Thursday, January 23, 2014

The World's Oldest Noodle and Cauliflower Ravioli with the Best Lime Butter Ever

A few weeks ago I saw a television piece on the oldest noodles in the world. They are so valuable they’re kept in a safe because their discovery turned noodle history on its ear. Before the discovery, the noodle history clock started ticking when noodles were mentioned in a Chinese book written between AD25 to 220. Now we have physical evidence that there were noodles 4000 years ago.

The noodles were miraculously found in northwestern China under yards of dirt in an over-turned bowl.  When they were tested, it was revealed they were made from millet, not wheat.  Two varieties of millet, foxtail and broomcorn were grown in the area at the time –– evidently you needed the properties of both varieties to make a dough pliable and strong enough for pulling noodles (you can read about the find HERE).

The discovery settles the argument about who invented noodles first –– at least for now. The Italians can’t claim that title.

14th century Pasta making, Vienna

Italians can claim some fairly venerable pasta but Romans weren’t the only pasta lovers back in the day. Aside from a lasagna noodle-related boiled dough enjoyed in the Roman Empire and the well-documented ancient noodledom of China, Persia and other middle eastern countries as well as Africa and India had pasta in one form or another during the early part of the first millennium –– seen in the form of noodles or dumplings.

In the Middle Ages,  pasta cropped up in old French cookbooks, Sicily had pasta before Marco Polo came back from China and even England had pasta –– it appears in Richard II’s Forme of Cury (that I wrote about HERE) in a lovely recipe for ravioles full of cheese and butter. That fact was something of a surprise to me. I always thought noodles and even stuffed dumplings were universal but that ravioli was an Italian thing. It seems they were so good other cultures adopted them (probably passed through the Catholic Church).

I read that the earliest mention of ravioli comes from a merchant of Prato in Tuscany in the 14th century. A 14th century Venetian manuscript had a recipe for ravioli full of herbs and cheese simmered in broth. Master chef, Bartolomeo Scappi (I wrote about him HERE) served them with chicken in 1549 for the Papal Enclave. Some medieval ravioli were made with herbs, cheese and flour that were then boiled but not encased in pasta dough –– more like the northern European dumpling today (a lovely writer named Jen Lin-Liu has written a book, On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta if you want to find out more about noodle history).

The Creative Cooking Crew announced dumplings as the challenge this month and then Huffington Post put up a great list of 20 dumplings around the world. Suddenly I had a lot of choices from all over the world vying for my attention but decided on a ravioli flavored with a new favorite flavor combination. I was inspired when I found some lime compound butter in the freezer and put it on steamed cauliflower with a bit of cream –– wow. I thought putting a creamy cauliflower filling in pasta with lime butter sauce would be divine. It was, but you may want to make more of the butter –– it’s irresistible.   You can make it from scratch, with gyoza wrappers or even spread between lasagna noodles and warmed in the oven if you don't want to fuss.

Do visit Marie Telling's heroic piece in BUZZFEED about 44 Classic French Dishes to Try Before You Die HERE.There are 3 dishes from Lostpastremembered in the series, so I am pleased as punch!

Cauliflower Ravioli with Lime Cream

1 recipe Cauliflower filling
1 recipe pasta or a package of gyoza wrappers or 6 cooked lasagna noodles
1 recipe lime Cream
sautéed cauliflower slices and herbs for garnish

Lay out the pasta or gyoza wrappers.

If using homemade pasta, put a small amount of filling in piles along the pasta length (I like to make them in 2 sizes because I like the way it looks on the plate). Brush water on all the exposed pasta and lay another sheet of pasta over the top. Press along the exterior of the mounds of filling to seal then cut out the ravioli and place on a floured piece of film. Cover loosely and let rest.

OR, put the filling in the center of the gyoza and brush exposed pasta with water. Put another gyoza wrapper on top and seal. Cover loosely and let rest in the fridge for a bit.

