Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Riddle of the Burned Princess

First come with me to the antiquarian book show, a place were serendipity is king. Together we shall relish the hunt, and admire the worn sheen of many a forgotten volume. “Please this way, so I can explain myself.”

The cook book pox has me, and I am jonesing for my next fix. Strange fever. What is it about cookbooks, why do I need another? Like the squirrels who endlessly collect and plant acorns about my yard, securing a future meal, such is my quest for another cookbook. A stash of reference purchased at random for a fantasy banquet, a banquet I will more than likely never prepare. The flags of sprouting young oaks about the lawn are reminders of forgotten acorns, forgotten volumes, cook books that have not served up one thin strand of pasta. So I ask myself, is more better or have I been amassing a reference library for a future celebrity chef, another Antonin Careme perhaps?

We exit the book fair and I proudly pull from my sack a fat five pound cook book. “Look at this! An affordable fifteen bucks”, I declare. “The Gold Cook Book” by Louis P. De Gouy, revised edition, copyright 1949. True to its name the cover is a beat up metallic gold colour. I think now that out of the thousands of books on display I was chosen by this one, musing, I enter into a new relationship with my golden prize.

It is now sunday morning. My first thought was to check out the chapter on poultry. Chicken being some what of an sunday tradition, as well as providing monday night leftovers, seemed to me the right place to start reading. My first impression - Chef Louis has not only put together a massive volume of well organised recipes but reveals himself as an accomplished writer. The text is clear and incisive with an interest of history, humour and trivia. For example his recipe for “Brunswick Stew Of Old Dixie” (in the poultry section) starts out with this introduction-

“Note: After it is all said and done, squirrel meat must have a big part in the pot.”

He then continues by painting a verbal picture of southern hospitality and how this stew plays a major role in any gathering were food is served. He explains that the mention of chicken in this recipe stirred up more than stew when first released (in 1947). Admitting this oversight, Chef Louis revised this introduction to quell his ridicule, and satisfy the historical underpinnings that makes this dish so famous.

It must be remember that in the late 40s America was beginning to live the good life now that the war was over. Along with returning troops came the taste of foreign lands. The demand for the new tastes was answered in part by the chefs assembling cookbooks. In the “Gold Cook Book “ Chef Louis is generous in providing explanations and references, for both the familiar and exotic. His inclusion of a “personal-historic context” makes this a fascinating cook book.

Back to sunday morning. As I continue to thumb my way through the poultry section I am confronted with a most unusual recipe, “Burnt Chicken Princess”. I am strangely excited, as if I am a conquistador laying eyes on the fabled city of gold “El Dorado”. .....I must know this taste! I must make this chicken! What does the recipe title mean! An exotic blend of spirits dominates this princess, yes the princess and I will drink and burn together. Now is the time, Louis P. De Gouy has summoned me into a action. Wait a minute, its only chicken. I decide that I must be committed so I head for the liquor store where I drop sixty eight bucks on the necessary booze. The recipe calls for yellow Chartreuse, but green is all they have, the clerk assures me their is no difference in taste. I read to him from the back of the bottle, “the yellow is milder and sweeter than the green.” He replies with the same information, “ they taste the same”. I want to burn the princess and not spend my day driving so I compromise and buy the green Chartreuse. I also need gin so I choose “Bombay Dry Gin” based entirely on the bottle’s aesthetic presentation. Fortunately we have the rum at home.

Back home a fissure opens in my brain and out grows an oak tree, I remember a recipe for green Chartreuse sorbet. More cookbooks are better and this one happens to be Paula Wolfert’s timeless classic “The cooking of South-West France”. My dinner preparation starts with the sorbet.(recipe below)

Green Chartreuse Sorbet

Adapted from a recipe by Paula Wolfert
serves 10
Begin 1 day in advance ( this is better if made several days in advance as flavors meld)

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup Green Chartreuse
  • 2/3 cup strained orange juice
  • 1/4 cup strained lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (continued)

    1) Dissolve sugar in 4 cups water over medium heat, stirring. If sugar crystals appear on the inner sides of the pan, brush down with a brush dippedin cold water. Boil undisturbed 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly then add the Chartreuse. Cool completely.
    2) Combine syrup, fruit juices
    3) Pour into a metal loaf pan and set in freezer compartment until mixture is slushy but beginning to set around inside rims, about 2 hours. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and return to freezer until almost frozen. Repeat beating after 2 hours. Stir in cream, and freeze until firm.
    4) Pack into a freezer container. Cover and allow mixture to ripen overnight, or a day or two more.

