La Brehee – I have seen this dish done a number of different ways online. Some make it a sauce to pour over salted meat, some make it a salted meat and onion paste, like a pate. I have read and reread the recipe and I think that it is closer to a thick onion soup. So that is what I made out of the recipe.
This is a great example how you can read these recipes and get a variety of different interpretations.
The original french recipe…
La brehee. Prenez ognons pellez et decoppez bien menus, pourris de cuire, puis suffris en beau sain de lard ; faictez vostre grain d’oyez saleez, de porc, ou aultres salures, prenez amandes pelleez bien broyeez, deffaictez de bon boullon ou de puree de pois, gingembre canelle, poivre noir et chucquere largement au dresschier pouldrez par dessus. En cas Pareil se fait de blans poreaulx sans espices.
The translation by Terrence Scully…
The Brehee. Get onions, peeled, finely chopped, boiled until disintegrating, and sauteed in good rendered lard. Do your salted goose meat, or salted pork or any other salted meat. Get well ground peeled almonds, distembered with good bouillon or with pea puree, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. On dishing it up, sugar sprinkled generously over top.
In a similar way the dish is made with white leeks, without spices.
Here is what I did…
After reading the recipe about a dozen times I decided that there were two ways of making this dish. One with bouillon and one with pea puree and spices. I chose to make the version with the bouillon. So I gathered onions, bouillon, salted pork in the form of country ham, and peeled, sliced almonds.
I decided on country ham for the salted meat because it is inexpensive and I like the taste. The almond I got were already peeled and sliced which cut the prep time considerable. The bouillon I used was chicken. I thought that would taste better with the meat and not overpower the taste of the onions like beef might.
I started by peeling and chopping my onions and getting them in a pan to boil. I used just enough water to cover the onions so that I wasn’t losing too much of the onion flavor in the water. While the onions boiled I chopped the country ham into bite sized pieces. Then I ground the almonds and added the bouillon.
By the time the onions boiled and started to turn to mush most of the water from boiling was gone. I added lard to the pan and let them saute until they were a golden brown. Then I sauteed the ham. Looking back on it I likely should have boiled the meat as I did the onions before sauteing it to remove a bit of the salt. Once the meat had gotten a bit of color I added the onions back into the pan and poured in the almonds with the bouillon. I let this all boil together a few minutes to thicken before serving.
After it had thickened a bit I dished it up and sprinkled it with sugar.
It was really good! Oniony, meaty, salty, and just a little sweet.
Now for the rest of the story… After eating it and reading the recipe again I decided that I did a couple of things wrong and that I will likely make this dish again to fix them…
1. The meat… as I said earlier I should have boiled the meat and then sauteed it to get rid of a bit of the salt. As the salted meat would have likely been packed in salt for preservation it is unlikely that they would have cooked and served it with out at least rinsing it to remove some of the salt.
2. The almonds… I am not sure if I would change this or not. I left the ground almonds in the dish as no where does it say to remove them. There are other dishes in this book that almonds are distempered with a liquid and then strained. This dish does not say to strain them out so I did not. It made the dish a bit thicker but not unpleasantly so.
3. Spices… after reading the recipe again I believe that I should have added the ginger, cinnamon and black pepper that are in this sentence “Get well ground peeled almonds, distembered with good bouillon or with pea puree, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper.” I think that the spices were meant to be added to either version talked about in this sentence. My reasoning for that is the last sentence of the recipe which says “In a similar way the dish is made with white leeks, without spices.” This sentence leads me to believe that both versions of the dish made with onions should have the spices and that only if it is made with white leeks should the spices be omitted.
So my verdict is that even though the dish was very tasty, I will be revisiting it and making the changes I talked about here to get closer to what I think the original dish was like. (Yes I will be posting the results)