If you want a no fuss method,  use lasagna noodles, lay half of them in a buttered dish, spoon the filling over them and top with the other noodles.  Cover with foil and  warm in the oven (350º for 15 minutes should do it).  Then put the lime butter on them to serve with the cauliflower slices

Boil the pasta for a few minutes. Toss the cooked ravioli in the butter or pour over the ravioli and serve, garnish with browned cauliflower slices and parsley.

Cauliflower Filling

1 c steamed cauliflower, roughly chopped
½ shallot, minced
clove of garlic, minced
2 T butter
1 T cognac
2 – 3 T cream
2 T chopped parsley
2 t chopped fresh marjoram
1/8 – ¼ t nutmeg (to taste)
1/8 – ¼ t cayenne (to taste)

Sauté the shallot, garlic and cauliflower in 1 T of the butter till nicely browned. Reserve a few of the best pieces for serving and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Cook till the pieces are very tender, add the cognac. Put the rest in a processor. Blend. Add the cream 1 T at a time till it forms a very thick texture like loose, mashed potatoes. Add the salt and pepper and spices to taste


1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ c flour
¼ c semolina
1 t oil

Mix together and knead for a few minutes. Let rest 1-2 hours then make sheets of pasta.

Use immediately to make ravioli.

Lime Butter

4 T butter
Zest of 1 lime (be careful not to get the white part of the peel… it will make the butter bitter. I used a zester for curls and did the rest using a microplane.
1 T lime juice
4 T cream
Pinch of sugar (some limes are quite sour, do this to taste –– you just want to take the edge off the lime)
Good pinch of salt
Pinch of coriander

Put the butter in a pan and add the zest and juice.  Turn on the heat just barely to melt the butter, stirring as it melts.  This should emulsify the mixture. You can even remove it from the heat as you stir.  Add the cream 1 T at a time putting the mixture on and off the heat.  This will make a beautiful, glossy sauce. Add the sugar and salt and coriander.  This is best made just before you serve it.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Marcel Boulestin - A Great Cookbook Writer You Never Heard Of and Ham in Cream Sauce

“Cookery is not chemistry.
It is an art.
It requires instinct and taste
Rather than exact measurements.”

Marcel Boulestin

Recently fate, serendipity, kismet –– some stellar alignment repeatedly brought Xavier Marcel Boulestin and jambon a la crème into my orbit.

When I read about pre-war British society's favorite haunts and pleasures, Boulestin’s name came up frequently. When I read Jeremiah Tower's autobiography, he praised Boulestin’s contribution to cuisine.  Tower knew about it because he knew Elizabeth David well and she loved Boulestin. I had Boulestin's Round-the-Year Cookbook in my library because I love Elizabeth David and she had praised him to the heavens in her great book, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.  There they both were, side by side on my shelf, and Boulestin's book was just asking to be opened.

Thumbing through Boulestin's Round-the-Year Cookbook , I found many great things to make but something about Jambon a la Crème made my mouth water – slices of ham rolled in a creamy sauce with a bit of heat and spice sounds too good. It reminded me of a favorite comfort food of mine, chipped beef on toast – love it. Then I watched Anthony Bourdain's program,  Burgundy (see it at 10:35), over the weekend. In it,  he was taken to a friend's home and the friend's mother made a favorite comfort food for him –– Jambon a la Crème. It looked so incredibly good that I wanted to make it AND I already had the Boulestin recipe.  As it turned out, it's easy as could be and great to make either with cold-cuts or left-over ham from a celebration. I can tell you it's great with a poached egg on top as well since that's how I had leftovers.

See, it was destiny –– I was making that ham and telling you about Boulestin this week.

Many credit Boulestin with bringing better food to the masses between the World Wars. Elizabeth David may have made the list of "Most Influential" 60 Brits during Queen Elizabeth’s reign for her contribution to British cuisine, but David thought of Boulestin as her trailblazer –– 365 Recipes for All the Days of the Year was one of her favorite books. His book,  Having Crossed the Channel was another David favorite –– she felt it captured a way of life that disappeared forever with WWII.

