Thursday, January 10, 2013

Meat and Two Veg

The meat recipes in La Cuisine de Monsieur Momo - those using domesticated animals - weren't as interesting or as doable as those in some of the other sections: a whole goat roasted over an open fire, a whole sheep baked in a pit, a basic sausage-and-apples recipe, and several tripe recipes (too much work), including the infamous pieds et paquets, a mixture of sheep's feet, calves' feet, and garlic-stuffed tripe wrapped in caul fat, all layered with tomatoes and cooked for 18 hours. Madame A. Tapié of Céleyran d'Albi (this young man's mother or grandmother, probably), gave Toulouse-Lautrec a few recipes for geese "fattened until they're morbidly obese" and Lieutenant Mizon of the French Navy, "explorer of the Congo and Niger," has a handy tip on how to make sure your chicken is tender.
In order to quickly turn your chicken into tender meat, take the chicken out of the coop, chase it across an open field, and after you've made it run for a little bit, kill it with a shotgun blast of many tiny pellets of lead. The chicken's flesh, which had tensed up in fear, will become tender. This method used by the Pahouin tribes appears to be infallible, even for the oldest and toughest birds.
Not all French vegetables are traditionally boiled to death in water, which is what I assumed after my summer as an au pair back in 1989. No, sometimes they're boiled to death in oil instead. Or stock. Or red or white wine. And many of the vegetable recipes in this cookbook incorporate meat, or at least pork belly or bacon as flavoring. 19th-century France would have been a difficult place to be a vegetarian. Even today I don't see too many veg-centered dishes on the menu, and when they are there they're usually covered in cheese. No matter where I live or what I do in France, I will have to make sure I can continue to cook for myself. Last night's dinner was all vegetables, a salad of chopped endive, grated carrots, halved Moroccan cherry tomatoes, and loads of fresh green baby mâche, which like endive is widely grown and available and very inexpensive here, all dressed with a red-wine vinaigrette with shallots I bought at the store, plus a heaping tablespoon each of whole-grain mustard and black olive tapenade. I am eating the leftovers for breakfast as I type this. My breakfast choices, which often get a raised eyebrow in the United States, cause horror and consternation over here, a country that breaks its fast with strong coffee and a slice of bread with butter and jam, and nothing more - and certainly not with leftover salad.

There are lots of recipes for mushrooms in the cookbook, most involving cream and butter. However, Countess Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec of Château Malromé suggests simply cooking cleaned chanterelles in salted water until the water is gone, then adding butter, garlic, chopped parsley, and pepper. I tried that with the yellow-foot chanterelles I bought at the market last month and greatly overestimated the amount of water at first, requiring some quick work with a ladle. On the plus side, I had a nice quart of mushroom stock to play with, but on the minus side the mushrooms may have lost some flavor.

Monsieur Momo gave his recipe for potato salad, which would be easily identified by anyone at a Midwest summer potluck: thin-sliced onion, shallots, green onion tops, parsley, chives, chervil, rounds of sour pickles, and chopped egg whites, and a dressing of mashed egg yolks, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Crisp-fried bacon (because there must be meat in our vegetables!) is a suggested topping.

And that was about it for vegetable recipes. Other than one recipe for tomatoes topped with mayonnaise, all the vegetables were cooked. I have to go get the rest of the salad now and crunch my breakfast raw, just to compensate.

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