Every year we (my sis and her family and me and mine) have a French meal, while we watch the bikes. Whoever hosts does main course, and the other does entree and dessert. Except this year, even though I’m hosting, I’m doing main and dessert, because a couple of weeks ago some people came for dinner and one brought a Bombe Alaska. IT WAS DIVINE.
I have a long obsession with Bombes. It started with a meal at Mirka*, in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, about 8 years ago or so. We went there, maybe for our anniversary, maybe for my birthday. But they had a fantastic version which I don’t think has been topped.
We tried another one at Jacques Reymond, again for my birthday. It was good but not as good as the Mirka one.
But the origins of my Bombe Alaska fascination can be traced back to Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Anyone remember it? It was one of those kids’ movies, came out during school holidays, was light, comical and had Jacqueline Bisset. She was one of the chefs, and her specialty was, yes, Bombe Alaska. The premise was that someone was killing all the chefs, and the murder was in the style of their signature dish. So the guy whose pressed duck was the thing he was famous for, he got killed by getting his head pressed in a vice. That’s the only one I remember, apart from the ending, which saw J Bisset in a tv studio, doing a live cooking show (?) and the idea was that an attempt would be made on her life. I can’t remember if she knew the Bombe was a bomb, or whether that was the reveal. Anyway, it was fantastic.
The menu for tonight:
My brother-in-law is doing a terrine.
I’m doing the Bombe Alaska as mentioned, with raspberries for dessert.
For main it’s Elizabeth David’s Cassoulet de Toulouse à la Ménagère (‘sounds like meat lovers’ pizza’ my daughter commented)
Here’s the recipe for the cassoulet cause it’s kind of unbelievable:
‘To cook the better-known version of the cassoulet, in quantities for about eight to ten people, the ingredients would be 2lb. of medium-sized white haricot beans (butter beans will not do), 1lb. of Toulouse sausages (a coarse-cut type of pure port sausage to be bought at Soho shops) or a garlic-flavoured boiling sausage of the kind now sold by most delicatessen shops, a pork spare rib or bladebone weighing about 2 1/2 lb., 1 /12 lb. breast or shoulder of lamb (both joints boned), 8 – 10 oz. of salt pork or bacon, an onion, a bouquet of herbs, garlic and seasonings, breadcrumbs.
Have the rind of the pork removed as thinly as possible. Remove also the rind from the salt pork. Cut these rinds into small squares and put them into the saucepan with the salt pork and beans, previously soaked. Add the onion and the bouquet of herbs, plus 2 flattened cloves of garlic, all tied with a thread. Cover with water and boil steadily for about 1 1/2 hours. In the meantime roast the pork and the boned lamb in a gentle oven. If Toulouse sausages are being used, cook them for 20 minutes in the baking dish with the meat. If a boiling sausage, cook it with the beans.
When the beans are all but cooked, drain them, reserving their liquid. Discard the onion and the bouquet. Put a layer of the beans, with all the little bits of rind, into a deep earthenware or fireproof china dish; on the top put the sausages cut into inch lengths, and the lamb and the two kinds of pork, also cut into pieces. Cover with the rest of the beans. Moisten with a good cupful of the reserved liquid. Spread a layer of breadcrumbs on the top. Put in a very low oven for 1 1/2 hours at least. There should be a fine golden crust on the top formed by the breadcrumbs, and underneath the beans should be very moist and creamy. So if you see during the second cooking that they are beginning to look dry, add some more liquid. Some cooks elaborate on this by stirring the crust, as soon as it has formed, into the beans, then adding another layer of breadcrumbs. This operation is repeated a second time, and only when the third crust has formed is the cassoulet ready to serve.
The cassoulet is a dish which may be infinitely varied so long as it is not made into a mockery with a sausage or two heated up with tinned beans, or with all sorts of bits of left-over chicken or goodness knows what thrown into it as if it were a dustbin.”
I’m also doing Gratin Dauphinois and a salad.
And the stage for the tour is Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, and it’s mountains. I do love the mountains.
And anyone who’s interested, Peter Sagan is a character on and off the field as they say. He got married a little while ago and footage from his wedding is fantastic. There’s this and this and this. He wore fur and something embroidered and it was magnificent.
* Sadly to say, the last time we went to Mirka, was Valentine’s Day maybe two or three years ago. IT WAS TERRIBLE. The food was good, but there was something going on behind the scenes, and the wait staff were hopeless. We wondered whether it had changed hands – I think I found out afterwards it had. There was a table of ‘friends of the owners’ – you know that table. They sprawl in their chairs ‘as if they own the place’ and there was a woman on the floor who was going around, trying to deliver meals, trying to keep the atmosphere this side of chaotic, but she was clearly out of her depth. I got the vibe that people had bought it, people who were not restaurateurs. We will not be back.