Boulestin Restaurant

Boulestin ran one of the top restaurants in London, Elizabeth David recounted, “… the place was crammed night after night with customers from the Savoy, Ritz and Carlton belt, stage stars, artists, writers, royalty and High Bohemia. His prices were reputed to be the highest in London. And still the restaurant did not pay. Boulestin had found, like so many before and since, that in England the price of perfection is too high”. It was terribly expensive but because he was a perfectionist, he barely broke even and had to write his little heart out to stay solvent. Boulestin was terribly prolific.

Lucky for us –– because of that fairly constant shortness of funds he wrote enumerable books and articles and even made the first BBC televised cooking shows in 1937. Can you imagine, BBC television first broadcast in November, 1936?

Boulestin by Leonetto Cappiello, 1899

He was so much more than a chef and food writer. In fact, he had a most remarkable history. I found out much about him from David’s chapter on him in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and from a lovely biography from the new Boulestin restaurant in London.

In a 1932 piece in the New Yorker, writer Donald Moffat says, “Marcel Boulestin, Doctor of the Philosophy of the Table, Culinary Ambassador to the English, intelligent gentleman of France, man of the world, essayist of vigor and charm, and proprietor of the best restaurant in London….” He began his life’s journey intending to study law but veered off the path immediately and began writing articles on on theatre and music. His first book was published in 1899. His mentor was Colette’s first husband, Willy.

Boulestin moved to London in 1906 and by 1911 had opened an interior design store in Belgravia called “Decoration Moderne” that was rather successful. When WWI broke out, he went back to France to serve but returned to England after the war. He opened another design store that sold Modiglianis, etchings by his soon-to-be-illustrator, J.E. Laboureur, and fabrics by Raoul Dufy and Poiret –– this time he wasn’t as successful. As with his restaurant, he couldn’t charge enough for the quality of his goods and had to do other things to make money (he also had trouble with suppliers and couldn't get goods he ordered). After supplying art to a publisher, he talked the publisher into letting him write a book on French cooking for a £10 advance.  Even though he was not a chef, Simple French Cooking for English Homes  was a hit in 1923 and went on to have many printings.

Seizing the opportunities the book's success presented, he opened a restaurant in 1925 called Restaurant Française. Not being a professional chef himself, he hired Chef Bigorre (formerly of Paillards in Paris) to do the cooking under his direction.   It was a hit. He continued to write about food, he gave cooking classes to nobility and did the BBC broadcasts. In all things he was successful save in padding his own bank account.  The eponymous Boulestin Restaurant opened in 1927. The food was great and the decoration fabulous.  Cecil Beaton called it "the prettiest restaurant in London" with fabrics by Raoul Dufy and splendid murals by Marie Laurencin and Laboureur. Boulestin was a triumph and Marcel a national treasure.  The war changed everything.

Misreading the German threat level, he left his beloved England for a French vacation with his literary collaborator and life companion, Robin Adair in 1939.  By the time they saw how dire the situation was,  the English Adair was ill and couldn't travel to escape the Nazi invasion and so was interned by the Germans.  Boulestin wouldn't leave him and stayed in Paris so he could visit him in prison.  Although he died in France in 1943 at age 65, he left a powerful legacy on the page and in the hearts of British cooks and restaurant patrons.

Boulestin had definite ideas about recipes, David recalls, "It is impossible, as he was in the habit of saying, to give precise recipes.  And certainly precision unless carried to the ultimate degree...can be more misleading than vagueness.  Boulestin was impatient of written detail.  When he does specify precise quantities or times he is often wrong.  Where Boulestin never falters or misleads is in the sureness of his taste and the sobriety of his ingredients even when his recipes are new inventions."

Jambon a la Crème for 2 based on Boulestin's recipe

4 slices ham, rolled
1 t butter
1 slice bacon, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 T sherry
¼ c veal or chicken stock or 2 T demi-glace
½ c cream
½ t paprika
pinch of cayenne
½ t dry mustard
a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
S&P to taste (do the salt last, ham can be salty)
Parsley for garnish
2-4 slices toast, optional

Roll the ham slices and cover.

