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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/241

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THE CHEMISTRY OF COOKERY.

greatest of all piscine delicacies. The John Dory is commonly stuffed and cooked in an oven by those who understand his merits.

The excellence of Sir Henry Thompson's idea consists in its breadth as applicable to all fish, on the basis of that fundamental principle of scientific cookery on which I have so continually and variously insisted, viz., the retention of the natural juices of the viands.

He recommends the placing of the fish entire, if of moderate size, in a tin or plated copper dish adapted to the form and size of the fish, but a little deeper than its thickness, so as to retain all the juices, which by exposure to the heat will flow out; the surface to be lightly spread with butter and a morsel or two added, and the dish placed before the fire in a Dutch or American oven, or the special apparatus made by Burton, of Oxford Street, which was exhibited at the lecture.

To this I may add that, if a closed oven be used, Rumford's device of a false bottom, shown in Fig. 3, of No. 11 of this series, should be adopted, which may be easily done by simply standing the above-described fish-dish, with any kind of support to raise it a little, in a larger tin tray or baking-dish, containing some water. The evaporation of the water will prevent the drying up of the fish or of its natural gravy; and, if the oven ventilation is treated with the contempt I have recommended, the fish, if thick, will be better cooked and more juicy than in an open-faced oven in front of the fire.

This reminds me of a method of cooking fish which, in the course of my pedestrian travels in Italy, I have seen practiced in the rudest of osterias, where my fellow-guests were carbonari (charcoal-burners) wagoners, road-making navvies, etc. Their staple magro, or fast-day material, is split and dried codfish imported from Norway, which in appearance resembles the hides that are imported to the Bermondsey tanneries. A piece is hacked out from one these, soaked for a while in water, and carefully rolled in a piece of paper saturated with olive oil. A hole is then made in the white embers of the charcoal fire, the paper parcel of fish inserted and carefully buried in ashes of selected temperature. It comes out wonderfully well cooked, considering the nature of the raw material. Luxurious cookery en papillote is conducted on the same principle, and especially applied to red mullets, the paper being buttered and the sauce enveloped with the fish. In all these cases the retention of the natural juices is the primary object.

I should say that Sir Henry Thompson directs, as a matter of course, that the roasted fish should be served in the dish wherein it was cooked. He suggests that "portions of fish, such as fillets, may be treated as well as entire fish; garnishes of all kinds, as shell-fish, etc., may be added, flavoring also with fine herbs and condiments according to taste." "Fillets of plaice or skate, with a slice or two of bacon—the dish to be filled or garnished with some previously-boiled haricots"—is wisely recommended as a savory meal for a poor man,