The weather in the Southern hemisphere is surely (and hopefully) about to cool down, as the weather in the north is just as surely and hopefully going to warm up. I like to think, as March and April approach, that the style of food we seek in our two halves of the world will be more similar. I hope at this time of the year that a post about suet pudding or thick soup will not be out of kilter with any of us, unlike the same topic in December, say, when the mere thought of such robust and sustaining food is exhausting to those of us near the tropics.
My post yesterday on the mid-nineteenth century dinner in Russia mentioned cold soup, and I had intended to explore that topic today, but in the meanwhile came across a lovely food article applicable to most of us in most seasons of the year in Cassell’s Household Guide (London, 1869.) A cold dinner in which hot foods are also allowed – a dinner which has “more than a sufficiency of dishes for the hospitable entertainer to choose from” seems to fit the bill, don’t you think?
DISHES SUITED FOR A COLD DINNER OR ANY REPAST
TO BE PARTAKEN OF AT AN UNCERTAIN HOUR.
Very agreeable entertainment is the unceremonious repast which, whether called a breakfast, a déjeûner, a collation, a luncheon, a meat-tea, or an early cold dinner, is the same in principle and composition. We will speak of it by the last of those names; because, practically, it is a dinner; no one thinks of dining after it.
A cold dinner is something of a very elastic nature. It may be partaken of at any hour, from eleven in the morning till six in the evening. It may contain as few things as you please, provided there be plenty to eat and drink, or it may be a collection of rarities got together from the uttermost ends of the world. And here, again, is the convenience of a principle which consists in the absence of rule Although the meal is essentially a cold one, a few hot things may be interspersed, when season and opportunity invite their presence, not as the basis, but as the interludes, the entremets, in the general course of the banquet, of which there is no exact beginning and no defined end.
As with the eatables, so with the drinkables. Nothing is excluded ; there may be anything and everything. In a cold dinner there are no set courses; all is placed on the table at once, with the exception of the few agreeable surprises that may appear in the shape of fried Epping sausages, kidneys, omelettes, and other dishes. Nothing is removed but empty dishes, which may or may not be replaced by dishes of the same size containing something else. But little waiting is required, and that little can be diminished by a couple of roomy dumb-waiters, placed at opposite corners of the table.
The meat-tea is often found to increase the comfort and convenience of family life—Why should not the unpretending cold dinner more frequently play a similar part in social intercourse?
As a cold collation is particularly suited to a large party, all of whom we suppose to be accommodated with seats round the board and not to stand up, let the table be of corresponding length and breadth. The fact of the decorations being permanent and the arrangements fixed allows you to cover the table with one, two, three, or more white table-cloths. To economise space and avoid removes, ornament as little as possible with things that do not contain or garnish eatables. Edifices of spun sugar and nougat or candied almonds are expensive, and the palate, at least, scarcely gets from them money's worth in return for what they cost. The same sum, it appears to us, may be more satisfactorily expended in other ways; for instance, on the fines: and most beautiful fruit of the season. A welcome though old-fashioned centre-piece is a pyramid of glass salvers, laden with jellies, creams, syllabubs, custards, &c., and crowned with a trifle or tipsy cake. For each end of the table there are few better ornaments than large dishes of fruit of different kinds, artistically grouped and piled together, combined with flowers, foliage, and fern fronds. An inverted bowl makes a good support. Each group will be more effective for containing some one or two of the larger fruits, as melons, cocoa-nuts, specimen bunches of grapes, Duchesse d'Angoulème pears, &c. To succeed well in this requires both taste and practice. If you are rich in garden produce, you can make a trophy of your centre-piece, in Great Exhibition style, and place your piles of little toothsome articles at either end.
That done, your plates, knives and forks, spoons, and glasses, must take their places round the table. All the remaining space is claimed by the viands which constitute the meal. In giving a hot dinner, an important point is to proportion the quantity to the number of guests. A mountain of victuals is the height of vulgarity and bad taste. There is only one thing worse than putting too much upon a table—if it be worse—and that is too little. But in a cold dinner, the whole of it, or very nearly so, being presented at once, the weakness of making a show may be indulged in without incurring the blame of ostentatious profusion. Of course it increases the beauty and interest of the display, when there are the means of using articles of plate, china, and glass, which are in themselves curiosities or objects of art. We now proceed to note more than a sufficiency of dishes for the hospitable entertainer to choose from.
