11 April 2010

La Première Année de Cuisine, Part 8



A pork roast cooked in the oven. — Cooking for the family and thriftiness considered.

“Since our stove works so well,” said Mademoiselle Fleuron, “the oven will soon be hot enough that we can cook a roast. Look, children,” she said, “how pretty this piece of pork is.”

Mademoiselle showed us a beautiful piece of pork meat, a rosy white color, with very white fat, possessing all the marks of very good-quality meat.

“Say,” said one of my friends, “the roast is already salted.”

And, in fact, we could see traces of half-melted salt on the fat.

“I took this precaution,” said Mademoiselle, “because this meat was bought two days ago. The weather is warm, and I would not have been able to keep the meat until today without its going bad. Being a bit salted then, there is nothing to fear. Pork meat stands up perfectly well to this little operation done in advance, and it’s all the better for it after.”

“For example,” I said, “one shouldn’t make the mistake of salting it a second time, halfway through the cooking, as one would do for an ordinary roast.”

“Quite right,” said Mademoiselle. “Moreover, my little Madeleine, you probably know already, and I repeat it to you, that cooking is above all a matter of care and attention. It is for everything as it is for this roast: forget nothing, think before acting, these are good principles.”

It’s worth noting that Madeleine would be entirely mystified by the polystyrene barquette with which this pork roast was sold.

My friend Hélène, who had been assigned to watch over the roast, was about to place it in the oven when Mademoiselle Fleuron stopped her.

“Wait, Hélène,” she said. “First, I want to ask all of you a question: Would there not be a means of increasing the size of this dish and of making two meals of it?”

“A sauce,” I said timidly, since I was guessing, not thinking that, if we added a sauce, it wouldn’t be a roast anymore, it would be a stew.

“No,” said Mademoiselle. “And you, Hélène, what do you say?”

“Perhaps we could place some onions around it.”

“Assuredly, we could do that, but the onions will get very soft during cooking, they will render their liquid and they will not make a very appetizing dish. Something else would be better … who can tell me what?”

It was the youngest of us, little Mathilde, who found the right answer.

“Mademoiselle,” she said, “at our house, where there are many of us at table, my mother always places several potatoes around the roast. She says that this is very thrifty, since, in this fashion, we get two dishes out of one.”

“Very good, Mathilde,” said Mademoiselle, “that is precisely what I was aiming for, and you have given us the reason it is good to do this. It’s very thrifty and in every way cooking for the family. It’s precisely how to cook for the family that I wish to teach you, and here is one of the best recipes.

“Now start peeling the potatoes, which we will cook in water and then place around our roast.”

We all set to work and I had the opportunity to remember and to show to my friends the good counsel that Tante Victoire had given me regarding the way to peel potatoes and not to scatter the parings everywhere. The job was quickly done. We placed the roast in an earthenware dish fitted with a little grill that held up the meat and prevented it from soaking in the juice. The oven was quite hot without being red. Hélène slid the dish inside; then she closed the door to the oven. From time to time, she removed the dish, basted the roast, and turned it.

Meanwhile, Mathilde cooked in water the potatoes that we had peeled. When they were half-cooked, we placed them around the roast, where they finished their cooking, bathed in the juice.

Our roast weighing two pounds, we let it cook for one hour.

But the hour was growing late. I had to leave the stove at school for the kitchen at home. I hadn’t misspent my afternoon at all; so that evening, before going to bed, I wanted to write down here all that I had learned during the day and the resolutions I made following this lesson.


[To copy and keep]

1. When I am worried that a piece of meat won’t keep for a day or two without spoiling, I will salt it lightly for that it will be able to wait.

2. I will remember that a good piece of pork is rosy white, and that its fat is very white.

3. To make a roast thriftily, I will cook it in the oven and I will surround it with boiled, half-cooked potatoes, which will make a second dish.

4. I will not wait for the oven to get red-hot before putting in the roast, and I will know that the oven is hot enough when I can put my hand in without burning.

5. I will know that the roast is cooked enough when it gives under my finger and when it releases a sort of smoke.

6. I will not salt the roast until five minutes before serving, and I will not basted it any more after it has been salted.

Next time: Madeleine practices deep-frying and learns to make use of leftover salsify. (And good luck finding any in the United States!)

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