Top Chef
Chef Overboard

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Hung's 300 Years War

Okay, so my Boston Cooking School Cook-Book by Fannie Merrit Farmer has a recipe for both chicken mousse and salmon forcemeat. With a slight stretch, you could believe that the forcemeat is akin to mousse, although it was never fully puréed or fluffed with cream or egg whites. The existence of the chicken mousse means they were aware of the mousse concept back in 1922, which is the copyright of my copy. It's hard to know what recipes where added between the time of the first copyright in 1896 and 1922. More research shows that Marie-Antoine Carême was also doing mousse stuff during the early 1800s, which means it's not so much of a stretch to say that people have been doing salmon mousse for three hundred years. Now, were they serving it on cucumber rounds back then? My research also reminded me that the famous French chef, François Pierre La Varenne, who headed up the Marquis d'Uxelles kitchens in Dijon, perfected mushrooms duxelles in the mid to late 1600s and named them for his boss. My point there is that Howie could argue that his dish is definitely at least FOUR hundred years old. However, so while Hung isn't wrong about how old his dish is, I'm not sure he should cling so tenaciously to it as a selling point. After all, Catherine de Medici had just introduced forks to France a mere eighty-ish years before.

Dana ventures that maybe Hung should have thought to update it. Hung stutters, "People are still eating that, we're still serving asparagus and parmesan -- that's be done for the last three hundred years! Gougères have been done for the last three hundred years! Bread pudding's been done for the last eight hundred years!" Okay, I'll leave asparagus and parmesan alone because it's a vegetable and a cheese, and I'm sure it was combined as soon as Parmigiano-Reggiano was invented. (To give you a reference on that, the first recorded mention of that cheese was in 1344.) As for the choux paste-based gougères, well, Carême and his mentor, Jean Avice, are both credited with "perfecting" choux paste in the 1800s, so Hung's math might be off by a hundred years. By the by, Jean Avice is also said to have invented madeleines. Yum. Finally, was bread pudding invented eight hundred years ago? Who knows? Some would say that bread pudding was invented as soon as the first loaf of bread staled in ancient times, but since "bread pudding" has also come to mean different things, it's impossible to tell. So, I won't quibble overmuch with Hung's eight hundred year idea, but mainly because I like the idea that the first recipe for bread pudding was written on the back of the Magna Carta.

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