24 February 2016

The Fish and Oyster Book

In the early 20th century, The Hotel Monthly Press printed a series of book designed primarily for hotel staff.  One particular series of recipe books were very plain little volumes designed to fit in a jacket pocket.  They were filled with recipes for vegetables, sauces, pastries, and eggs.  There was also an edition for fish and oysters.   The Fish and Oyster Book was written by Leon Kientz who was the longtime chef at Rector's in Chicago.  The noted fish restaurant made its chef the likely author for this edition.

Like most of these books, The Fish and Oyster Book contains over 400 recipes and nearly 30 menus featuring these recipes.  jammed into a tiny approximately 3 X 7 inch book. No wonder they were wildly popular with chefs and copies are often beaten, stained and well used.

The recipes are straight forward little paragraphs requiring a bit of knowledge to pull off.  Even with sparse instructions, they are often much easier to understand than many a well executed recipe.  For instance this recipe for cod tongues,  Who knew cod had tongue?  Well, I guess most every living thing has a tongue.  But still.  In order to pull off this recipe, one would need to know how to acquire cod tongue, and I don't recall ever seeing them in my grocery.   The recipes says you will need to clean the tongue.  Well, I, for one am stumped.

Let's see where the recipe goes.

Fresh Codfish Tongues, Meunière.

Clean, wash and wipe dry;season with salt and pepper, roll them in flour, and fry in a frying pan in clarified butter to a nice color. When done, place them on a hot platter; besprinkle with chopped parsley and lemon juice; pour over some brown butter (hazelnut color), and serve hot.

Concise and to the point.  Yes, we need to know how and where to get the cod tongues, and we need to know what clarified butter is, but the rest is quite understandable. While we don't know what the "nice" color is for the fried tongues, we do know the color of the brown butter. I think most anyone might just be able to pull of this paragraph of tongues.  Of course, most people wouldn't even try.

A cookbook like this offers up two things.  One, it gives the reader tons of ideas for dishes, many of them, like the cod tongue, one might never have thougth of.  The second is finding really cool new words like "besprinkled."  I love besprinkled and plan to get about besprinkling many items in my cooking repertoire.  And so should you.

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