The covers of these issues usually display a photo of scenery from a stunning locale. A feature article will explore the culinary practices of the region, often in Europe but sometimes elsewhere. January’s issue explores the island of Corfu in Yugoslavia.
Lovely, isn’t it? It’s on my list.
What is it that holds my attention about these old magazines? I’ve tried to explain it before but always come up short. I always loved Gourmet magazine. Subscribed to it for several years. Loved fooling around in the kitchen. Enjoyed the format, with its blend of travel articles, formal, complicated recipes, and recipes of simple weeknight fare. Loved the “You Asked for It” section, where readers sought recipes for special dishes from their favorite restaurants.
I have also had a love for historical minutiae, micro-history, and musty dusty artifacts. I like the ads in these magazines. I look at the travel photography and wonder how the sights have changed. I look at the old recipes and wonder about the people who subscribed to these magazines and cooked this food. One thing is for certain: these people had money. It cost money to indulge in the cheeses and wines and cognacs pictured in these pages. It cost money to tour through Europe, staying in the regal, elegant hotels frequented by the affluent establishment, where the travel writers stayed and wrote of champagne and lobster breakfasts and morning teas.
Food photography was different the as well…
Very literal, you might say. Food photography today is typically up close, very close; warm, inviting, and personal. The photos above display a staid formality, a distant politeness.
The spread above was a menu for an after-theatre supper. (Oh yeah, these people also attended the theatre.) I chose the main course in the lower right for poulet boivin – chicken with artichokes, onions, and potatoes.
Trim the stems of 2 medium artichokes and slice off the top inch. Trim the thorny tips from the remaining leaves. Rub all the cut surfaces of the remove the chokes. Drop the sections into a bowl of acidulated cold water as they are prepared. Drain them and cook them in rapidly boiling salted water to cover for about 25 minutes, or until they are tender. Drain the artichokes and toss them with softened butter. Cover them with wax paper and keep them warm.
In a small skillet brown 10-12 small pearl onions, peeled, in 2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, shaking the pan so they are evenly colored, over low heat for 45 to 50 minutes, or until they are tender and glazed. Cup peeled potatoes into 12 large olive shapes. In a small heavy skillet brown them in 2 tablespoons of oil and butter.
Split a 2-lb chicken, remove the backbone, and cut the chicken into 8 pieces. Dry the pieces and season them with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet brown the chicken on all sides in 1/4 cup of clarified butter. Remove the breast sections and reserve them. Add the potatoes to the skillet and bake the dish, uncovered, in a 375 oven for 15 minutes. Return the breast sections to the skillet and continue to bake the chicken, skin-side down, for 10 more minutes. Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a heated serving dish. Add the artichokes and onions to the skillet and toss them over moderately high heat until they are hot. Arrange them around the chicken and potatoes. Add 1 cup white veal stock or chicken broth to the juices in the skillet and reduce it over high heat to 1/2 cup. Add 1 teaspoon glace de viande and remove the pan from the heat. Swirl in 1/2 stick of butter. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serves 2.
Some notes about this recipe:
-Note how casually they mention the glace de viande. There is nothing casual about that ingredient.
-Note the absence of artichokes in my pictures. I did in fact attempt the artichokes, which may be my final attempt ever with those spikey little monsters. They were inedible and I didn’t include them in the finished product.
-I found the whole “remove the breasts…return the breasts” thing completely unnecessary. I suspect that this was when chickens were much smaller and breasts had a tendency to dry easily. These days our chickens are hormone-pumped and beautifully big-breasted. I cooked them right along with the other pieces and extended the cooking time by 10 minutes.
-When I was preparing the glace de viande prior to making this meal, I really started to wonder if it would be worth it. One taste of the elixir that I created to finish off this chicken and I knew… yes, totally worth it.
A few words about the ads…
These magazines normally have some really great ads, but there were not so many in this issue. However, the recipe index, shopping guides and other such pages toward the back are always lined on both sides with these columns of restaurant ads, mostly from New York City but sometimes from other cities. I always wonder if any of these places are still open, or what kind of business they commanded when they were around.
Note this one to the left – The Silent Woman. And then there’s a picture of a headless woman. Ha! Isn’t that just a hoot? I did go in search of that one on the internet, and found reference to it in an essay written by an academician who had been appalled upon seeing this restaurant’s sign in the 70’s on a trip to the area. She had promptly declared that she could never live in a town that could permit such a restaurant to exist – and then spent several decades living right there.
And finally, I have a birthday next month, and all I really want is the 1972 Cadillac…this one, with that plate.