Fish.—Pickled or soused salmon. Potted mackerel, herring, eels, and sprats. Collared eel. Eels in savoury jelly, or with Tartar sauce. Dressed crab. Lobster opened, cracked, and divided. Shrimps and prawns. Pickled mussels and cockles. Cold fried smelts. Potted char or other fish. River trout boiled in vinegar and water. Carp or pike, au bleu—i.e., boiled in court-bouillon, left in it till cold, and then served whole. Eel patties. Oyster patties. Eel pie. Oyster pie. Cods' sounds and tongues pie. Mackerel pat, Mayonnaise of lobster, salmon, or turbot. Lamprey or lampern pie. Conger pie. Caviare. Sardines, anchovies, or tunny, in oil.
Sweets and Sundries.—Baked custard. Lemon pudding. Blanc-mange. All sorts of jellies and syllabubs. Raspberry and currant, gooseberry, cherry, greengage, apricot, apple and quince pies—one Irishman wished his apple pie to be all quince. Boiled custards. Whipped cream and sponge cake. Marmalades and preserves, as preserved ginger. Mince pies. Open fruit tarts. Gaufres or wafers. Macaroons. Cocoa-nut cakes. Fruits crystallised in sugar. Cracker sweetmeats. Gruyere, or other choice cheese, under a bell-glass. Virgin honeycomb. Nuts of various kinds. Foreign fruits, as West India pines, dates, oranges, French plums, figs. Stewed prunes, pears, Normandy pippins, apples, and rice. Bullace or damson Cheese. Cherry brandy. Plums in brandy.
Small Things.—Brawn. Potted meats. Mayonnaise of cold fowl. Sandwiches of various kinds; pâté deoie gras sandwiches are the most distingués, to be offered at the close of the repast. Pickles; sliced cucumber; olives; radishes. Salmagundi; various salads ; cold kidney-beans or artichoke bottoms with oil and vinegar. Cream cheese. Sliced smoked Bologna, or other sausage. Terrines of truffled goose or duck's liver. Calf's head, pork, calf s liver, and other meat cheeses. Galantine of turkey or fowl, in slices. Hare pate.
Large Joints.— Rolled ribs of beef boned. Roast sirloin. Quarter of lamb. Boiled leg of pork stuffed. Ham. Tongue. Hunters' beef. Salted round of beef. Yorkshire pie, containing turkey, goose, fowl, &c., boned. Roast turkey or fowl, carved, divided into portions, and covered with savoury jelly gravy. Turkey, goose, or fowl, en daube, served whole, surrounded with the jelly in which they were stewed tender. Roast sucking-pig. Giblet pie. Wild fowl pie. Roast quarter of kid. Pickled boar's head.
In summer time cold soup is eaten in Russia; but English palates require further training to render them capable of appreciating it. Hot soup may be served from the sideboard; or, instead of soup, oysters can be given, handed round from the sideboard, and followed by plates of bread and butter; or there may be both soup and oysters; in which case the oysters are served the first of the two. The sideboard is also the place for all the varieties of malt liquor; for champagne until it is opened; and also for liqueurs to be placed on the table when coffee is brought in, which is usually served in the dining-room, at table, and not in the drawing-room—as at a cold dinner the ladies seldom retire, but all quit the table together at the close of the entertainment, announced by the coffee and liqueurs. The presence of black bottles on the table is a matter of local custom. Port, sherry, Madeira, and the white wines which replace or supplement the latter, are here always presented in decanters. On the Continent, although the lighter ordinary wines, often drawn from the cask, are allowed to appear in decanters, it would be utter heresy to decant fine wines or curious old samples with which the host regales his guests. These must be presented in the state in which they are taken from the bin, and not wiped or dusted in any way. The more mouldy and grimy they are, the more their appearance is usually admired. Old Burgundy, and other wines which deposit a crust or lees and must not be shaken, are slipped, in the cellar, into a flat basket or cradle, without changing their horizontal position, uncorked, sent round, and never set upright till they are emptied. To decant such wines would be considered an act of barbarism; the cradle is a warrant of their age and excellence. Many hotel-keepers will not accord the honours of the cradle to wine below a certain price.
The recipe for the day is a for an elegant dish of duck en daube, which may be served hot or cold, and may be adapted for goose or any other fowl.
Canard en Daube.
Prepare your duck as if for roasting, lard it with bacon, season with salt, pepper, parsley, chives, thyme, bay-leaf, and basilic, chopped fine; tie up the duck tightly, and put it into a stewpan, with slices of bacon, half a calf 's foot, pepper, salt, onions, bunch of sweet herbs, carrots, thyme, cloves, bay-leaf, cloves of garlic; moisten with stock; add a glass of brandy; cover the pan closely, and let it stew very slowly, stirring and turning it occasionally whilst stewing, to prevent the duck sticking to the bottom, and that it might take the same colour equally. It will take four or five hours. Skim it carefully. You serve hot with .the sauce, or cold with the sauce, in jelly, as it will be quite stiff. You can dress geese the same way.
French Cookery Adapted for English Families (1853) by Frances Crawford.