The Cook-A-Long is a virtual kitchen for Medieval and Renaissance Cooking enthusiasts in the SCA. Each month a period recipe will be posted in the original language (when available) and a translation. All cooks are encouraged to try their hand at redacting and preparing the monthly dish and post his/ her results to the blog. If you are interested in becoming a participant in this cook a long, or would like to submit a dish for the month please send an e-mail to valkyr8 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A month goes by really quickly

Here we are on the doorstep of November and I haven't even done October's recipe. Oy.

I do appreciate all those who did embark on the "Cheesy Chicken" dish by Nola. I loved reading all of the different redactions from each cook and I now feel better equipped to visit this dish myself when time permits. Thank you all!

Now is the time to start thinking about November's recipe. I am open to suggestions. Do we want to tackle another Nola recipe or choose another genre? Please make your suggestions in the comments.

Thank you all for your participation in this Cook-A-Long!


Sunday, October 21, 2007


After reading through the recipe about fifty times and discussing it with a coworker who raises chickens and is more familiar with the processing of birds from death to table, I decided to ignore the part about putting the chickens in the coals for a Paternoster. My coworker's theory is that portion of the recipe was used to clean off any stray hairs or other things from the skin.

I used a 3.5 lbs whole chicken for my redaction, I roasted it by cutting it up the backbone, then pushing it until the breast bone snapped and it lay flat on my baking sheet. I find that this method of roasting small chickens evens up the cooking time so that all parts of the bird are done at about the same time. I cooked it at 375 for about an hour, before placing it into the oven I salt and peppered both sides and rubbed it down with olive oil. I also made up a foil packet with two heads of garlic, one soft neck Californian grown garlic and one hard neck locally grown head. The garlic was drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasted next to the chicken for about 45 minutes.

I have a theory about the bread for this recipe and that is that it was a way to use up hard day old bread. If you soaked fresh bread in broth, it would melt and get icky (technical term). So the day before I made a batch of Mistress Aramanthra's Egg bread. Then I sliced it into nice thick slices and let them sit out to dry out and get hard, before toasting them slowly in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

I was unable to find lamb or mutton stock in the store, so I used 1 can of beef broth and 1 can of chicken broth. To take away from the canned flavor of them, I went out to my herb garden and grabbed a handful of thyme, sage and chives and threw that into the pot with the stocks along with 3 peppercorns and some dried parsley. I brought that to a simmer and let the herbs flavor the broth for about 20 minutes before straining them out.

To assemble the dish, I brought the broth up to a simmer and then ladled about 3-4 ladles full of broth over the toast which I had placed into a roasting pan. The chicken was sliced and a mixture of dark and white meat was placed onto the toasts. For the sauce I put all the roasted garlic into my food processor, then I added 4 oz. of chevre, 4 tablespoons of parmesan, and 4 egg yolks. I processed this until it was smooth, then drizzled in two cups of stock to temper the egg yolks. I poured this mixture into what was left of the stock, and stirred it over med-high heat until it had reduced by half and formed a smooth silky sauce. I poured it over the toasts and popped it into the oven to heat everything through.

I found that it tasted very nice. The bread was still quite crunchy and had a lovely texture, the chicken was juicy and the sauce wasn't overwhelming cheesy or overwhelming with garlic. All the flavors blended quite well. This dish even got the 3 year old approval of being yummy. It was a lot of steps, so I don't know if I'll make it again at home just casually, but I can definitely see using it for a feast or making something similar to use up some left overs. My one complaint is that visually, it's very yellow. There isn't a lot of color to add interest. I don't know if that's a modern view, but if I was making it again I'd probably stir some finely chopped chives or parsley into the sauce to add some visual interest to the dish.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

To prepare chicken cookked in the way of the Sarceans,

Greetings from the humble scribe, Merouda Pendray

Today's medieval meal attempt was worthy, but I must be honest and upfront confess that one of the receipts has been interpreted in a way that produces something entirely outside the intended product.

Today's goals:
*Make a meal with products purchased at the farmer's market. I regularly incorporate daily life into my persona play, and I thought it might be interesting to cook based on what I could scout up.

*Create a quiche-type dish that I can eat. I had Amber Day Tart in mind.

And those two goals influenced my choices sufficiently that I ended up making tasty food that a 16th c. individual would recognize, but I can't call them finished redactions, yet.

The only usable things we came away from the market with were freshly laid chicken eggs & leeks. I did briefly consider cooking tomatoes as described by Gerard in his herbal, but I decided against it—this time. Anyway. On to the cooking.

Individual dishes and plated for one.
Click on picture for full view.

