The Mutton Chop of Fish

What, you might ask, is this?

No, this little fantasy is not dessert. And yes, that fish is real. This improbable confection on the cover of a 1952 issue of Gourmet Magazine is  filets de sole Joinville.  

I like to imagine America's bravest cooks eagerly devouring this recipe, running out to buy the (extremely long) list of ingredients, and then balancing that final mushroom in the middle. Had their friends arrived yet? What else was for dinner? Did anybody request the recipe? And where did they find the truffles?  We’ll get to the recipe, but first, a word from Gourmet’s editors: 

“The ancient Romans and before them the Greeks, no mean gormandizes, wisely considered the sole the most dedicated of fish and esteemed it for its nourishing and light flesh.  They went so far as to compare it not to the mutton chop in the Englishman’s tribute but to the partridge.  And, of course, they recommended sole, along with other fish, as an aphrodisiac, which was always their perfect and ultimate tribute…”

And for the curious, a note on M. de Joinville, after whom this delightful dish was named: 

"Filets de Sole Joinville was named after the son of King Louis Philippe of France. “Prince de Joinville” was by training and inclination a sea-faring man and had commanded the ship which brought the remains of Napoleon home from St. Helena. Like Lafayette a war or two earlier, Joinville came to the States, no longer United, to offer his services and those of his son and his two nephews to the government at Washington.  After the war was over, Joinville wrote an count of the Campagne du Potomac, La Guerre d’Amerique. For this Joinville, otherwise remembered very little for his services to his country and to ours, a dish of filets of sole was named. It is a most worthy dish, very beautiful, as you can see on GOURMET’S cover this month, most delectable, as you will find for your self when you have ventured it. “

Now for the recipe. It speaks, I believe, for itself:  IMG_4021 (1)

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A Note from Pappy

Found this ad in the September, 1960 issue of Gourmet.  

What stopped me was the picture - it looked so much like the label on my bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon.  Then I saw the name.  

But I pass it on because it's difficult to imagine anyone writing ad copy like this today. 


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This is, I believe, the same Julian Van Winkle whose picture adorns my favorite (and sadly almost empty), bottle of bourbon. Although I must say he looks a whole lot happier here.IMG_6345

A bottle of Pappy is hard to find, really expensive - and a total treat. Old Fitzgerald is another matter. It's a wheated bourbon, and very affordable. And it's still Bottled-in-Bond.  



Vintage Vegetables


Sitting here staring at a huge pile of vegetables from the farmers market, trying to figure out what to cook. Trolling through a pile of old Gourmet Magazines, I came upon a couple of  interesting old recipes.  These are retro classics,far richer than anything a modern cook is likely to come up with. Both intrigue me: the braised cucumbers, because I think we too rarely consider cooking this versatile vegetable, and the stuffed eggplant because, well, it's from Galatoire's and it's really extreme.  





And then, just because it's the salad season and you might be interested in exotic dressings, here are a few suggestions from May 1973 including a few I've never heard of.  Lorenzo Dressing, anyone?


This issue, incidentally, just might have one of the strangest covers ever printed. 


It is, should you be curious, "a covey of doves, symbolizing the peacefulness of the Burgundian countryside." The photograph is by the great Ronny Jaques.

Tomorrow, an odd ad from Julian P. Van Winkle, circa 1960. If I'm not mistaken, that's old Pappy himself. 


More Vintage Gourmet: August 1951


I love these old Rheingold ads.  With their perennially blond women doing their best to make a working class quaff classy, they say so much about the culture of the time,  

But you don't need to stick to the ads to for that information. The recipes also tell us a lot about the times.  Here, for instance, are a couple of dishes from Gastronomie sans Argent, the column the editors created for people with more taste than money. 



Because we're at the height of the peach season, here's a recipe you might actually be inclined to make. A friend just dropped a load of windfall peaches on my porch, and some of them are destined to become peach leather.  What I love best about this recipe?  You do the drying in the sun.


And given our newly coffee-conscious culture, this ad leapt out at me.  I couldn't find out anything about Senor Pinto, but I did discover that in the fifties coffee was San Francisco's second most important industry. 