    Note: If the sorbet crystallizes, thaw slightly then beat in a food processor until smooth. Refreeze. It is nice to serve with a shortbread, or waffle cookie.

    Burned Chicken Princess

    Wash three 2-pound broilers inside and out with warm water and soda ( 1/2 teaspoon soda to each quart water), rinse well with cold running water, and singe. Sponge the broilers dry; rub with butter seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and roast in the usual way after placing in each cavity I small white onion stuck with a whole clove, 2 thin carrot slices, I small piece celery stalk, 2 sprigs parsley, a bit of bay leaf, and a tiny sprig of thyme.

    When the chickens are done, remove from the oven, and split in two from the back. Discard the herbs in the cavity, and bring the chickens to the table on a very hot platter, which must be kept hot. In the top part of the chafing dish pan, which should not be over water, heat 3/4 pound best sweet butter; add I teaspoon each finely chopped tarragon, chives, shallots, parsley, chervil, sweet summer savory, and celery tops. Let these cook for 2 or 3 minutes; then add 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms using both caps and stems, -peeled and thinly sliced, and cook 5 or 6 minutes longer, stirring gently but thoroughly.

    Now place in a soup ladle 2 tablespoons each of fine rum, gin and yellow Chartreuse. Dip a lump of sugar into the rum; light the rum, and add it to the liqueur mixture in the ladle, which will burn. Pour the flaming mixture on the contents of the chafing dish pan until the liqueur is completely burned. Then pour this sauce over the chicken, and serve at once.

    I did use green Chartreuse instead of yellow in my preparation of “Burnt Chicken Princess.” Otherwise the recipe needs no help and I refuse to dampen your technique with petty nuances.

    “Burnt Chicken Princess?” Within the grand dining hall the seated guest look puzzled and somewhat apprehensive. The question on their lips is not what is in the sauce but what is in the name. I still ponder this improbable recipe title. Was the chicken a princess scratching about the barn yard waiting to be kissed? The flambé if presented on a silver chafing dish at the dining table may have impressed a child princess. But on what account would a cook in his right mind proclaim to a princess and her entourage of guests,“the chicken has been burnt.” No, Louis does not bare a thread of information alluding to the title, but ends the recipe with a seemingly unrelated three line paragraph of trivia, and I Quote;
    “Francis Bacon was an epicure as well as a literary figure. An early experimenter with refrigeration, he is supposed to have died from a chill caught while stuffing a fowl with snow.”

    My plan is to ask the sphinx.

    The film stills of the woman with a chicken lodged on her tiara are from the 1960's movie titled “The Party” starring the hilarious Peter Sellers as an univited party guest.
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  • Sunday, March 19, 2006

    The Anthropomorphic Food and Kitchen Gallery

    From the New York Times article about chefs and tatoos. The chef who sports this tatoo, Rick Tramonto, partner and executive chef at Tru in Chicago, said "The spoon is running, the fork is stressed out, the knife is excited and they're all going after the plate. The plate is in the weeds; he's got the lobster but he dropped the lemon"

    The hotdog image was posted on LTHForum

    Strange but true, even chicken mc nuggets have a face. Thanks Amanda for the photograph.

    The Kream Krunch box came from flickr and was posted by Grickly.

    Find the burned toast and other plush goodies at My Paper Crane.

    While in San Francisco we were fortunate to have a bite at the famed Tartine Bakery. This coffe bean guy was found on the bakery's "to go" coffee cup.

    This recipe booklet was published in 1946 by the “National Peanut Council, Inc.”

    “Chester” was sighted at the Shady Dell in Bisbi Arizona, a great vacation spot where you can sleep in a vintage Airstream trailer.

    In the Fisherman's Warf area of San Francisco you will run into this ice cream cone man.

    These came from a local Richard's Whole Foods store in Bradenton, Florida. More on ginger people.

    This was donated by Carolien from Holland. It is a pickled plum candy. She said she didn't care much for the taste.

    These recipe pages are from the “Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls”. We think it is the late 50's or early 60's. These were donated by Carolien from Holland. Thank you for your contribution.

    This jem came from a copyright free illustrator's hand book, probably a turn of the century (19th century) work. I love this period and would love to find more like this. Feel free to submit.

    From “U Lucky Dog” hot dog stand in Chicago see more pictures of great chicago hot dog stands at this blog: off the broiler.

    This shirt is one of the submissions at threadless. If you go there and vote on this shirt, it could get printed and distributed. I like this one!

    These images came from a discount bread store in St.Petersburg, Florida.

    We think this guy is a formal slice of bread.

    Also from the bread store, captain cupcake and twinkie the kid are our favorites.

