Friday, April 15, 2011

Ali Bab’s Veal Chop with Paprika Cream

Henri Babinski, aka Ali Bab 1855-1931

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
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.


Frank said...

I must say I had never heard of Ali Bab before so thanks! Brillant that his book is online! (I've discovered a number of historical Italian cookbooks by Corrado and Cavalcanti online that are impossible to find anywhere else.)

As you mention in passing, Artusi, the man who wrote THE standard Italian cookbook was himself a retired businessman not a a chef. They say he didn't even cook himself, just instructed his servants... So there may be hope for us dilettantes yet. :)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Beautiful chops, indeed! Great post. (Wasn't Mrs. Emma Peel a "talented amateur" too?) I love this idea, that no matter what your profession, you can have a deep - and sophisticated - connection to good food!

Diane said...

Great recipe and even now I often speak to people who are cooks who are qualified at something totally different. Diane

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Your bring so much information to the blogging table every week! I had never heard of Ali Bab before either but I know I would love this recipe of his. With readily available ingredients and our local humanely-raised veal this may grace our table in the near future!

Unknown said...

So good to know that all of these great minds appreciate food. We are most definitely in good company daaaaaaahling. Love the recipe. I think I'd like to try this with lamb.
*kisses* HH

Ana Powell said...

You are the queen of food presentation and research.
Outstanding work ♥

Barbara said...

Back in the 50's and 60's we cooked a lot with veal. (Veal Birds comes to mind immediately....the most ghastly dish known to man!)
I'm pleased to see it coming around again, especially since humanely-raised veal is available. Lovely recipe, Deana. Isn't it fascinating to find so many gourmands in far flung fields of interest?

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

O beautiful as always-- I don't know these historical characters too well but makes me wonder what they would have to say about the state of food today on their blogs... hmmm...

Sarah said...

Yum. I wish I had a D'Artagnan near me. I am already collecting a list to visit on my next trip to NYC. Wise to think that white flour and sugar is the evil. Way ahead of his time.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

OH GOSH I LOVE VEAL...and the only way I ever came by veal was when I was 15, I had MONO...the doctor told my mom to keep me off of fatty meats so she introduced veal into our humble Mexican diet. I LOVED the tenderness and mild flavor, after all those years of being raised on spice! And you are what you eat and TAKE IN...take in beauty, create beauty...that is what I want to do, and now that I will be 53 next week, I want to live my life towards making each day a song for others. THANK YOU MY SWEET and talented friend, for coming to indulge in the dreams of bright blue, calm and warm waters that heal heavy hearts. It IS too beautiful to be true, but IT IS TRUE...LOVE RULES, no matter what surrounds us! Have a PERFECT DAY as much as possible...oh, I need to go out and get some veal!

BISES, Anita

Marjie said...

My high school French is too rusty to tackle the 1200 page book, so I'll just content myself with your excerpt. The veal looks outstanding!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Goodness me they look scrumptious Deana! :o And yes knowing that they're served on a platter and not a plate would certainly indicate that you have some lovely, sizeable specimens there! :D

Tasty Trix said...

I love your term "stone age blogging." Indeed!! Holy hell those are some fine looking chops, and I am really salivating over that paprika cream ... I have such a thing for paprika anything.

Peter said...

I would love to have a regular source for good veal. Once and a while I can find humane ground veal, and I make very nice lasagne with dashi velouté.

I love that he nailed sugar and white flour that long ago. We're not as smart as we think, are we?

Ken Albala said...

Ugh, If I could find a really good veal chop, I'd cook this recipe right this very moment. They do look like tiny elegant little nibbles. I was discussing this with a friend who's a food stylist in Paris, and it's a typical trick to make a little dish look big, but you seen to have done the opposite. Gorgeous nonetheless.

Ken (Someone who has often been called Ali Babba in youth, against his will - but maybe now I'll cultivate the moniker.)

Lazaro Cooks said...

The difference between an amateur and a professional is that the pro gets paid to cook. Some of the best cooks I know are homecooks and some of the worst work in professional kitchens.

You executed the cooking of the chops perfectly and presented the dish artfully.


Laura from Silk Road Gourmet said...

The chops look divine!

Like also your calling out the difference between skilled "amateurs" and professionals. Important to keep in mind that professionals often have market forces and cultural expectations to fence-in their creativity.

In my opinion we've moved away from the importance of skilled amateurs - except of course for the bloggers

FYI to your readers, D'Artangnan products are available online and ship fresh overnight.

Lovely post!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Lovely and informative as always. Veal is difficult to come by here, but your post let me dream about how good it would be. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

chopinandmysaucepan said...

Beautiful! One chop for each hand.. :)

bridesmaid dresses said...

I like this blog. It is a rich content topic. It helps me solve a lot of problems. It updates at a very fast rate, and provides for me many opportunities. I think it can help me to solve many problems, thank you.