Sauté the bacon till crisp and then remove.  Pour off some of the fat. Sauté the shallot in the same butter/bacon fat till softened and add the sherry. Reduce. Add the stock or demi-glace and reduce to a glaze. Add the cream and spices and reduce to a good, sauce-like consistency, not too thick. Toss the bacon back into the sauce and add the ham slices to the pan to warm or warm the ham slices and pour the sauce over the slices and sprinkle with bacon. Serve on its own or over toast.

Jambon a la Crème from Boulestin's Round-the-Year Cookbook

"Take a good-sized uncooked ham, soak it in cold water changing the water occasionally, according to the age of the ham) for 24 hours. Cook it in water with a bouquet, a little white wine, coarsely broken pepper, and slices of onions and carrots, allowing about fifteen minutes to a pound. When cooked drain it well and braise it in a deep covered pan on a bed of carrots, onions and bits o bacon. See that it is not too well cooked, as it would be, later, difficult to carve. Remove it and keep it hot. Remove also the “trimmings” from the braising dish, and put in a glassful of sherry. Let this reduce well; see that it is well seasoned, add a small quantity of veal stock, a cup of fresh cream, and reduce again, sprinkling with a little paprika. Meanwhile, cut the ham in thin slices and pour over these the cream sauce, which must be well spiced and the consistency of rather thin cream."

Thanks again to my friend Linda at Statewide Marble in Jersey City for the gorgeous piece of stone!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Americans Who Saved Real Downton Abbeys and Lobster Tail à la Hervey

Waldorf and Nancy Astor

A hundred years after Americans won the War of Independence, we Yanks began a British invasion –– not to conquer but to wed. America’s nouveau riches kept many grand British names from penury and kept their houses from the swing of the wrecker’s ball.

 7th Baronet of Rufford
Flora Sharon

Exuberant Catalogue of Dreams: The Americans Who Revived the Country House in Britain chronicles the decades-long run of American fortunes funding the pleasures and palaces of British aristocracy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although Brooklyn girl Jennie Jerome had married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874, the book begins in 1880 when Sir Thomas George Fermor-Hasketh, 7th Baronet of Rufford, traveled to America on his yacht, captivated Flora Sharon and then sailed Flora and her $2,000,000, Comstock Load-generated dowry back to England. After that, the flow of American heiresses to Britain grew into a bejeweled, silk and satiny torrent –– heiresses like Consuelo Vanderbilt (with an astonishing $20,000,000 dowry) came to procure the prestige of a title and its attendant history and ancient estates. Let's face it, the varnish was barely dry on America's stately homes.

Edith Wharton called the women “buccaneers”–– adventuresses that came and waged pitched battles for titles using beauty, intelligence and cash (although sometimes the girl wasn’t the instigator, it was a scheming mother). The richest buccaneers were surrounded by flocks of titled suitors –– merely rich young ladies had to use their wiles to win husbands. There were great successes like Mary Leiter and Lord Curzon and monstrous, very public failures like Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough (I wrote about Leiter HERE).

Consuela Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough by John Singer Sargent

As a Country Life editor-at-large, author Clive Aslet is a well-trained observer of the comings and goings of the denizens of Britain’s stately homes –– he captures the milieu beautifully using the Country Life picture archives as well as his own astute observations:

“For their part, Europeans were equally struck by their visitors, particularly the type known as ‘the American girl’. She was almost unreservedly a good thing. She was likely to be better educated than her equivalent in Europe, where it seemed hardly worth spending money on educating female offspring because their future in life would be assured through marriage; it was thought –– wrongly, as the popularity of the American girl would prove that men were put off by signs of cleverness. On the contrary, it was considered delightful that the American girl could converse on a wide range of subjects. Nancy Astor exemplified, in heightened form, another characteristic of the American girl. She was thought to be livelier than any product of a British upbringing, having, in some cases, been allowed a greater degree of independence; the prospect of a misalliance was not so formidable in the United Stares as in the caste-bound aristocracy of Europe. Fault was not constantly being found with her, in terms of her failure to live up to inherited standards, or what the aristocratic code had laid down.”

“If the American girl offered a devastating combination of money, liveliness and quite possibly looks, the appeal of the British male had been assumed to rest in his title.”