A Vintage Surprise: Bindaeduk

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Today’s Gourmet is from 1982, but if you excise the airbrushing and the ads - mostly for cigarettes and booze - it’s easy to feel that you're floating in ambiguous culinary time. Sitting down with this issue, I’m transported to Cartagena (eating ceviches and rich soups), and then South Carolina, where I’m drinking an egg white cocktail (which was, of course, already retro in 1982.)

But nothing surprised me more than a recipe for  bindaeduk, the Korean mung bean pancake. For one, there aren’t any shortcuts. Can't wait to make this. 

For extra punch, use kimchee liquid to bind the mung bean and rice mixture instead of water. Just be sure you adjust the salt accordingly. 





And a delicious looking recipe for pyeonyuk, or pressed beef (above picture.) 






London: The Finale

 ......Dinner at Dinner, continued


 "Powdered duck"

This is duck that’s been dry-brined (“powdered”) then cooked sous-vide so it’s incredibly tender.  On the side, an astonishing concoction of blood pudding and cream, along with ‘umbles - the offal.  In this case, fried duck hearts. 


Pork with a ruffle of cabbage.

The pork, thank you very much, is the black foot Iberico, fed exclusively on acorns.  The sauce is Robert, made from chopped onions cooked in butter, with demi-glace, pepper and a white wine reduction, finished iwth mustard.  A version of the dish can be found in Varenne's Le Cuisinier Francois, published in 1651. Although the book is in French, Varenne was Henry the fourth's chef.



 Lamb. Really great lamb. With a little rectangle of cucumber heart. That's borage on top, and mint. 


  Sea bass.  Mussels. Seaweed.  Salmon roe. 



Beef for 2; the English classic, beautifully done and served with mushroom catsup, which predates the tomato sort. 

The potatoes are sublime (butter with some potatoes whipped in) and the beef is aged, beautifully cooked, delicious. 


Beans  (not crisp!) with shallots


Carrots, beautiful carrots, cooked with caraway.


Tipsy cake with spit-roasted, rum-drizzled pineapple.


Roasted peach, yogurt, peach sorbet, jasmine. A very feminine dish.



 Strawberry tart, deconstructed. I wish it didn't look so similar to the roasted peach.  l

 The dessert to dessert, a chocolate and Early Grey pot de creme served with a rye and caraway biscuit. 

This meal wasn't cheap.  Still, with a lot of (good) wine, some cocktails, tax and tip, it came to about $150 a person. (It was, after all,  celebrating a significant birthday.) I’d say that the price/quality ratio was excellent; I can't think of a restaurant in New York where you could get a meal of this quality at that price.  London’s not cheap, but this meal... well I can’t wait for the next person in my family to have a big birthday.  As they say in France, vaut le voyage






London, Part 2


Why did  I never realize what a truly beautiful city London is? Maybe because it’s been years since I was here in summer.  But you can’t walk more than a block or two before coming upon a park or a garden. Fountains play everywhere, and even subsidized housing flats are a riot of colorful wildflowers. 

Passed these flowers on the way to Borough Market. Has it changed this much since last time I was here?  It's a madhouse, so packed it's almost impossible to move. Still, there are some highpoints.  


Tiny little lamb legs at The Ginger Pig.

Wandered over to Neal's Yard, where they no longer make the fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches.  "They're making those at Kappacasein’s."  We found it more by smell than anything else, an aromatic scent of melting cheese floating over the market.  And there it was, that fabulous sandwich of Montgomery cheddar melted onto Poilane bread with lots of different alliums.  

But they also make raclette, Ogleshield (yes, the same cheese we had last night at Quo Vadis), melted onto potatoes with onions and pickles.  



It's made on this ingenious melting machine. 

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 Afterwards, walked over to the Tate Modern. If you're there while it's still on, don't miss the remarkable Agnes Martin show.  Like a visit to spa: a calm oasis in the midst of madness.

Museums pop up where you least expect them.  Wandering past smoky Lincoln’s Field - filled with picnickers grilling meat - we came upon the John Soane Museum.  Soane was a famous architect and teacher and obviously a little mad.  His house is packed with architectural models, drawings, artifacts - all piled upon each other in vast profusion.  One tiny room contains 180 paintings - including the complete Rakes Progress by Hogarth. The museum is free, quirky and should not be missed.



