Monday, October 24, 2016

Kumquat or Cumquats in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A large kumquat.
Kumquat or Cumquat – The kumquat or Chinese orange is a small orange colored fruit with many equally small family members. The fruit has the taste of a slightly sour orange and is usually oval in shape; it may reach 2.5 cm (1”) on the long side, and that is a large kumquat. The English name "kumquat" derives from the Cantonese 金橘 pronounced gamgwat. Literally, that means golden tangerine.

Kumquats originated in China and the first of these fruits reached Europe with the Portuguese in the early 17th century. However, the Portuguese had brought home the fruit but not the plant.   The Englishman Robert Fortune (1812-1880) brought back the first kumquat seedlings and cuttings in the 1840’s;  this is the Robert Fortune who is better known for buying, stealing, or otherwise obtaining the first tea plants from China and so indirectly founding the tea industry in India for the British Raj.

A multitude of kumkuats
I know that Kumquats are easy to grow.  We bought a few small decorative trees for our balcony, and one was a kumquat. Even with my black thumb within three years the little Kumquat tree began producing hundreds of fruits.  Even when distributed among family members there were more that we needed and this tree was really a bush. The Kumquat grows in the tea regions of China where the climate is too cold for other citrus fruits.

Candied kumquats.

In France kumquats, and elsewhere, are used for their flavor and will be on your menu in sauces for entrees, the French first course, the main course and for desserts and pastries. Kumquats are also be made into preserves and conserves, jams; a kumquat conserve or marmalade may be served with your breakfast baguette.

Kumquat on French Menus:

Râble de Lapin Dans une Feuille de Blette, Kumquats Vinaigrés - Saddle of rabbit served wrapped in Swiss chard with kumquats pickled in vinegar. The saddle is the center of the back and the meatiest part of a rabbit or hare; a saddle of rabbit or hare is usually offered roasted and stuffed.

Fanny Bay oyster with kumquat,
uni, (the inside of a sea urchin),  creme fraiche,
 ikura,( the bright red salmon roe) and fennel
Fanny Bay oysters come from a bay in British Columbia, Canada.
Crème Brûlée aux Zestes d'Kumquatt Crème Brûlée flavored with juices from the peel of the kumquat, the zest.
Demi-Pigeonneau de Racan au Chou, Confit de Kumquats –  Half a young pigeon from the village of Saint Paterne Racan in the old province of Berry, now Indre-et-Loire.  This village and the area around are highly rated for the pigeons raised there. The pigeon is served with cabbage and a kumquat jam.

Candied kumquats.
Dorade Mousseline de Carottes Jaunes, Kumquat et Sauce Vierge -  Gilthead seabream served with finely pureed yellow carrots, kumquats, and a sauce vierge.  As the sauce’s name suggests it includes virgin olive oil and with the oil will be fresh tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, basil, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper. The sauce will be served slightly warm but not cooked as olive oil loses flavor when cooked. Here it would seem that the kumquats will be adding flavor to the sauce vierge. The sauce will be poured on the fish just before it is served.
Filet de Saint-Pierre Rôti, Artichauts Poivrade en Barigoule, Confit de Kumquats et Jus de Volaille - St Peter’s fish, John Dory, served with artichokes poivrade in a Barigoule.  Poivrade is the name given to small violet artichokes from Provence which may be eaten whole. A barigoule today is made using these small violet artichokes braised in oil and white wine and stuffed with tomatoes and mushrooms, any mushrooms.  There are differences in recipes that relates to the mushrooms used, but that is not indicated in this menu listing.  On this menu listing, there is a sweet and sour citrus jam made with the kumquats, which will provide a good flavor for the fish and is prepared with a poultry gravy.

Artichokes à la Barigoule –  This is a popular dish today that goes back to the mid-1800’s. Then artichokes were cooked with the barigoule mushrooms that then grew under or near the artichoke plants. That mushroom, now mostly called the lactaire or lactaire délicieux in France, is the saffron milk cap mushroom in English. The saffron milk cap is a tasty mushroom when well cooked.  However, in most parts of France this wild mushroom is only in season from July through the beginning of October. With such limited availability and its relatively high price as it is a wild mushroom, in today’s artichauts à la barigoule there will rarely be saffron milk cap mushrooms. The name barigoule remains, but the recipe and the mushrooms used all year round will be different. Today’s recipes usually use the cultivated button mushroom,

Kumquats in the market

Le Magret de Canard Rôti, Kumquat, Patate Douce, Sauce aux Épices  – Roasted duck breast flavored with kumquats and served with sweet potatoes and a herb sauce.
Les Cuisses de Grenouille Crème d'ail, Blette Farcie des Hauts de Cuisses et Kumquat Confit Frogs’ legs served with a creamy garlic sauce. The upper parts of the frogs’ legs are stuffed with Swiss chard and a kumquat jam.

