I am a big admirer of Édouard de Pomiane – he wrote a book called La cuisine en dix minutes … ou l’adaptation au rythme modern which says it all and is still as current as ever – it was first published in 1930.
But I am also a fan because he explains the rationale (the science in many cases – he was a doctor) behind the need to ‘go to the trouble’, I don’t mind resisting the temptation to cut corners if I know why I really must take the trouble to do something.
And another reason I am a fan is that he illustrated the whole with delightful, humorous Toulouse-Lautrec style drawings.
I’m also intrigued by the dedication for his famous, classic, cook book:
“I dedicate this book to Mme X asking for ten minutes of her kind attention”
– there must be a good story behind that. I wonder if it is the same Madame X who was ruined after John Singer Sargent painted a beautiful but risqué portrait of her with daringly bare shoulders (see bottom of this post). Within The Golden Hour is a ballet inspired by that painting with music by Mark Anthony Turnage. First performed in San Francisco in 2008 it’s coming to the ROH in February 2016. Again, go to the bottom of this post and see the embedded video.
Anyway, this is, more or less, his recipe for ‘tomatoes a la polonaise’.
Why ‘polonaise’? What does it mean?
‘Polonaise’ means Polish, which in culinary terms usually means sprinkled with breadcrumbs, parsley and chopped hard-boiled eggs, so in fact I think a more accurate name would be tomatoes a la creme. However, de Pomiane’s mother was Polish, and this was how she liked to cook her tomatoes… hence ‘a la polonaise’. And of course, while you make this you can listen to Chopin’s polonaise – below by Martha Argerich – but there is also a brand new version due out February 2015 by the Brazilian pianist, Nelson Freire.
This is a recipe for small numbers
You cannot make these tomatoes for too many people because you are limited by the size of the frying pan. However, it is possible to bake them – mix all the ingredients together except the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes, cut side up, in a pretty ceramic baking dish, pour over the cream mixture and bake for about 25 minutes until the cream has reduced a little, and the tomatoes are slightly blistered.
What to serve it with
If you make it with six tomatoes and five generous tbsp of cream and serve it with six slices of ham and a baguette. or some ciabatta or fried bread and it makes a great lunch.
There are also a couple of variations – add capers and black olives for a sort of Provencal version; or add fried bacon and any left-over celeriac you happen to have for a kind of north European version. Or you can add grated cheese, breadcrumbs and mustard.
Recipe for Édouard de Pomiane’s Tomatoes Á La Polonaise
for two as an accompaniment
- 4 tomatoes from a place which has sunshine (if this is impossible add a little brown sugar)
- a walnut of butter
- 1 red onion, finely chopped, or a banana shallot and/or garlic clove if you don’t have a red onion to hand
- 3 generous tbsp. of double cream (or crème fraiche would be fine)
- salt and pepper
- fresh basil, mint, or a generous handful of chopped parsley if you have any to hand
- melt the butter in a frying pan
- add the onion to the pan and begin to fry
- cut the tomatoes in half (use a tomato knife) and cut out the v-shaped core
- turn the heat up a little (don’t let the burn) and put the tomatoes cut side down in the frying pan for about five minutes – cut through the skin here and there with your tomato knife
- turn them over for another five minutes
- add salt and pepper
- pour the cream in between the tomatoes and let it come to the boil
- serve straight away
This post is dedicated to my favourite Polish lady, Dorota Wisniewska
Below you can see Christopher Wheeldon talking about his new ballet, Strapless, currently on at the ROH, which is all about the story behind this portrait…or as he says, about ‘how they build you up and then they knock you down’. And you can also listen to a truly lovely polonaise.