But then it was time to eat again.  We stopped for an ice cream and found this sitting on the table.  Never seen such a thing before- America conquors the world!


 My dinner at Dinner 

Lot of hype.  Number something or other on the list of 50 Best Restaurants.  And I loved it last time I was there, just after it opened.  So I knew I was letting myself in for a big disappointment.

But it was my brother’s birthday, and I thought he’d like the whole idea of eating history.  So I, almost reluctantly, made a reservation.

I don’t think we’d been there ten minutes before we all relaxed into the experience.  The service was.... wonderful.  Enthusiastic. Caring. Welcoming.  Endlessly professional.  You couldn’t help feeling that these people were proud of what they did, wanted you to have a great experience, and would do anything to ensure that.   

And the food - from the first bite of bread to the last morsel of pudding - was pure pleasure.  We ate almost everything on the menu, and there’s not a single dish I wouldn’t happily order again. 

To begin: great bread.  Fabulous butter.

A wine list that has some stars - 82 Bordeaux abound - but also good wines at reasonable prices.  And a sommelier who helps you find them.


Meat fruit.  This is, believe it or not, liver pate.  Fantastic.  Unbelievable.  Gorgeous. Delicious.  A relic from the 13th century, when they loved playing with food, making one substance look like another.  Back then it could never have tasted this good. 


Porridge. Frog’s legs. This is what I thought: I have to start paying attention to oatmeal.  It has as much potential as rice.  Garlic.  Parsley. Fennel. 



But then, of course, there was the risotto.  It’s not called that on the menu.  It’s called rice and flesh- and it comes from 1390  - but it is, in essence, the best risotto you’ve ever eaten.  Intense.  The rice cook in saffron with red wine, tasting of beef, of rice. 



Marrow bone.

Marrow’s become a kind of joke; everybody serves it now. But not like this.  This was not just a blob of richness in a bone. It was chewy.  Against something even chewier: snails. And served with the loveliest little pickles. 



Crab and toast.  What is there to say?  Except that maybe it also has trout roe.



A dish dating back to 1720. Chicken oysters - the tenderest part of the chicken - served with salsify, horseradish. 

This was just the start to a roller coaster ride of a meal.  But this post is getting very long; think I'll save the main courses (and dessert) for tomorrow.

Stay tuned. 





A London Odyssey, Part 1


Landed in London, checked into the truly welcoming Charlotte Street Hotel.  We walked in with some trepidation; it was a family reunion, and our little group spent months arguing over where to stay, switching back and forth between various hotels and an airbandb place before settling on this little boutique hotel.  The staff was fantastic, the rooms attractive and comfortable.  We settled in and set off to find a small bite.  It was noon, and we were HUNGRY.

Wandering around we came upon Barshu.  I stared at the menu in the window.  I had a memory, in the back of my mind, that Fuschia Dunlop consulted to them. The offerings were enticing.  And it smelled - well, irresistible. In we went.

We'd promised not to eat too much until the rest of the group arrived, so we ordered modestly.  A few dan dan noodles.


some smashed cucumbers


and that red pepper chicken up above, which may be the most fun you can have at the table. This is food to play with, searching through that bright pile of peppers until you happen upon the crisp, lip-numbing bits of fried chicken scattered abundantly about. I could do it for hours.

We wandered the streets - London in the sunshine is the most glorious city - until the rest of the group arrived.  Then made our way to Barafina; the raucous tapas bar doesn't open til 5, but at 4 o'clock there was already a line.  Little wonder; this is a lively place where neighbors share food and the wait staff never seems to stop laughing. Can't help wondering if they remain equally cheerful as the night wears on.

This is what we inhaled in a matter of minutes. 

crisp shrimp


 baby octopus they call chipirones


 razor clams


empanadas filled with a really rich crab filling


tiny slipper soles, 


langoustines.  I longed to order one of the carabineros - huge prawns - but at 16 pounds a pop couldn't bring myself to do it.  Besides, this was only a little snack before dinner.