Kumquat tea
After Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s State visit to France in 1849, there was a massive increase in trade between the UK and France.  That traded included in plants and livestock. Among the plants sold was the kumquat which despite the weather had thrived in the UK and since the 1850’s has done well in France as well.
Kumquats in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - cumquat), (Dutch - Kumquat), (German -  kumquat), (Italian – kumquat), (Spanish -  kumquat,  naranja japonés), (Latin – Citrus japonica).

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Bryan G, Newman
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Marlin de la Méditerranée – The Mediterranean Spearfish on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

The Mediterranean Spearfish
Photograph courtesy AL CUSTOM boats
Marlin, Marlin de la Méditerranée, Poisson-pique  –   The Mediterranean Spearfish or the Mediterranean Shortbill Spearfish.  This fish is a member of the Atlantic blue marlin family and while a blue marlin can reach 5 meters its Mediterranean cousins rarely reach 2.50 meters (8 feet). The measurement is from the end of its spear to the end of its tail. 

The Mediterranean Spearfish.
French fishermen and women catch smaller fish in nets as bycatch. The fish are found in small groups in the Mediterranean, but most are found off the Italian coast.  The fish caught may be just over one meter in length, spear and all; however, these smaller fish may still weigh in at over 20 kilos less the spear. On French Mediterranean menus, they will be a daily special. Its meat is firm and tasty with a color from pink to light brown. The Mediterranean spearfish fish are usually grilled or baked steaks and often served with a sauce but the chefs are always experimenting.
The Mediterranean spearfish on French Menus:
Carpaccio de Marlin aux Agrumes - Carpaccio of Marlin with citrus fruits.

Marlin steak with bananas
Escalope de Marlin Crème de Lardons – An escallop, a filet, of Marlin served with a bacon flavored sauce.
Tartare de Marlin au Couteau – A Marlin tartar prepared with a knife, not ground up in a machine.

Tuna and marlin steaks
Marinating in a teriyaki sauce made of shoyu, manjo mirin, grated garlic, juice of ginger, canola oil.
Rouleaux De Marlin Fumé Et De Wakamé – A roll of smoked marlin served with wakame seaweed.
Steaks De Marlin En Croûte De Sésame - A marlin steak cooked en croute, inside pastry  cover made with sesame wheat flour.
Steak De Marlin Mariné à la Lime et Mi-Cuit  - A Marlin steak marinated in lime and very very lightly cooked.

Marlin Sashimi
The Mediterranean Spearfish in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan – marli), (Dutch - witte marlijn), (German - mittelmeer-speerfisch, mittelmeer-marlin),  (Spanish - marlin del Mediterráneo), (Italian – aguglia imperiale mediterranea,  agugghia impiriale).  (Latin -  Tetrapturus belone ).

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Escoffier. The Most Important Influence and Contributor to French Cuisine in the First Half of the 20th Century.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Escoffier –  Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935).  The most influential of all modern French chefs until Prosper Montagne and then Fernand Point, but even then his influence remains. Escoffier was born in a small village called Villeneuve-Loubet in Provence, 15 km (10 miles) from Nice. He began working in French restaurant kitchens at age 13.   Let all the 13 year-olds into the kitchen and who knows where it will lead?  Escoffier from age 13 never looked back.
During the Franco-Prussian war (1870- 1871) Escoffier served as chef to the French General Staff. That war saw the Prussian Bismarck’s machinations succeed and ended with Napoleon III’s downfall and exile to England.  After Escoffier’s imprisonment, as a soldier, and release, he was discharged from the French army. From then on through to 1920, when he retired,  Escoffier ruled the world of French cuisine. Escoffier’s influence remains on all our tables and in all French restaurants today.

 A few years after Escoffier left the army in 1877 he opened the first restaurant that he would own; it was called Le Faisan d'Or, The Golden Pheasant, Cannes on the Cote d’Azur. Despite his growing reputation and excellence as the chef of the Le Faisan d'Or Escoffier’s real fame came later when he became the Chef de Cuisine at the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, owned by César Ritz.From the Grand Hotel his reputation grew and became internationally famous together with César Ritz.   Then he joined with César Ritz again and took over the kitchens of the Savoy Hotel in London, in 1890.  From when he joined the Savoy and wherever Escoffier went, he created new dishes; in his lifetime he created and wrote down for posterity over 5,000 recipes.
The Savoy Hotel in London.
Where Escoffier’s fame began.

