October 28

Anniversary of Catherine de' Medici's Wedding to Henry II of France

When the fourteen-year-old small, slight Catherine de' Medici arrived in France from Florence to marry the Dauphin, she wanted to make a grand entrance to the French court. So to increase her height, she commissioned a Florentine artisan to make a what were considered to be the first modern high-heeled shoes.  

The wedding took place in Marseille on 28 October 1533.  Prince Henry danced and jousted for Catherine. She was reported to have been pleased with what she saw, .The fourteen-year-old couple left their wedding ball at midnight to consummate  their marriage

Throughout his reign, Henry II  excluded Catherine from influence and instead showered favors on his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Catherine  became the Queen Mother of France after Henry's death of Henry II, of whom some people  wrongfully accused her of poisoning

Reine Margot (1954) is a superb film that provides great insight into Catherine's personality with the great Jeanne Moreau as Catherine.

Catherine introduced a wide variety of Italian foods to French cooking, including ice cream, sweetbreads, truffles, artichokes, broccoli, and spinach. Catherine, who was known throughout France as la Florentine, because of her hated family's association with Florence, loved spinach so much that any French dish which incorporated spinach was called a la florentine.

                  Catherine de' Medici by François Clouet.

Catherine scandalized French society with her addiction to artichokes, which had the reputation of being an aphrodisiac She also encouraged her entourage to eat artichokes, particularly the L' escadron volant (the flying squadron), a bevy of beautiful girls who were coached as "spies of the couch", bedding down with the influential nobles. The L' escadron volant traveled everywhere with Catherine, a sort of whorehouse on wheels. By the end  Catherine's reign, artichokes had become one of the most popular French vegetables

Glace a la de Medici


6 medium freshly cooked artichoke hearts
2 6-oz. Camembert cheeses, soft but not overripe
2 cups whipping cream
Salt to taste
Tabasco to taste

  1. Cut cheese into small chunks. Add with artichoke hearts and whipping cream to food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth.
  2. Place mixture in commercial ice cream maker. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

Crabe a la de Medici
(Crab and Artichoke Hearts in Cheese Sauce)


12 oz. crab meat
8 medium freshly cooked artichoke hearts
1 TB grated lemon zest
2 cups Bayonnaise (April 19 )
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat over to 350º F.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in ovenproof casserole. Bake 20 minutes.

Serve from the casserole or on glazed scallop shells.

Fonds d'artichauts a la florentine
(Artichoke Bottoms Stuffed with Spinach)



6 large freshly cooked artichoke bottoms
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup veal glace de viande*

3 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup cooked spinach, squeezed dry and minced
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
3 'TB grated Parmesan cheese
a slides lemon for garnish

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Make a roux. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Blend in flour and Cook for I minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Blend wine, glace de viande and egg yolks into roux to make sauce. Cook sauce over low heat for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set sauce aside.
  4. Combine spinach, 4 TB of sauce, salt, pepper, and zest. Spoon into artichoke bottoms.
  5. Spoon remaining sauce over spinach mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
    Heat under broiler until cheese begins to brown.  Remove from heat. Garnish with a sliced lemon and serve  immediately.

* See Appendix A


© 2012 Gordon Nary and Tyler Stokes