It wasn't only American woman bobbing for titles and real estate, there were also rich American men who married titled women and couples who purchased grand houses and got titles all on their own (former American Waldorf Astor became a peer in 1916 and his wife Nancy Astor the first female MP).

Nancy Astor was certainly one of the wittiest members of the American invasion. She won over worried British ladies who asked, "Have you come to get our husbands?" by responding, "If you knew the trouble I had getting rid of mine...." This endeared her to one and all –– well, perhaps not Winston Churchill. She seemed to have a special quiver of zingers just for him. What are my favorites? When asked what disguise Churchill should wear to a masquerade ball, she replied, "Why don't you come sober, Prime Minister?" And the most famous, "If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea," to which he responded, "Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"

Nancy became one of the most celebrated hostesses of her day and Clivedon a meeting place for everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Gandhi.  She used to jump on the back of TE Lawrence's motorcycle and speed off at 100 miles an hour when he came to visit and argue politics for hours with Prime Ministers.  She was an original.

Approximately 60 American heiresses became peeresses for many reasons, sometimes even for love.

Because of Americans and their money, such palaces as Blenheim, Leeds Castle and Clivedon were saved from rot, restored and often enhanced. Horrified by the cold, damp inconvenience of their new palaces, the wealthy spouses also Americanized them by installing central heating, bathrooms and electricity. Although the rush of Americans came before WWI, they continued to come into Britain between the wars, influencing style as much as plumbing.

Blenheim Palace (Consuela Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough)

Leeds Castle (Olive Paget, Lady Baillie)

Clivedon (Waldorf and Nancy Astor, Viscount Astor)

From the 1930's on, the American Nancy Lancaster created what has come to be known as the English country house style. First on her own, then as a principal in the design firm of Colefax & Fowler.

Nancy Lancaster, wearing her Aunt Nancy Astor’s Tiara with the 55 carat Sancy Diamond

A NYT article about her said, “Long before she was recognized as a force in the world of decoration, Lancaster was just one of a swarm of children produced by the Langhorne sisters, effervescent Virginians whose daring horsemanship and hyperactive vivacity dominated Anglo-American society from the turn of the 19th century well into the 1950's.” Nancy Astor was her aunt. Thanks to her remarkable work at her home, Ditchley Park, she was reputed to have had "the finest taste of almost anyone in the world."

Nancy Lancaster believed in “pleasing decay” and would “spoil” new fabric by exposing it to the elements and scuffing it so that her rooms would look lived in. She would use much of what a great house already had and make it work with a few new pieces of furniture or decoration, a great paint job or wallpaper and fabrics. It was said the "YellowRoom" was comfortable for 2 or 50, quite an accomplishment.  Her style continues to influence country houses today.

Nancy Lancaster’s Ditchley Park

Nancy Lancaster’s famous Yellow Room

There were long-term Anglophiles and then there were the dippers like Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst who came, rebuilt a castle at enormous expense and walked away –– they were just not that into the lifestyle.

Skibo Castle, Scotland

Carnegie re-built the ruins of Skibo Castle in Scotland to show off his enormous wealth to his hometown but then walked away (Skibo went from 16,000 to 60,000 sq. ft.).  The house was too big for Mr and Mrs. Carnegie, neither of them were really comfortable there.

St. Donat’s Castle, Wales

Hearst bought St. Donat’s, a medieval castle with Victorian improvements that he then sunk a fortune into –– requiring 60 new bathrooms for his spoiled American house guests and embellishing it with bits of many other houses, including materials from Bradenstoke Priory, removed stone by stone and transferred it to St. Donats. “The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings” put up posters in the Underground warning against another possible Hearst-like outrage against England after news of the Bradenstoke destruction came to light. The poster read, “Protect Your Ancient Buildings.” Hearst shrugged the warning off but in the end walked away from the house after only a few visits with his movie star friends, catered by chefs from the Savoy and Claridges –– appropriately comfortable with indoor plumbing, hot water and lots of bathrooms as well as fine dining. Aristocratic house owners complained that American's plumbing upgrades forced them to do the same, ruinously expensive renovations –– once people enjoyed the comforts, the cold rooms and inconvenient bathrooms were distasteful.

