On November 29th, I posted “Turkey and “The Shroud of Turin”, about my new venture into wrapping a whole turkey in cheesecloth to cook. I had only recently seen someone do this on a Food Network show, and also recently found the recipe I used, which was adapted by Spinach Tiger from an original recipe from Michael Symon and Guy Fieri. It turned out to be a success, although there were a few tense moments and I would cook it again this way.
Coincidentally, I had purchased a book in my favorite thrift store a couple of weeks ago, which I had not yet had a chance to read, entitled “The Delectable Past”, by Esther B. Aresty, published in 1964. Reading about cooking in 17th Century France, the author talks about Francois Pierre de La Varenne, who supposedly learned to cook in the kitchen of Louis XIV’s grandfather, Henry IV. According to the author, La Varenne created dishes more delicate than those of the Italians, and had skills to present more imaginative cooking, “in tempting words”. I had heard of La Varenne, but knew virtually nothing about his cooking.
La Varenne published his first cookbook in 1651, “Le Cuisinier Francois”, and the author of “The Delectable Past”, includes a number of his recipes this cookbook. When I came across the recipe, “Turkey a la Varenne” (Poulet D’Inde a La Framboise Farcy), I was surprised to read that after spreading softened butter over the turkey, especially the breast and drumsticks, and stuffing it with a stuffing of your choice, the turkey is covered with wet cheesecloth, “to prevent the bird from browning too soon”. Some time into the cooking, La Varenne used a raspberry based sauce for basting at 20-minute intervals.
So, my newly discovered method of using cheesecloth to cover the turkey, while cooking, has been around, at least in print, for 362 years! The more I read cookbooks and about cookbooks, the more I realize how little I know. But, I’m learning! Thank you, La Varenne!