My Dinner with Hemingway
Recipes from 1920s Paris
The decade of glitz and glamour in the City of Lights was also a period of fabulous French food. With this menu, sample recipes from Ernest Hemingway's Paris and dishes he mentioned in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2.
First Course: Garbure (French Ham and Vegetable Stew) with Garlic Toast
This popular French peasant stew uses beans, seasonal vegetables and ham, making for a hearty first course (and tasty leftovers!).
Adapted from Cooking Light. Serves 6.
4 ounces dried cannellini or Great Northern beans
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups no-salt-added chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
1 cross-cut smoked ham hock (about 8 ounces)
1 bay leaf
6 ounces red potatoes, cubed
6 ounces turnip, cubed
1 large carrot, cubed
4 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For garlic toast:
4 heads garlic
2 tsp. olive oil
½ bunch parsley, chopped
4 tabl. soft butter
12 slices sourdough bread
Salt and pepper to taste
Sort and wash beans. Place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans. Cover and let stand for 8 hours or overnight. Drain.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add onion. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add leek and chopped garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add soaked beans, stock, herbes de Provence, ham hocks, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until beans are just tender. Remove ham hock; cool slightly. Pick meat from bones; reserve meat. Discard bones and fat.
Add potatoes, turnip, and carrot to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in cabbage; simmer 4 minutes. Stir in parsley, thyme, vinegar, salt, and black pepper.
While you wait for the soup, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut away the top quarter of the garlic heads to expose the cloves; the garlic heads should remain otherwise intact. Drizzle the tops of the heads with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap each one in aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes or until garlic is very tender.
Once the garlic heads are cool enough to handle, carefully squeeze the cloves out of the skins into a bowl. Using a spoon, mash the softened garlic cloves with the chopped parsley and butter to form a rough paste, then salt and pepper to taste.
Spread garlic paste on top of each of the slices of bread, and place them in the oven until they are toasted, about 5 minutes or to your preference. Serve alongside the garbure.
Second Course: Trout Grenobloise
Ernest and his first wife Hadley loved to fish, and he often wrote home about the trout he caught. Here’s a simple French dish to use for your best catch. Pair with a white wine, like Chardonnay or (if you’re not tied to a true French experience) Riesling.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living. Serves 4.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 slices very thin white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 whole trout (about 1 pound each), filleted, pinbones removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saute pan; add bread cubes. Cook over medium heat until golden, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Drain in a paper-towel-lined bowl; set aside.
Cut ends off lemons, and remove peel, pith, and outer membranes, following the curve of the fruit with a paring knife. Lift sections away from membranes, and reserve. Squeeze juice from membranes over sections before discarding.
Melt remaining tablespoon butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Season trout fillets with salt and pepper, and place in pan. Saute until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat; transfer fillets from pan, and keep on a warm plate. Add lemon sections and juice, capers, and parsley to warm pan, and toss to combine. Serve fish topped with sauce and reserved croutons.
Main Course: Steak Marchand de Vin (Steak with Shallot-Red Wine Sauce)
A signature dish from Maillabuau on Rue Ste-Anne, a popular dinner spot in 1920s-Paris. Pair it with a full-bodied red wine, like Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma. Serves 2.
2 rib steaks, each 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/3 to 1/2 cup dry red wine
Fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Trim the steaks of excess fat. Pat them dry and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and thyme, pressing the seasonings into both sides.
Heat a heavy nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter. When it has melted and is near sizzling, put the steaks in the pan and sear them, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare; the timing will depend upon the thickness of the steaks and the desired amount of doneness. Keep the heat high, but do not let the fat burn. Test for doneness by cutting into one of the steaks. When they are ready, transfer them to a warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil while you prepare the sauce.
Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the pan juices. Set the pan over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until the wine is reduced by half and the mixture has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
Pour the hot sauce over the steaks, garnish with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Dessert: Orange Financiers
These small almond cakes were very popular while Hemingway lived in France. These may even taste like the orange cakes Gertrude Stein baked for Hemingway, which he praised as “absolutely wonderful,” reporting that “Hadley at the first bite realized that dieting aint all of life.”
Adapted from Saveur. Makes about 20 small cakes.
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, plus more for pans
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour, plus more for pans
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
1 ¼ cups blanched almonds, toasted
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt
8 egg whites, at room temperature
Zest of 2 oranges
For chocolate coating:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan; set aside. Heat butter and vanilla bean with seeds in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, swirling pan, until butter begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard vanilla bean. Whisk butter briefly and then pour into a measuring cup until you have 1¼ cups; reserve any remaining for another use.
Combine flour and almonds in a food processor, and process until almonds are finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add confectioners’ sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Add reserved browned butter, egg whites, and zest, and whisk until just combined. Pour about ¼ cup batter into each muffin cup, and bake until golden brown and lightly caramelized at the edges, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then invert cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.
Place chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and then pour over chocolate; let sit for 1 minute. Using a small rubber spatula, slowly stir from the center until chocolate is smooth. Dip the tops of each cake in the chocolate and then invert onto a wire rack or baking sheet. Let chocolate set before serving.
Editor’s Note: For more on Hemingway’s letters, visit The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2 (1923-1925).