At nearly 1,300 pages and weighing over six pounds, my copy of Ali-Bab’s Gastronomie Pratique is a beast. Despite the author’s name, it is not a Persian text; it’s French. Ali-Bab was the pseudonym of Henri Babinski (1855-1931), a French mining engineer who was an amateur avid cook as well. His culinary encyclopedia was first published in 1907 with a modest 314 pages, but was expanded over subsequent editions. My beastly edition is the 9th from 1981. Sometime between the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, a recipe for truffled rum and Champagne punch — punch truffé — slipped in.
The recipe is problematic and I’m giving it here partly as a curiosity. I use truffles when they are in season, but I’m not as lavish in my use of them as Babinski seems to have been. More to the point, I think the recipe is promising but doesn’t work as written; in particular, the order of adding rum and Champagne seems inverted. My French is self-taught and I’d like someone else to take a run at a translation.
The problem, as I see it, is that a mix of sugar, sparkling wine, and nutmeg won't catch fire. BUT — as anyone who's been around my house for Thanksgiving can attest — a mix of rum, sugar, and nutmeg will, when warmed, catch alight. I think the way to fix this is simply that: change the position of rum and Champagne, then proceed as directed.
Or am I missing something? Here’s the original followed by my translation. Anyone — francophiles, French bartenders, punch enthusiasts — want to have a go at it? [See comments section]
Punch truffé (Babinski)
Pour six à huit personnes, prenez:
350 grammes de fine champagne,
350 grammes de vieux rhum,
250 grammes de sucre,
120 grammes de vin de Malaga,
1 belle trufle noire du Périgord,
¼ noix muscade.
Mettez dans un bol à punch la fine champagne, la muscade et le sucre, faites flamber, mélangez bien. Lorsque le sucre sera dissous, ajoutez le rhum et le jus du citron ; activez la flamme. En meme temps, faites cuire la truffe dans le malaga, retirez-la, puis ajoutez le malaga au melange rhum et fine champagne.And mine:
Coupez la truffe en tranches minces, metiez une tranche dans chaque verre de punch et servez chaud.
Truffled Punch (Rowley)
For six to eight people, take:
350 grams of fine champagne,
350 grams of old rum,
250 grams of sugar, 120 grams of Malaga wine,
One beautiful black Périgord truffle,
Put the fine champagne [see comments section], nutmeg, and sugar in a punch bowl, set alight, mix well. When the sugar has dissolved, add the rum and lemon juice; activate the flame. At the same time, cook the truffle in Malaga, remove it, then add the rum mixture to the Malaga and champagne.
Cut the truffle into thin slices, put a slice in each glass punch, and serve hot.
Goes well with:
- More about Babinski and his book. An English version of Gastronomie Pratique was printed in 1974 as The Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy. Peter Herzmann has several copies of this book, but doesn’t care for that one.
- Another Henri — this one Henri Charpentier — gave a recipe for Eggs, William S. Burroughs in his privately published 1945 Food and Finesse: The Bride's Bible. Here's the recipe.
- Speaking of flames and punch, San Francisco barman Martin Cate made a hell of a show at Tiki Oasis a few years back with fire and rum. The tale of the punch so big it had to be made in a koi pond is here.