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A famed physicist Murray Gell-Mann compared a theoretical machinery in high energy physics theory to a technique in French cuisine, which he described thus:

... a method sometimes employed in French cuisine: a piece of pheasant meat is cooked between two slices of veal, which are then discarded

This phrase is very often quoted in the high-energy physics literature. You can for example read the Nobel lecture by David Gross (a laureate in 2004) here, in which he quotes this sentence.

I always wondered how this particular piece of French cuisine would taste, but I could never order it in French restaurants so far because I don't even know how this is called!

So please, good people at cooking.stackexchange, inform me how it is called and how it tastes!

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I saw that technique once on TV. I think Lord Byron used it. However, I can't find it anywhere (in 5'). –  BaffledCook Jun 23 '11 at 13:01
    
To Yuji's point, it had better taste good. Meat "wastage" is as serious a crime as beer spillage –  Ray Mitchell Jul 2 '11 at 13:11
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I am quite sure that it 1. doesn't have a name, and 2. is obsolete.

I read of this technique in a book on traditional English cooking (turns out that it was very similar to French cooking some centuries ago). Back then, meat was always roasted over an open fire. The fire is a hot and uneven source of heat, and they always had huge pieces of meat in a castle kitchen, so it was normal for the inside of the roast to be underdone, while the outside was practically ruined. So they used the good and tried technique of wrapping the roast, cooking for longer time than it would have been possible with unwrapped meat (which helped the raw core), then discarding the ruined wrapper. As the most plentiful ingredient in a noble's kitchen used to be meat (at least in England - maybe the French got the recipe for them despite the better availability of vegetables?) it was just a convenient tool to do the job.

Nowadays, we don't need to do this. A modern oven roasts much better. There are other, cheaper wrapper materials available for whoever wants to use one. I guess that some chefs may be reviving it because it sounds so unusual, it is guaranteed to attract attention. It could be worth eating, but frankly, if I wanted to know how pheasant cooked together with veal tastes, I would choose a recipe which doesn't discard the veal.

As for the name: The book I am referring to ("The cookery of England" by Elisabeth Ayrton) is based on very good research. The author publishes medieval recipes from manuscripts verbatim, etc. She also explains many points, gives some historical background, etc. I am 99% sure that if there was a special name for this technique, she would have known it and mentioned it at the point she describes the practice. For example, she explains "frothing" (pouring batter over the almost cooked joint) in the same paragraph she referrs to wrapping.

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Wow- awesome answer @rumtscho. –  Sobachatina Jun 23 '11 at 14:32
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Thanks, that's a wonderful answer. I would get that book and read it, that sounds like a truly interesting book, too! But your answer is a little disappointing: I thought that the French are so subtle that they want to give a hint of flavor of veal to the pheasant meant that they employ this technique. But you say it's because of a more mundane reasoning of roasting the core nicely... –  Yuji Jun 23 '11 at 15:03
    
A lot of techniques like this date back to the Crusades -that's how the Europeans learned how to make pies and pasties - and I would bet that the technique does have a name - in Arabic! –  James Barrie Jun 24 '11 at 21:49
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You know, I'm not sure if there's a more specific term, but I think this is an example of barding meat. In this case it's with veal, rather than the more normal pork. –  BobMcGee Jun 25 '11 at 6:32
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