    You can find these wonderful images at your local Hollywood Video chain store. Kudos to the artist.

    Perhaps the most famous of all anthropomorphic individuals, we paid twelve dollars for this guy at an antique store, get yours quickly.

    Not wanting the cheese, we flashed these right in the rack. Sorry about the quality. We feel the whole idea is pretty lame.

    We found these mixes at the local Williams Sonoma Store. Lets hope these images become classics and stay on the shelf.

    This is a thermometer I bought five years ago from Smith & Hawken. I'd like to know the source of the original art.

    This came from a small grocer who carries latin imports. We actually ended up using the sugar. Its taste is different than brown sugar, but not like molasses either.

    This candy came from Mi Pequeña Dulceria in Tucson, Arizona.

    A magazine cover from 1992 I found at the laundry matt before I had a washer and dryer.

    Dieter's mom, Elsie illustrated this dish and spoon just for the blog. It looks curiously like her and Dieter's dad, Paul.

    This image was contributed by Alan who makes great

    If you have never read the “Stinky Cheese Man” you need to do it now. Written and illustrated by John Scieszka and Lane Smith.

    Both images are from a cooking pamphlet circa 1950 “Banana Salad Bazaar.” Distributed by the Home Ecomonics Department at Fruit Dispatch Company.

    Distributed by the Home Economics Department at United Fruit Company, 1951. These recipe pamphlets tell you more than you need to know about making things with bananas.

    Publix market is giving it's store brand food a packaging overhaul, the look is minimal and simple, a no clutter label. Take a long look at these pasta characters, I question their longevity as salesmen.

    Davidson's Safest Choice Pasteurized Shell Eggs can be found at Publix Market and on the internet at

    We spotted these characters while shopping at our local grocery store. It seems that the power of the anthropomorphic food representation is alive and hard at work updating the look of a classic cookie.

    The four citrus characters above are located on highway 19 in Terrecia, Florida, south of the Skyway Bridge.

    This is the logo for the “Classie Tomato” packing house in Ellenton, Florida.

    Our thanks to EP from one of our favorite blogs, Easily Pleased for alerting us to Mr. Peanut. I belive this to be a cast iron reproduction piggy bank.

    This was brought many years ago in the small town of Sesser, Illinois. This looks to be a summer camp project, made of plaster of paris.

    The top apple and pear couple are “chalkwear” kitchen hangers for towels and potholders.

    The bags were saved from an early hot dog and pickle.

    Think “California Raisins,” yes the ones shuffling about in the spot light with the Fred Astaire cane, sunglasses and viola! you have a premiere example of anthropomorphic food. Of course none of us would ever eat another human, but the idea that a raisin tastes so good that it literally dances about our mouth some how makes it fun to eat. You can't deny the mass appeal and huge success of humanized foods. The “Pillsbury Dough Boy” and colorful “M & M's” beg us to eat them. An advertising strategy not so different than a parent cajoling a small child to eat an “airplaine fork” full of vegetables that fly though the air right in to the laughing little ones gaping hanger; varoom, zoom, another shipment coming in for landing!

    The idea of animated food and kitchen objects has a wild appeal to me. Anthropormorphic forms add a bit of levity in the kitchen and even lend a helping hand. After all food and its preparation has an element of magic to it. Who wouldn't like a magic spoon watching over the sauce––perfection every time. When “The Cat and the Fiddle,” a children's classic nursery rhyme, was read to me as a child my imagination raced away with the dish and the spoon. Usually this story is accompanied with wonderful illustrations depicting this scene. Unfortunatly I don't have a good one to show.

    Hey, diddle, diddle!
    The cat and the fiddle,
    The cow jumped over the moon;
    The little dog laughed
    To see such sport,
    And the dish ran away with the spoon.

    My idea is to create, with your help, a visual library of anthropomorphic objects that share a space in the anatomy of gastronomy. You may contribute to, as well as borrow from, this collection. It is a public domain where no entry will be refused as long as it pertains to the topic. With each submitted entry a line of information would help as a historical note, or as a personal note; such as “I grew up with this hanging in our kitchen now it is in my kitchen in Bradenton, Florida,” or “this is from an old cook book ... 1955.” I want to thank you now for your interest and possible participation. Please send pdf files to me, Dieter. Keep checking back because we will be adding images to the collection.
    This image is from recipe book titled “Let's Bake” published by the Robin Hood Flour Company in 1964.

    This is from a booklet published by the “Waring Blendor” company in 1947. The Booklet is called “340 Recipes for the new Waring Blendor”, the booklet is chock full of funny blendor characters.
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