A small pot of meats. That, is the exact meaning of Potjevleesch, the traditional Flemish dish of terined veal, poulet, and rabbit. The jellied delicacy is accredited to the traditional recipe of Guillaume Tirel, the celebrated royal chef from the mid XIVe century whose employment included that to king Philippe de Valoise, the Duke of Normandie, and King Charles VI. Tirel authored the first written collection of Haute French cuisine (the first French cookbook) under the order of Charles V, to begin the preservation of original French recipes. The Viandier Taillevent contains th first recorded recipe for the Potjevleesch, indexed under the preparation for Ketelvleesch. In rough translation of the ancient French text, the recette instructs: boil the chicken in white wine to procure the jelly, add cooked pork, veal, and young rabbits, add to this a bit of ginger, mastis, saffron, and sour wine in accordance with your common sense. When it is cooked halfway, put it in a pot above the fire, let settle, squish it down, and then chill. Delicious, may be the only word available for description. Ehem. Cold flesh medley. mmmmm.
I know you are all exceedingly curious as to what the ancient French culinary text has to say on the subject of cod, so to you my friends, I will indulge: Cleaned and cooked like red mullet; addsome wine while cooking; eaten with Jance Sauce. Add some garlic if you wish, but some do not. Salted: eaten with Mustard Sauce or fresh melted butter. Ah Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume.
Well--I ate it. Tony, Tony was on my shoulder giving me encouraging words, puffs of smoke, and snide sexual remarks. Wait, no that was me. M wanted to take me out for moule frites at cafe brasserie Aux Moules, to taste the local favorites: a bucket of moules and greasy fries. Once there I spotted my potted--and I knew my quest would be completed. The brasserie is one of the oldest joints in the Lille city center, dating to their first served bucket of mollusks in 1930. The place was packed on the lazy Sunday afternoon, though we were seated in under 10 minutes in a cozy corner by the bar. When the waiter arrived I nearly shouted my order through excitement, his reaction was encouraging--raised eybrows but "la choix excellente, mademoiselle" What arrived: a squishy cold jelly, that, though bird eaten, was extremely tender, tasteful, and charming. M, with a gritted smile shockingly passed up the potted meat, and instead went for the rabbit stewed in a beer sauce. Followed by cafes, and refused drinks from the the closely hovering bartender, whose free espresso cup of whipped cream I did accept in the end while giddily clapping my hands, the meal was quite exciting.
Though my questioning of the semi-French speaking Italian bar tender, Rocco, on what there was to do in Lille for Reveillon (New Years) turned into invitations for drinks rather on that night, the afternoon and night passed with vrai cuisine du Nord of the Pas de Calais region. Excellent. I suppose potted meat, while by no means my favorite, is not bad after all.
Taillevent: Viandier (Manuscrit du Vatican). Pichon/Vicaire, Le Viandier, 1892, repr. 1967, 73-136. Electronic version: Thomas Gloning, 20.8.2000.
Bonne Fin d'Annee Mes Amis!
Bonne Fin d'Annee Mes Amis!