We went on to one of my favorite places in London, Quo Vadis, a fantastically old-fashioned restaurant where chef Jeremy Lee is making thoroughly modern fare.  This first dish was a revelation - an entirely new take on humous.  Hiding beneath that sprightly mash of fresh peas and mint was a puddle of  chick peas swirled with little more than olive oil and lemon so the flavor of the legume itself came singing out.  It was light, refreshing, entirely exhilarating. And those crisp chips put pita in its place; I much prefer these delightfully cheesy triangles.


But there was much more to love.


Ogleshield toasts: welsh rarebit between crisp buttery slices of bread


Squid. Lemon. Tomatoes. So light and lively.




The BEST fried potatoes ever!


And a duck, elderflower and plum salad so delicious that the duck-hater in the group decided

she must be wrong. 



A lovely piece of hake, bathing so elegantly in its tasty parsley and anchovy pond.  


We were up early the next morning, to visit the Smithfield Market, a gorgeousVictorian edifice that was once the central market for all of London. Today it deals exclusively in meat and poultry.  Our timing was off;  apparently Europe's most modern meat market starts around 11, gets going in the wee hours, and by the time we arrived at 7 a.m. it was nearly deserted.


 Happily, we encountered Biffo, who made the entire trip worthwhile: 


If you've seen My Fair Lady, you will instantly recognize (and love) this man.  He’s a philosopher who’s been working in the market for 47 years. “We’re family,” he said.  “You spend more time with your mates 'ere than with the people at 'ome.” He told us that in the old days men swung the beef carcasses up on hooks.  “You had to be professional. If you missed it fell - and that was your lot. Broke your back.”


Tomorrow: a little-known museum, a few surprises, and a memorable dinner at a truly great restaurant. 



A Country Weekend


It's the weekend.  And you are - if only in your dreams - in the country.  In June 1984 Gourmet offered a few recipes to celebrate summer. 


I particularly like the idea of this cold lettuce soup - accompanied by what were - at the time - very racy hot pepper toasts.  Today I'd probably use Sriracha - and top them with some of the fresh hot peppers which are starting to fill the stands at the farmers market.

And for dessert - how about this frozen cappuccino?  You'll note two things about this retro recipe: it was long before the coffee craze, so it asks for nothing more than instant coffee powder.  (The truth is that instant espresso powder was a Gourmet staple for years.)  It also predates the egg crisis, when salmonella became a household word, so while the whites remain raw the recipe lacks the now-ubiquitous warning about danger lurking in uncooked eggs.  













Cowless Curds


It’s 1952 and Gourmet columnist Lawton Mackell is about to try tofu for the first time. The host of Ho-Ho restaurant, George Seto, has persuaded him to deviate from his usual favorite, winter melon soup, and order dow fo choy sum instead. What follows, under the title “Cowless Curds" is pure delight - and a reminder that the magazine was ahead of the curve in acknowledging New York's culinary diversity: 

“Abandoning the idea of winter melon soup, a specialty which the Ho Ho’s chef does superbly, I put my soup fate into their hands. Result: Chinese tureen of dow fo choy sum— clear, flavorful chicken broth containing sliced water chestnuts, hearts of bok choy (Chinese cabbage), julienne of pork, and quite a few cubes of delicate bean curd.  Though the admission came hard, honesty compels me to acknowledge that the opaque white cubes were as fascinating in taste and texture as the translucent green ones of my yearning and that the soup was an equal success.

 I was puzzled, though, by soy bean’s ability to be always dark in soy sauce and always snow-white in curd.  Host George explained that soy sauce, besides being a vehicle for salt, contains caramel. The curd, on the other hand, is made from crushed bean sans coloring.  It comes from the manufacturers in square flat cakes which, even under refrigeration, deteriorate within twenty-four hours. Hence, they are a rarity in restaurants anywhere outside the radius of an active Chinese colony. I might add that cubed curd melts in the mouth."



About this journal
Where am I eating? What's for dinner tonight? And what books have I been reading? For a look at what's going on in my life lately, take a look at this journal, which I try to update on a regular basis.