It didn’t occur to me until recently that so many gods in my food-writer Pantheon were talented amateurs… not professional chefs.
Hayward and Walker (who I wrote about last week) were both lawyers as was Brillat-Savarin –– the godfather of food essayists who challenged: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are” (and who wrote in 1825 that sugar and white flour were the cause of obesity) in his Physiology of Taste. Alexandre Dumas, the novelist and playwright, was also a famous gastronome and creator of Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine.
Edouard de Pomaine
Edouard de Pomiane (née Pozerski) was a Polish biologist, chemist and founder of the field of gastro-technology as well as a great food writer in the first half of the 20th century. He is still remembered very fondly for his humor and bright way with food (and that dashing moustache).
Henri Babinski, better known for his nom de plume Ali Bab, was a well-traveled mining engineer and author of Gastronomie Pratique, Etudes Culinaires. Like Edouard de Pomaine’s 1930 favorite, La Cuisine en 10 minutes, Ali Bab’s book was very popular in the last century and much loved by food writers like Elisabeth David and MFK Fisher. My blogging colleague, TW Barritt over at Culinary Types posited that these luminaries would have been food bloggers had they lived today… brilliant observation and I agree completely. Brillat-Savarin was a little stuffy but Ali Bab and de Pomaine would have been charming reading… and de Pomaine did have a popular weekly radio show… you could say that was stone-age blogging, n’est-ce pas?
In 2009, Tim Zagat sponsored fabulous Vintage Dinners inspired by the great chefs and restaurants of the 19th century and re-created by today’s greats (you can see videos of some of these events by clicking the names) like Eric Rippert , Thomas Keller , Dan Barber, Charles Palmer , Daniel Boulud, David Waltuck and Jean-George Vongerichten . They mined the past (and the famous NY Public Library menu collection) for inspiration and found gold in Escoffier, Artusi and Ranhoffer and Ali bab. Jean-Georges Vongerichten chose recipes from Gastronomie Pratique by Ali-Bab for his dinner. It was through these dinners I discovered Ali-bab!
1928 Edition, 1281 pages
Everything old is new again, isn’t it? I got an old copy of the 300-page version of Ali Bab’s book that was translated (inexactly, with substitutions for ‘hard to find’ ingredients) into English in the 70’s. For those of you who read French, the smaller original 1907 version is available on Internet Archive. For the full 1200 pages, you will have to put out big bucks and read French… it is still not available save in rare book stores .
I decided on Veal Chops with a Paprika sauce from Ali Bab’s cookbook since I had 2 gorgeous veal chops from D’Artagnan (milk-fed and very humanely raised, my first veal in 25 years!) and some thick ivory cream from Milk Thistle Farm. I must tell you, the chops are photographed on a platter not a plate and are quite large (about a foot long and ½ a pound each), the platter and the giant carrot-coins belie the large size. The 2 chops were fine for 2 unless you have a large appetite. I would say this sauce would be heaven with breaded cutlets of veal, turkey or chicken and it’s quite fast to make and will rock your world on mashed potatoes. Henri recommended serving this with beets… I used carrots and loved them.
Veal Chops with Paprika Cream (Côtelettes de Veau au Paprika) for 4
1 c thick cream
2 ¼ c dry breadcrumbs
4 T butter
½ c + 3 T Veal demi-glace from D'Artagnan
4 T flour
1 ½ t paprika (or more to taste)
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig marjoram
4 veal chops from D'Artagnan –– 8 if you are a big meat eater
2 T oil plus 1T butter
2 onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper
Brown the flour and onions in the butter. Stir in ½ c water and demi-glace. Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste and cook for a few moments till thickened, set aside.
Roll the chops in the breadcrumbs.
Brown the chops in the oil in a sauté pan. Finish cooking gently for 5 minutes in the sauce. Remove the chops for a moment and add the cream into the sauce, remove the sprigs. Put the chops back in the sauce and serve.