10 February 2014

A Gourmet's Book of Beasts

A Gourmet's Book of Beasts is subtitled:

"Intriguing recipes for 57 different meats - with a natural history of each animal, its portrait from the world's finest art collections, and its culinary bibliography."

Alas, Faith Medlin published this cookbook/history in 1975. The beautiful objects from galleries and collections are reproduced in simple black and white. One does not get the full regal drama of crystal bowls engraved with bison or porcelain crab dishes or silver salt cellars of oyster shells.

This rather poor photo of a silver spoon with a bowl in the form of a scallop

by Antonio Gentility da Faenza pales in this form. Unfortunately, a clear photo does not exist in the Metropolitan Museum's database.


Still, A Gourmet's Book of Beasts offers up more than an odd recipe for the unfamiliar and familiar edible beast. You will learn about the animal. You will see art and artifacts associated with each animal. And, you will find a bibliography of cookbooks with an unusual array of recipes.

While rattlesnake or reindeer might not be you cup of tea, these scallops are quite easy and a bit exotic with the chilled fiddleheads.

Scallops with Fiddleheads

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fern fiddleheads
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh scallops
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons dry vermouth

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in stainless steel or enameled sauce pan and bring to boil. Drop fiddleheads into boiling liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain and chill.

If scallops are the large variety, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Dry thoroughly. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in plastic or paper bag. Toss scallops in bag until thoroughly coated. Melt butter in large skillet. Over medium heat, sauté scallops for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vermouth, reduce heat, and simmer 5 more minutes, stirring gently. Divide onto 3 plates and sprinkle each serving with paprika. Serve with chilled fiddleheads.


You will probably never run across a tiger steak at the local Kroger's, but for your favorite food historian, A Gourmet's Book of Beasts is a welcome delight.


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