Escoffier’s service in the army affected his views on the organization of the French kitchen. He created the brigade de cuisine; like in an army, he wanted a clear chain of command. Escoffier’s brigades installed order in the French kitchen, beginning in the late 19th century. This system, with modern adaptations, is still in effect around the world today.
Today, restaurants cannot afford the huge staff required for a full Escoffier kitchen brigade, but the titles and the jobs remain. The Chef de Cuisine is still the Executive Chef; the Sous Chef is still the number two in the kitchen and responsible for the minute by minute operation; the Chefs de Parti, are today’s line chefs.  Escoffier set down in writing the responsibilities for each kitchen specialist all the way down to the plongeur, the dishwasher.
Poire Belle Helene

Poire Belle Helene and Nellie Melba

Food writers have looked everywhere for the Hélène who was one of Escoffier’s inspirations.    The candidates include honoring Jacques Offenbach who wrote the opera “La Belle Helene;” first performed in 1864 at the Paris Opera house. The opera is a thumb in cheek story based on Helen of Troy whose face alone launched a thousand ships.  It also certainly is true that Escoffier loved opera nearly as much as he loved opera singers; however, in 1864 he was still an assistant chef with professionally recognized talent but publicly unknown.  Then through the early 1870’s he was involved with the French Army, first as a conscript, then as the chef to a number of  France’s  Generals; that was followed by six months as a prisoner of war where he was held by the Prussians who had defeated Napoléon III. Unfortunately, that rules out Helen of Troy. Escoffier only began his work at the Savoy Hotel in London where the dish first appeared on a menu in 1890.

Also named as the possible honoree is Helene Queen of Romania; though she is also an unlikely choice as she became Queen of Romania in 1921 and Escoffier had left the Savoy Hotel before then.
Nellie Melba
Escoffier loved opera and at the Savoy, he met Nellie Melba; the most famous lyric soprano opera singer of her day had. She made her home at the Savoy Hotel while Escoffier was chef.  Apart from opera Escoffier also loved opera singers and he honored Nellie Melba with Peach Melba and Toast Melba.
 It is evident to me that the dish called Poiré Hélène was also named by Escoffier after Nellie Melba. Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell, and so she was certainly Escoffier’s Belle Hélène.
Antonin Carême
The final works of the French chef Antonin Carême were his three-volume L’Art de la Cuisine Français au Dix- Neuvième Siècle, The Art of French Cuisine in the 19th Century; it was published posthumously in three parts in 1832.  From 1832 practically nothing else was added to organize or change the French kitchen, for nearly seventy years. Then, thankfully, Escoffier came along and wrote how French cuisine should be organized and changed in the early 20th century. 
L’Art Culinaire
 Escoffier’s first written work was a magazine, L’Art Culinaire; it was first published in 1883.  In 1903 the topics raised in L’Art Culinaire were updated as a book Le Guide Culinaire.  Le Guide Culinaire is usually, today, accredited to Escoffier alone. In reality, this book was the combined work of Escoffier and the then famous chefs Emile Fetu and Phileas Gilbert.
New issues of Le Guide Culinaire with a nod to Escoffier are being edited and published today. Altogether Escoffier wrote seven books, all collaborative works. In 1920 Escoffier updated his original magazine as La Revue Culinaire. Revues that try to link themselves to Escoffier are being edited and published today. Escoffier, Emile Fetu, and Phileas Gilbert also wrote that unique book for chefs, Le Livre des Menus, The Book of Menus that was published in 1924 and is available in English.
Escoffier, Emile Fetu and Phileas Gilbert’s
Le Guide Culinaire
Translated by H L Cracknell (Editor), R J Kaufmann (Editor).
Published in 2001 On sale at Amazon.Com.
From the day Escoffier and Cesar Ritz arrived at the Savoy Hotel, they were an unstoppable combination. From London Escoffier retired to Monte Carlo in his 70’s and he died there in 1935, aged 94.  His funeral cortège drove the few miles to the village of his birth Villeneuve-Loubet, today it is a town of over 15,000.  Escoffier was interred in the family tomb. You may visit the small, museum in the house where he was born, the Musée Escoffier de l'Art Culinaire.  The town of Villeneuve-Loubet is in the department of Alpes-Maritimes, the Côte d'Azur, Provence.
Prosper Montagné
In would be another thirty years, after Escoffier, before another 20th-century chef, Prosper Montagné, published, with others, another revolutionary work, the Larousse Gastronomique. The Larousse Gastronomique brought French cuisine into the middle of the 20th century.  In the midst of the 20th Century would come Fernand Point, the éminence grise behind the creation of Nouvelle Cuisine and today’s Modern French Cuisine.

Recipes may have changed; sauces may have been simplified, the equipment may have improved but all French chefs, even today, work with Carême, Escoffier, Fetu, Gilbert, Montagné and Point whispering in his or her ears. If you search for the influence of Escoffier, visit his Museum in the village where he was born. It is the headquarters of the Escoffier Foundation
3 de la Rue Escoffier
The village of Villeneuve-Loubet,

For opening times call 04.9320.8051 or send an email to::
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman