Today, February 26, is the anniversary of the birth of the famous French writer, Victor Hugo, in Besançon, in 1802. Quite serendipitously, I very recently happened across the menu for a dinner hosted by Hugo in Paris, in about 1872, and although I have no reason to suspect this was a birthday dinner, I thought it would be fun to give it to you on this day.
The menu is included in The Food Journal (London, 1872-3) in an article on French banquets.
RECENT FRENCH BANQUETS.
The menus of carefully arranged Parisian dinners, especially when given as early as possible so as still to be in season, which is later in England than in France, are always welcome to gourmets and chefs, so, without further prelude, we subjoin the bills of fare of two remarkable banquets which have recently taken place.
… The second banquet was given by Victor Hugo to the director and company of the Odéon, and the friends whom the author of "Ruy-Blas" had met at the first representation of that admirable play, since the fall of the Empire. The number of guests was sixty, and included many names known in the gastronomic, as well as in the literary world. The host sat between Madame Lambquin and Mdlle. Sarah Bernardt, and amongst the company were Théophile Gautier, Saint-Victor, Arsène Houssaye, Vacquerie, Armand Gouzien, Louis Jourdan, Mélingue, Meurice, Geoffroy, Ernest Blum, Ulbach, Pierre Berton, and many more writers and actors.
Comtesse, Brunoise, Bisque.
Truites saumonées, sauce vénitienne.
Présalé de Béhague à la Richelieu.
Canetons de Rouen aux oranges.
Ortolans à la Marion Delorme.
Sorbets au kirsch.
Dindonneaux et cailles.
Salade de légumes à la Dauphine.
Artichauts à l'Espagnole.
Pois de Paris à la bonne femme.
Buissons d'écrevisses au vin du Rhin.
Glaces à la Neubourg, Brioches mousselines.
Raisin, Noir et Blanc, Prunes, Pêches,
Abricots, Figues, Groseilles, Fraises.
Saint-Emilion en carafes,
Xérès frappe, Sauterne rafraîchi,
Deuxieme Service et Dessert.
To those unacquainted with the French language, or the technicalities of the French cuisine and manage, should any such exist amongst the readers of the Food Journal, two or three words in explanation of the above menus may not be unacceptable.
In the first place, Présalé stands for gigot présalé, or leg of saltmarsh mutton, the only kind of French mutton that deserves the name. Then with respect to the wines, it will be seen that one in each menu is en carafe, that is to say, placed on the table in decanters, to be drunk with water, while the champagne is in each case frappé or iced, as is the sherry in the latter menu, while the sauterne is only rafraîchi, or moderately cooled.
As the recipe for the day, I have chosen a recipe for artichokes from The Treasury of French Cookery (London, 1866) by Harriet Toogood.
ARTICHOKES.—ARTICHAUTS À LA BARIGOULE.
Boil the artichokes in broth until they are sufficiently done to enable you to remove the hairy part, or choke, in the centre. Drain them. Fill the artichokes with a stuffing of mushrooms, parsley, shallots, salt, pepper, butter and oil, all pounded together. Arrange the artichokes on a buttered dish. Pour in a little broth and white wine, and put the dish on a stove. When they are done, sprinkle them with a sauce made of the same articles as the stuffing. It should be clear.
ARTICHOKES.—ARTICHAUTS À LA BARIGOULE.
Take four artichokes. Trim them up. Remove the choke in the centre. Scald them lightly. Take parsley, mushrooms, shallots, chopped up and well seasoned. Fry it so as to remove its strong taste. Mingle it with about half a pound of butter and an equal quantity of scraped bacon. Fill the insides of the artichokes with this mixture. Bind them up and put them into a stewpan with some slices of bacon. Put in three or four spoonfuls of oil, and dress them with a gentle heat. The fire should be over as well as under them. Serve with thickened gravy.
It's interesting to see who was considered famous (or famous enough to be invited by Victor Hugo to his banquet) in those days. Some we still remember. Others, not so much!
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