They were broths, broths, and consommés, fashioned by cooks in Paris in the mid to late 1700s. Their purpose was to “restore,” the French meaning “restore.” They were restorative, uplifting, easy to digest but fortifying. Cooks who called themselves “restaurateurs” served individual portions of hot liquids to customers seated at small, unadorned tables.
The edition of March 9, 1767 of the Parisian “L’Avantcourer” (“The Precursor”), a magazine devoted to “innovation in the arts, sciences and any other field which makes life more pleasant”, highlighted the “Excellent drinks or restaurants” from a Monsieur Minet, which were “carefully warmed up in a hot water bath”.
A few months later, in the edition of July 6, L’Avantcourer wrote Jean-François Vacossin, “restaurateur”, who sold his broths “for the restoration of good health to those who have weak and delicate breasts”, in a public space outside their homes “where they can go both to enjoy the benefits of society and to eat their restaurants”.
These early “restaurant halls”, forerunners of sit-down restaurants as we know them and which flourished in France just before and after the Revolution of 1789, were destinations more for the pissed than the hungry in search of a hearty meal.
Early French restaurants or eateries did not serve multi-course meals from a printed or spoken menu because they could not. The application of the guild system in France prohibited all registered “caterers” from selling stews, embers or stews, that is, dishes consisting of solid foods and liquids.
Early restaurateurs could only sell the liquids resulting from heating meat, poultry, and vegetables, not the solids themselves. Thus, broths, broths and broths, the first “restaurants”.
A warming restorative broth seems appropriate this time of year. I offer you the recipe for the most famous of its time, the “Potage Sans L’Eau” by François Massialot (1660-1733), “a soup made without water”, published for the first time in 1691 in his revolutionary cookbook. “The New Royal Cook”. and bourgeois. It is the intense whole of just juices resulting from a very slow cooking of several meats and vegetables.
Massialot’s original recipe called for the use of capon, pigeon and partridge, as well as veal, all meats that are hard to find (or not to say unwanted) by the contemporary cook. So I substitute similar proteins such as chicken and duck. Additionally, Massialot requires two large “well-tinned” saucepans, one that will nest inside the other for a slow “5-6 hour” simmer. Overall, we don’t carry that kind of kitchen equipment.
Well, he didn’t own a slow cooker like we usually do, so my story of his recipe does. But heed Massialot’s important advice to seal the lid of the cooker well, in order to prevent (at all) the steam from escaping. (I used two overlapping sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil.)
I also omit the Massialot serving of soup in hollowed-out “balls” of hearty bread, accompanied by a few cooked sweetbreads and raw pork. (The recipe in the 1705 edition of the same cookbook also recommends cockscomb, ha.) But give your own cooking that reins if you’re up to it.
Massialot’s recipe doesn’t provide much “soup” – maybe 2 cups total if you’re lucky – but, wow, is it concentrated and delicious, packed with gelatin and an array of flavors. A “restaurant” indeed. (Also, a significant amount of fat to skim, but also plenty of cooked meats to use in other meals down the line.)
I also have a recipe for another liquid winter warmer made with leftover pasta and, if desired, diluted Massialot “soup”.
Soup Without Water
By François Massialot, “The New Royal and Bourgeois Cook”, 1729 edition, adapted for a modern city kitchen.
- 1 piece of beef shank, 1 pound
- 1 lamb shank, 1 pound
- 1 broiler chicken, 3 lbs.
- 2 pounds of duck (neck, leg, thigh or combination)
- 3 medium leeks, white part only, without soil
- 1 medium parsnip, partially peeled and split lengthwise
- Bouquet garni with “fine herbs” (several sprigs of parsley and tarragon wrapped and tied in the green “leaf” of a leek)
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
Prepare a slow cooker (“slow cooker” or similar, with an airtight lid). In the pot, place the pieces of meat and poultry tightly together. On top of them, place the leek, parsnip and bouquet garni evenly. Sprinkle with salt and cover.
Start on high and when the meat has released juice, lower the slow cooker to low. Cover the pan and seal the lid with 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing all edges tightly.
Let the slow cooker cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Remove the solids from the rendered juices and broth, reserving the meat and its bones. Degrease the broth. Remove as much meat from their bones as you like, keeping the fat or gristle, reserving the meat. Serve the broth well heated.
Leftover guajillo pasta soup
For 3-4 people
- 1 liter stock or stock
- 4-5 whole dried guajillo peppers
- 2 cups leftover pasta, cooked into a small shape or cut into a long shape
- Meat from leftover roast or store-bought roast chicken
Bring broth or broth to a boil. In 2 cups of it, soak the peppers for 45 minutes. Hull and seed the peppers and cut them into strips. Strain the soaking liquid into the main broth.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and heat through, garnishing the portions with chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley.
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