Considering all that Americans had done to preserve ancient houses it seemed a bit petty to paint Americans with such a black brush. As I found out reading England's Lost Houses, England's native stately home owners were the ones responsible for demolishing their expensive white elephants and selling them for parts to anyone with the cash –– be they English or American, individual or institution.

Eccentric owners might not have demolished their properties,  but some horrified the historic preservation crowd with their startling renovations.

Edward James and Igor Markevitch in the tent room by Norman Parkinson

One of these radical redecorators was Edward James –– a natural inductee to the colorful and storied soup of British eccentrics. Edward James, son of wealthy American Willie James of West Dean House was a champion of surrealism and a perfect example of Eccentricus-maximus.

Monkton House on the West Dean Estate

After his marriage to dancer Tilly Losch, James turned West Dean into an artistic escape for dancers, poets and artists who took to staging performances and cavorting over the many rooms.  Monkton House, "became a Surrealist caprice, filled with self-conscious weirdness." James painted the house lavender and had Salvador Dali design some of the furniture (Edwin Lutyens had designed the charming arts and crafts cottage to be a cosy  escape from the grand West Dean house for Willie James). When he and Losch parted he had the Monkton House carpet with her footprints on it replaced with those of his dog (she thought she had married a gay aristo, he was romantically in love with her). He tired of his life there, escaped from England and sold his magnificent collection of Surrealist art to finance the creation of the fabulous, Las Pozas in Mexico (there's a great video of him HERE).

A great new find was Henry "Chips" Channon, a bi-sexual super host-with-the-most in pre and post WWII England. Cole Porter played his piano –– everyone came to his parties.   He said, "I have flair, intuition, great good taste.... I am riveted by lust, furniture, glamour, society and jewels." All the qualifications one would need to be a provocative host.  It has been said that Somerset Maugham based his Elliot Templeton in Razor's Edge on Channon.

Chips Channon

Chips Channon hailed from from Chicago. He had come to England during WWI and stayed to go to Oxford for a bit. He married Honor Guinness of the Guinness beer family.

Stéphane Boudin

Channon hired Stéphane Boudin from Maison Jansen in Paris to decorate his newly acquired house at 5 Belgrave Square, London (the Upstairs Downstairs neighborhood).  Just the ornamental plaster-work in the dining-room cost £6,000. "He is considered the greatest decorator in the world," Channon enthused when Boudin arrived with his plans. "I think it is going to be stupendous."

Boudin was really a thread throughout the book –– he had worked for many American transplants like Nancy Lancaster at Dichley Park, Lady Baillie at Leeds Castle, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as well as Channon (and famously for Jacqueline Kennedy in the White House).

The famous blue and silver dining room, designed by Stéphane Boudin CL

The famous blue and silver dining room, designed by Stéphane Boudin with table leaves removed CL

Chips "... employed Stéphane Boudin to create a dining room inspired by the riotous rococo of the Amalienburg  pavilion in the Nymphenburg Palace.... As he gushed...  'It will be a symphony in blue and silver... cascades of aquamarine.  Will it be London's loveliest room or is my flame dead?'” As far as I know there are no color photos of the room which was by all accounts a knockout.  His 25' table went up for sale at Southebys in 2011.

In a review of the 2003 The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon, the Telegraph shared some amusing anecdotes:

“When he had the Queens of Spain and Romania round to dinner at Belgrave Square in 1947, he laced the cocktails with benzedrine "which I always find," he languidly observed "makes a party go."

“Of Channon, Lady Diana Cooper declared that "never was there a surer or more enlivening friend." And she recalled his unmistakable style: "He installed the mighty in his gilded chairs and exalted the humble," she sighed. "He made the old and tired, the young and strong, shine beneath his thousand lighted candles."”

Her husband Duff Cooper thought he was a toady and Noel Coward didn’t like his taste, “Very grand and rather agony.” However, most enjoyed him and his hospitality (maybe it was the benzedrine?).

