Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vive la revolution!

Komm, süßer Tod, Part III: Jean-Paul Marat
(biscuits au gorgonzola et sauge avec compote de poires)

Once upon a time, there was a French self-made (and, less an honorary degree, self-declared) intellectual and doctor named Jean-Paul Marat. When 1788 rolled around, he ditched the scientific life in favor of incendiary writings on behalf of the Third Estate. To make a long story short, he spent time publishing his journal L'Ami du peuple and went in and out of hiding until 1792, when he got himself elected to the National Convention and turned his attention to hating on a particular legislative faction: the Girondins.

Now, the poor chap had long suffered from a skin disease that has been alternately described as scrofula and chronic dermatitis herpetiformis, aggravated by the time he spent hiding in sewers from his guillotine-happy enemies; as a result, he spent large amounts of time soaking in a bath to alleviate the itching and pain. I'm guessing his friends didn't mind that he was hiding his scaly, scabby self away in a bathroom, too.

Marat carries on, writing political screeds and attempting machinations while sequestered in the tub. And then one day, a young Girondiste named Charlotte Corday showed up at his house and demanded to see him, claiming that she could give him information on a group of Girodins in Normandy. The bescabbed Marat welcomed the befrocked murderess-to-be into his bathroom, where he scribbled notes from their conversation--and no, I'm not sure why she had a fifteen-minute chat before carrying on with her goal for the day. Anyhow, when they were done conversing, Mlle Corday pulled out a kitchen knife she had secreted in her bodice and stabbed Marat in the chest. He promptly exsanguinated.

She got guillotined and he got lauded as a martyr for the cause, so I'm not sure exactly what was accomplished other than the creation of a sticky, bloody mess in that well-used bathroom and the creation of a titillating event depicted to great success by many a painter:

Jacques-Louis David

Edvard Munch
Pablo Picasso
A note on the actual cooking: I played with a recipe I found online to make what I intended to be elegant, Frenchified cookies. Unfortunately, I did not roll them nearly thin enough, and they ended up being quite hefty. And delicious.

Biscuits au gorgonzola et sauge avec compote de poires
180 g flour
90 g gorgonzola
60 g butter
1 egg
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
sage and pepper to taste

Cream the butter with the gorgonzola. Add the egg and honey and mix just until blended and smooth (there may still be some small chunks of cheese). Work in the flour, sage, and pepper; if it seems too dry or not cheesy enough, add a little more gorgonzola. Roll out the dough to an eighth of an inch and use cookie cutters or the rim of a glass to cut out rounds. If you want to make sandwich cookies with little windows, use a smaller cookie cutter to cut a round out of half the larger rounds. Brush half the cookies (the "top half" ones) with a little watered-down honey, and bake on parchment paper in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

300 g peeled pear, cut into chunks
1 shallot
brown sugar
salt, nutmeg, and sage to taste

Toss the pear chunks with butter and brown sugar and roast in a 450-degree oven until golden brown. Meanwhile, caramelize the shallot in more butter. When the pears are done, add them and the spices to the shallot and cook over medium-low heat until the pears are mashable, at which point... mash them or immersion-blend them. Taste and adjust spice levels, then cook a little further until the compote is thick enough to spread on the cookies; keep in mind that it will thicken somewhat as it cools. Let it cool somewhat, then sandwich the cookies together with a layer of compote in the middle.

1 comment:

  1. Theory: It wasn't pre-meditated, but rather she commonly had a knife in her bodice, and while discussing things, she thought, "He calls this living? He can't even afford any boats, or a duckie", and put paid to it.