason) has two such different usages in cookery? As in the recipe below, it refers to a time-honoured method of cooking a whole fish (especially trout) in vinegared court-bouillon or water, which apparently makes the skin bright blue. In earlier more cruel times the fish was cooked live, or almost alive, but at the very least it must be very, very, freshly dead.
-          How come this cooking method causes the blue colouring? Over to you, food science geeks.
-          How come the term au bleu also refers to seriously underdone meat? To my mind this results in bleeding red, not cool blue meat. Over to you, linguist geeks.

Here it is, the Recipe for the Day, from The Lady's Assistant For Regulating And Supplying Her Table by Charlotte Mason.
To dress Carp au Blue.
Take a brace of large carp, wash and gut them while they are alive, as soon after they are taken out of the water as possible; split them down the back, and cut them into different pieces as quick as possible; lay one carp in the dish, the scaly side upwards, and cover it all over with salt; then lay the other upon it, and cover that also very thick with salt; have ready boiled three pints of white-wine vinegar, a large stick of horse-radish cut into slices, a great piece of parsley-root, some ginger, a nutmeg sliced, black pepper, and all-spice; pour this liquor and ingredients upon it boiling hot (there must be enough to cover it) let it stand four or five hours; then set on a fish-kettle three parts full of water, with a little salt, a large stick of horse-radish cut into pieces, some parsley-root, ginger, black pepper, all-spice, and vinegar; let this boil for half an hour, and scum it very clean; then put the fish, vinegar, and all that is in the dish, into the fish-kettle; let it boil fifteen minutes; scum it all the time it is boiling: send it to table quite hot ; the scales will be blue and look very pretty.
Sauce: sugar, vinegar, horse-radish, and melted butter, or anchovy and melted butter.

Quotation of the Day.
Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that's bad for you
Tommy Smothers.

1 comment:

Jonathan Kauffman said...

I used to cook at a restaurant where we regularly worked with parsley root (mostly in gratins with potatoes, occasionally in cream-enriched purees), and it occasionally appears in markets in Northern California. The parsley roots I've cooked with look like skinny white carrots and have a bracingly vegetal, almost peppery character that cream and other root vegetables helped smooth out.