1944 Kitchen from neighboring 11a Belgrave Square – not very luxurious CL

Somehow he was able to keep his chef when most men were off to war.  As a result his parties didn't suffer till war's end.  Liquor flowed and the food was good.  In a book called Lord of Hosts: The Life of Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon I read, "Yet he fared better than most. Unlike many households that early on in the conflict lost key staff to the war effort, Chips was able to hold on to his Italian chef well into 1942. 'I am having domestic difficulties with my staff,' he moaned, 'as the Ministry of Labour wish to call up both my butler and the cook. I mustn't grumble, as I have had three years and three months of comfort, even luxury....'"

"Faced with austerity, Chips put on a brave face. Nevertheless, coupon rationing and shortages didn't quite seem to apply to him, and Chips spent as freely as ever. Delicacies were less than plentiful. Still, a typical menu at Scholss Chips, even as London tightened its belt, might include oysters, salmon, dressed crab and minced chicken, or blinis and platefuls of caviar, served with Swedish schnapps. In between, brandy and Champagne, Chips' favorite party drink at £3 a bottle, flowed."

Ah yes, time to think about food, isn't it?  Even with all the grand houses and parties, Chip's seems a good place to land when thinking of something to eat –– lobster came to mind.

Chips Channon seemed fond of lobster. In  The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon he recalls having champagne with lobster ice cream with Ribbentrop and writes that a friend likened some Lobster Newberg he was eating to a "purée of white kid gloves" –– you have to admit that is a provocative image.

I love Lobster Newberg but made it for you HERE so I didn't want to repeat myself.  I thought lobster was a fitting offering to American buccaneers of both sexes. Named after a colorful 19th century character known for his flamboyant bisexuality, Lobster à la Hervey seems a perfect choice for a little soiree at Chez Channon or for a guilty pleasure to nibble on your own while you enjoy the book.  What's more decadent than delicate bits of lobster with a creamy madeira-scented sauce accented with apple croquettes –– I love the idea of the tart/sweet crisp apple accent to the rich dish that's actually a breeze to make.  The recipe is American from Delmonicos cookbook and fitting for an American to serve in London.  I decided to use only the tail because it is, let's face it, the best part.
I also added a bit of vanilla because for some reason, vanilla and lobster are fabulous together.  The first time I had it in Paris I was in love ––  just a hint though, more is cloying.

Toast the buccaneers and the houses they saved so we can enjoy them today!

Lobster à la Hervey

2 lobster tails, removed from shell and sliced into rounds
1 T butter
1 small D'Artagnan truffle, sliced or truffle oil to taste (a few drops should do it)
1 T madeira (I used The Rare Wine Company's Moniz Vedelho)
1 T D'Artagnan demi-glace
1/2 c cream
1 egg yolk
S&P to taste
a drop or 2 of vanilla to taste –– just a hint is all you want
1/8 to 1/4 t cayenne
6-8 1" apple croquettes

Put the sliced truffle in the madeira and demi-glace and let it sit while you prepare the lobster.

If you are not using truffles, just combine the madeira and the demi-glace.

Sauté the lobster slices gently in butter over low heat, remove when just done (3-5 minutes, high heat makes lobster tough).

Add the cream and reduce a bit. Remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolk.  Do not let it get too hot or it will curdle.  Add the spices, salt and pepper. Warm the truffles.  Pour off the madeira mixture and add to the sauce.  Toss the lobster in the sauce to coat.  Place the slices of lobster on the plate and insert the truffles if you are using them. Add the apple croquettes to the plate.

Apple Croquettes

1 medium apple, cored peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 T butter
1/2 to 1 t sugar for a medium sweet apple, more for a Granny Smith
1 c bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying (duck fat is great for this but a light oil is fine)

Sauté the apple in the butter until softened.   Add the sugar to taste (you don't want it too sweet - just enough to take the edge off).

Make about 6 1" size balls -- they will be loose.  Roll them in the bread crumbs, then in the egg and then back in the bread crumbs.  Fry till brown and crisp and reserve.