Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eight Pounds of Butter

The cookbook "La Cuisine de Monsieur Momo" was first published in 1930 by Maurice Joyant, a Parisian art dealer who was a friend and sponsor of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The cookbook includes a few paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, some of them of people who provided recipes for the book. Joyant included recipes that were given to him (or so he said) from people worldwide, but whether that was during his own travels or because those people came to France isn't clear. There's a recipe from someone in (or from) Ceylon for Mulligatawny soup, and from cooks in Scotland, Italy, Spain, and of course all regions of France. In this reissue, there are also additional recipes by Antoine Westermann, a three-starred Parisian chef; the cookbook was re-released in September 2011 with introduction by Pascal Ory, one of the founders of IEHCA, and a speaker at the food conference a few weeks ago, which is where I bought the book (half price!).

I thought at first it would be an interesting Julie/Julia project to cook my way through this book but the lack of precise directions, the omnipresence of butter and cream, and the difficulty of procuring some of the ingredients (a plucked grey heron, two hundred live Tunisian snails) led me to decide instead to read it once through, culling out a handful of possibly practical recipes and enjoying the artwork and la recherche du temps perdu and then to give it to Seb for Christmas. He collects cookbooks, with the dream of moving to London some day and opening a restaurant there that would provide authentic French cooking. These recipes seem, for the most part, about as authentic as you could get. And I'm sure there are grey herons on the Thames.

The "eight pounds of butter" recipe is found in the Soup section, attributed to Madame Bayard of Varen, Switzerland, and titled "Onion and Garlic Soup."

Put approximately eight pounds of good butter in a large pot. Cook a good dozen large onions, chopped fine along with several garlic cloves, in the butter until golden. While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, add as much white wheat flour as the butter will absorb. Add generous amounts of salt and pepper and continue to stir the mixture as long as possible; it should turn into a dough. Turn this dough out into a container made of glass or tin, closing it tightly, and let it cool.
In the high mountains, with this prepared dough, you can make about thirty pots of soup using a large tablespoon of dough for each hunter. Put the spoonfuls into a pot containing glacial runoff or snow, let it boil for several minutes, and dip fire-grilled bread into it. This soup is designed to be carried by hunters who go up into the mountains for several weeks at a time, and is comfort food for people who are so exhausted that they aren't hungry but only thirsty, who sleep under the stars in alpine meadows 9,000 feet above the sea.

I didn't make any of the soups, but will keep this one in mind for the next time I'm having ... problems. It's a Bouillon d'Espagne from the kitchens of one Doña Conchita d'Oyarequi in Navarre, Spain.

For one litre of soup, put four litres of cold water in a clay pot, some salt, two tablespoons of lentils, one tablespoon of split peas, and one tablespoon of white beans. When the water boils, add a large leek, cut into pieces, 100 grams of carrots and 100 grams of turnips minced, half a branch of celery, a slice of cardoon, some parsnips, and a head of lettuce that has been chopped. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer until reduced to one litre. Strain and serve hot.
This soup is an excellent remedy for intestinal inflammation and diarrhea and has the same properties as milk. If you aren't sick, it's best to eat it after adding pepper and salt and a mixture of butter and egg yolks, and to serve it with toasted croutons.


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