Every now and then, I cook a few meat dishes for the ‘export market’, reverting to retro classics, given that they freeze well and make for simple and nourishing meals that can be reheated easily. I am more than happy to cook meat for others, especially if the recipient is ill or otherwise disinclined to cook.
Searching the shelves, (and not the internet) for something French, a Chicken Chasseur perhaps, I noticed a big black French culinary hole in my cookbook collection: probably because the cuisine of France tends to be very meat focussed. On the top shelf I keep some much treasured ‘collector’ cookbooks, purchased from second hand shops and read for amusement. ‘The Art of Cuisine’ by Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant is one of these. And very French it is!
There is a story behind this book. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant had been friends since childhood. Joyant was the executor of Lautrec’s will and created the Musée Toulouse- Lautrec at Albi. The two friends had a mutual love of food which was the true daily link between these men.
‘In the last years of his own life, Joyant collected the recipes invented in Lautrec’s company and combined them with the recipes that he and Lautrec had garnered throughout their years of companionship. He embellished the text with Lautrec drawings …….The book was published in a limited edition, and was conceived by Joyant as a work of art and as a tribute.’
My copy is a new – 1966- copy of the original work, ( which was most likely published in the 1920s) translated by Margery Weiner. The only modifications are a few culinary notes, added in bold at the end of the recipes. The book includes fabulous coloured plates of Lautrec’s art, including many sketches he designed for menus.
Toulouse Lautrec’s ‘Chicken Marengo’
Put in a saucepan some olive oil, a crushed clove of garlic; heat and brown pieces of chicken. When these pieces are a good golden colour, take them out and make a roux with a spoon of flour.
When the roux is well browned, moisten with good bouillon, put back the pieces of chicken, salt and pepper, and let simmer on a low flame.
Half an hour before serving, add some sautéed mushrooms, a few spoons of tomato puree, and pitted olives. Just as you serve, sprinkle with croutons of bread fried in butter.
1966 culinary notes by Barbara Kafka
2 Tbs oil, 1 Tbs flour, 1 cup chicken stock, 1/2 lb mushroom sliced and heated in 2 Tbls butter, 2 Tbs tomato puree and 1/4 cup black olives.
My notes, 2014.
1 kilo free range chicken thigh fillets, cut into thirds, 2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbs butter, 1/4 cup white wine, a slurp of brandy, 3 cloves of garlic, smashed, plain flour to dredge the chicken pieces, 1 cup of stock, salt and pepper, 2 Tbs tomato paste, 300 grs mushrooms, quartered. No olives and no croutons.
Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, fry till golden in oil and butter in a heavy based pan, making sure you don’t crowd the pan. Remove pieces when done, then add the garlic to the pan and cook briefly, then the cognac and wine. On high heat scrape the stuck bits on the base, reduce a little, then add the stock and tomato paste. Put the chicken pieces back into the pan, add salt and pepper to taste,and cook on very low flame. Add the mushrooms towards the end of cooking. Add more stock as needed. Total cooking time, around 30 minutes.
My version uses chicken thigh pieces as it is much faster to cook and easier to box up for the ‘export market’. The boxes will contain a side of fettucine.
And as for the word Marengo? Check here for a little Napoleonic history.
For my granddaughter, Mischa Belle, who is a French speaker but not yet a cook, and also for Deb of My Kitchen Witch, who would love this book I am sure.
The Art of Cuisine
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant
Introduction by M.G. Dortu and Ph. Huisman
Translated by Margery Weiner
Culinary notes by Barbara Kafka
Publisher, Michael Joseph, Ltd, London. 1966.