Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chocolat - From Bean to Confection

US Department of Agriculture photo
Chocolate is dry paste, made with cocoa beans, & sugar, to which vanilla or an infinity of ingredients that the inventive Americans add. One makes and stores tablettes [of prepared chocolate] in the [pantry]; one drinks it; one employs it to make creams. The chocolate cannot succeed, if one did not choose mature cocoa pods; the best known pods are of gall color [ripe and brown; inside the pod are beans both brown color & dark crimson; those which are red are not worth anything: they are the hard & bitter chocolate; but the quality of the cocoa will only be known after it is roasted; because then it is seen whether there are many of these red grains]. It is necessary that the cocoa is roasted in order to find the taste & the color of chocolate you desire.

To roast the chocolate to the appropriate color, put it [chocolate beans removed from the pulp] in a pan of copper or iron, or in an unglazed terracotta pot, and put it on the fire & stir it up constantly until it is black on the outside, like roasted chestnuts; for this first time, one cannot brown too much; then the cocoa should be peeled, & winnowed well [to remove the outsides of the seeds]; to see if it is roasted enough, it is best to make a test of it; take one ounce of cocoa, & an half-ounce of sugar, which you reduce to a paste to better distinguish the taste & the color; because if it is not brown enough, & if it does not feel roasted enough, one shouldn’t fear to roast it once again, but carefully, because once its bark is removed, it is burned easily; & takes a malicious taste.

When one reaches the proper color, smell and taste, one crushes it with the mortar, so that it is a rather tiny grained masse when some is put on a plate. When the paste of the chocolate approaches this fine grain, it is necessary to add to it vanilla*, & a little powdered cinnamon[or other spice and flavor]; the quantity depends on the will. The whole being mixed together, you add to it three quarters or a pound sugar, for a pound of cocoa; mix your sugar in well and put the mixture back into your mortar, and put it back in the mortar or put it on the stone [metate] or the iron pan heated below with a chafing dish or small fire; also get the roller [mano]: then reduce this compound powder until very fine, a paste will develop with pressure and heat; pass the roller above little-by-little, until it is fine when it does not crunch on the teeth; then tablettes of one ounce are formed, or rolls of a quarter or of half-pound.

*It is necessary to choose strong vanilla, not too dry, nor too fatty; because they are often mixed with oil of balsam [to preserve them], pare them to make sure they are good & fresh: they are very difficult to reduce to a powder; but after having cut them in small pieces with scissors, pulverize them & pass them by the sieve [before adding to the mortar].

Dictionnaire Portatif de Cuisine, d'Office, et de Distillation. Chez Vincent, Paris 1767, p. 156-158.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Casserole [Stuffed Bread]

An interesting dish--I suppose it would depend upon the shape of your loaf of bread and whether you had a casserole or skillet to fit it--an oval or round dish would seem to work best.

Casserole [Stuffed Bread]
Take a [loaf of] soft bread whose crust is browned [implied here is a tough, chewy well-colored crust], & cut off the very bottom of the loaf and remove the soft insides, & reserve the crust [shell]: then mince [chop not shred] roast chicken or a fattened poulet [female or hen], with another kind of cooked meat; heat it [meats] in the pan, with [a little] good gravy & good seasoning, as if it were to prepare minced meat [in other words, a dry mixture, not soupy]: once it is heated through, carefully spoon some into the breadcrust [shell] which you will have dried completely on the inside by placing it in an oven & continue to put a little of this mince, layered with some of the soft bread insides torn in pieces and also dried in the oven, & completely fill with this mince & small crusts, then close [cover] it with the same part that you have removed by slicing off the bottom of it to remove the crumb of it. Take then a pan which is not larger than your bread, put on the bottom bacon bards [a slice of fatty meat or very well butter or grease the pan], & then the bread on the side which it was stuffed [turn right side up so the top of the filled bread is now uppermost], simmer in this manner with good gravy, made so that it cooks slowly and does not simmer [boil] too much, so that it is all entire [bread crust or what is now a bread bowl within the pan] and does not come apart, keeping it well covered [with gravy]. A little before serving, pour it onto a [serving] dish or platter, remove the bards [if used], drain off any grease & cover [pour over] your bread [garnish the plate] with a good ragout of calf sweetbreads, artichoke bottoms, truffles & asparagus tips around, according to the season.

Casserole au fromage
[Cheese Stuffed Bread]
It is prepared just as above, in the stuffed bread one puts a little grated Parmesan or other cheeses [layered with torn bits of bread instead of the minced meats]; & when the bread is cooked [in good gravy] & placed on its serving platter, one still powders [sprinkles over] it some of the same cheese of which one [stuffed it], & one makes him take a little color in the furnace [pass a red hot fire shovel over it or put it under the broiler], & when one is ready to serve, one puts the ragout around & one serves it warmly.

La nouvelle maison rustique, ou, Économie generale de tous les biens de campagne: la manière de les entretenir & de les multiplier : donée ci-devant au public / par le Sieur Louis Liger. Paris : Saugrain, 1755, Tome II, IV. Part. LIV. IV. Chap. I. La Cuisine. B., p. 806-7.

Prenez un pain mollet dont la croûte soit dorée, & ne le chapelez point dessus, percez-le par dessous, & en ôtez la mie: ensuite ayez un bon hachis de poulets rôtis ou de poulardes, au autre sorte de viande cuite; passez-le à la casserole, avec bon jus & bon assaisonnement, comme si c’étoit pour faire un hachis: étant passé, il faut, avec une cuiller en mettre dans le pain que vous aurez fait sécher à l’air du feu du côté de la mie; & après y avoir mis un peu de ce hachis, vous y mettrez quelques petites croûtes de pain par morceaux, & l’acheverez de remplir de ce hachis & de petites croûtes, puis vous le fermerez de la même piéce que vous avez ôtez en le perçant pour en ôter la mie. Prenez ensuite une casserole qui ne soit pas plus grande que votre pain, mettez au fond des bares de lard, & ensuite le pain du côté qu’il a été farci, faites-le mitonner de cette maniere avec de bon jus, faites en sorte qu’il ne soit pas trop pressé ni trop mitonné, de façon qu’il soit tout entire, le tout bien couvert. Un peu auparavant que de server, versez-le sur un plat avec adresse, ôtez les bardes, égouttez un peu la graisse & couvrez votre pain d’un bon ragout de ris de veau, culs d’artichauts, truffes & pointes d’asperges autour, selon la saison.

Casserole au fromage
On l’apprête de même que ci-dessus, hors que dans le pain farci on y met un peu parmesan rapé ou d’autres fromages; & quand le pain est cuit & qu’on l’a dressé dans son plat, on le poudre encore du même fromage dont on s’est servi, & on lui fait prendre un peu de couleur dans le four, & lorsqu’on est prêt à server, on met le ragout autour & on le sert chaudement.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Boudin of foie gras

A delicious way of using up those broken bits and pieces derived from preparing your foie gras.

Boudin of foie gras. Finely cut a quarter pound of pig fat, chop a pound of foie gras & as much of flesh of capon, season the whole of fine herbes [tarragon, chervil, parsley & burnet or chives], salt, pepper, crushed cloves [nutmeg is an option], six raw egg yolks & two pints of cream, fill of the bowels of pig, sheep or lamb, & simmer your boudin in milk [can use aromatics to flavor milk {carrots, onions, bouquet garni}]: once cooked, drain and roast [in the oven] on paper [directly on the floor of the oven] with a moderate fire for fear they do not burst, or fry in a little lard or another grease [to give it an appetizing color], & serve warm.

La nouvelle maison rustique, ou, Économie generale de tous les biens de campagne: la manière de les entretenir & de les multiplier : donée ci-devant au public / par le Sieur Louis Liger. Paris : Saugrain, 1755, Tome II, IV. Part. LIV. IV. Chap. I. La Cuisine. B., p. 803.

Boudin de foie gras. Coupez menu un quarteron de panne de porc, hachez une livre de foie gras & autant de chair de chapon, assaisonnez le tout de fine herbes, sel, poivre, clous pilés, six jaunes d’œufs cruds & deux pintes de crême, remplissez-en des boyaux de porc, de mouton ou d’agneau, & faites cuire votre boudin dans du lait: étant cuit, vous le mettrez griller sur du papier avec un feu médiocre de peur qu’ils ne crevent, y mettre un peu de sain-doux ou autre graisse, & servir chaudement.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Chocolate Pots in Faïence

Savoring the Past, the French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789, by Barbara Ketcham Wheaton p. 89 . . . "As a beverage, chocolate was usually prepared with water, though sometimes with milk. It was frothed with a chocolate stick--a stick with a carved knob and often rings, which was moved rapidly up and down in the mixture to produce a rich foam. They are still used in Spanish-speaking parts of the world (see your local Mexican import shop--they're called molenillos). chocolate pot with sparrow-billed spout and bulbous body, displayed with a molenillo: in this case, the molenillo is used without having a hole in the lidOrdinarily one chocolate tablet [my recipe for chocolate tablets] is used to a (four-ounce) cup, but the proportion is ten cups to the pound; so take as many tablets as you wish cups; melt the plain (unsweetened) chocolate in a coffeepot in which you have put water to the amount that you want to make; boil it and let it simmer a little over hot coals; when it is melted . . . mix the yolk of an egg with some (previously prepared) chocolate and put it in your coffeepot. Put it back over a gentle fire and stir well with the chocolate stick. It must not be allowed to boil at all after you have put the egg yolk in; the number of egg yolks nust be in proportion to the number of cups you make. You need one for four or five cups."

Another recipe for hot chocolate, this time the way it would have been prepared in Mexico before coming to Europe. The addition of chilis would make it even more authentic.

The following is my paraphrased summary of chocolate pots from thesis: Blanchette, Jean-Francois (Ph.D.: Anthropology, 1979, Brown University) Title: The role of artifacts in the study of foodways in New France, 1720-1760 : two case studies based on the analysis of ceramic artifacts.

"The chocolate pot [displayed with French Moulinets] is a pouring pot with a bulbous body and a horizontal handle. In 1690 Furetière described a chocolate pot as follows:
  • “a coquemart-silver or copper vessel in which chocolate is mixed with a twirl and cooked. Savary des Bruslons (1759) described the chocolate pot as follows:
  • “A type of pot, or coquemart with handle, and lid with holes in the centre, in which chocolate is melted and cooked. Most of the chocolate pots were copper; and others, silver.
Diderot does not mention the chocolate pot. However, the Supplement to the Encyclopédie in 1776-77 describes the chocolate pot as follows:
  •CHOCOLATE POT, (Domestic Economy),type of pot used for preparing the liquid food known as chocolate. Chocolate pots are made of silver, tin-plated copper, tin and earthenware. The latter are unsuitable, because once they are heated they continue to boil for a long time, which tends to evaporate the most exquisite flavour in the chocolate. Silver or copper ones have the disadvantages of being rounded at the bottom and a large quantity of the chocolate is not touched by the twirl. A truncated cone shape is the ideal shape for a chocolate pot. … The lid of the chocolate pot is pierced in the centre to give access to the handle of the twirl (the French style is called a moulinet). Faience brun chocolat pot egoiste from Michel Nichol, Potter, QuebecThis text is more detailed than the previous ones. Its author was somewhat confused, however, about the shape of the chocolate pot [and moulinets], which was sometimes bulb-shaped, sometimes in the shape of the truncated cone similar to the brown faïence coffeepot which Diderot illustrates in 1765."

Michel Nichol's reproduction 18thC pottery.
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