I initially wanted to try a couple of different quiche recipes, but I came to my senses and realized that I was never going to be able to handle that much egg without getting sick, nor would Michael enjoy eating that much egg substitute.

The first I wished to try, from Cury on Inglishe, was Tart in ymbre day, but what I actually ended up redacting was the Mushroom Tart in The Goodman of Paris with additional modifications based on the Ymbre Day recipe.

Mushrooms of one night be the best and they be little and red within and closed at the top; and they must be peeled and then washed in hot water and parboiled and if you wish to put them in a pasty add oil, cheese and spice powder.

The second one I wanted to try was this, from Platina:

Make your crust in the way you usually do for pastry; and when it is rolled out, put meal over it so that it can hold up all around, and put it in a pan near the fire to dry out. Then, when you have removed the the meal from the top crust, put in boiled chickens or pigeons cut in morsels, with almond milk, two egg yolks, and a little saffron, ginger, cinnamon, verjuice and rich juice. When it is cooked, take it from the oven and pour over it sugar and rosewater.

First problem: egg yolks. Tons of egg yolks here. Second problem: boiled rather than baked chicken. Ugh. We are not big on the boiled poultry. Third problem: no onions, just leeks. Fourth problem: No herbs I want to use—everything still viable in the garden is overwhelming. The Rue is still going strong, but we are not eating it. Next, the Michael man is going to have to be led up to eating fruit and onions

So, and to this very moment I am not sure what free-floating brain chemical became this idea, I decided that I would deal with the egg problem by trying to make one egg + ¼ egg substitute + ½ cup milk go the distance for both recipes.

Additional inspiration for the end products come from Ymbre day tart recipe quoted on Godecookery and a recipe from a 1381 manuscript called Ancient Cookery and cited in Seven Centuries of English Cooking by Maxime de la Falaise.

The meal, then, is a synthesis. Be absolutely aware of that. Have I warned you enough yet?

Okay, so, first, the chicken. It occurred to me that all the ingredients could be used to make a nice breading and the milk and egg mixture would function as the wash that would hold the breading to the poultry. So I mixed up the milk and egg. The breading was made from ¾ cup crushed crackers, about 1 tsp cinnamon, about 1 tsp ginger, about ¼ cup ground almonds. I omitted saffron as I didn't have any. I dipped the chicken in the milk-egg mixture, covered it wit the crumb mixture, and set the wings into a 350 degree oven to roast until done.

All the ingredients I had available to me from the chicken pie recipe are there, but it's plainly not a pie. It would occur to me later that the idea for breading the chicken came from the 1381 recipe “For to make a bruet of Sarcynesse.” I'd experimented with that recipe some months ago, and had the memory of the breaded beef patties baking away somewhere in the back of my brain.

We sprinkled the roasted wings with rose water and tucked in; it was actually very good, and it strikes me as a nice item for the traveling lunch. I think, however, that I could move it just a little closer to the original recipe by placing the chicken pieces close to each other in the bottom of a baking pan, pour about ½ the egg-milk mix over the chicken and covering it with the crumb mixture. One could then invert it on to a plate and have something closer to a pie for serving. However the individual pieces are very handy for serving and storing.

Next, the Amber Day Tart. The fairly quick realization that something with leeks and fruit was not going to go over well with Miguel-san made me start looking for other “vegetable in cheese” pies that could suggest substitutions that would be acceptable on the table.

Godecookery came to my rescue with a mushroom tart that is in about the same time frame as Cury on English and so I ended up doing the mushroom tart with lots of leeks added.

So, the tart is in a commercially prepared crust, and I prebaked it. I cut up two leeks and opened a can of mushrooms (as the mushrooms above are peeled and parboiled). I sauteed it all in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil then grated 2 oz of farmer's cheese (leftovers used up, baybe!) and 3 oz of sharp cheddar. I placed the vegetables, the leftover breadcrumb/spice mixture, and the cheeses into the piecrust, then poured the remaining egg/milk mix over the whole thing. I baked it at 350 degrees until the cheese melted.

On the whole, it worked well. I liked it but decided that it needed more milk/egg mixture; Michael felt it needed more mushrooms, and fresh ones, at that. The thing that took me, though, was the effect of the commercial pie crust. Ugh. Too greasy. I'd no idea they were that fatty—although, it could just be that my taste for fat is so changed that I notice it so much more these days.

It's plated out for a meal for one with fruit juice (sorry, no wine!), the ever present beets, and yogurt. MMMmmmmmmMMMMmmmm.

Suggestions solicited!

Monday, October 1, 2007

To cook a hen in the way of the Spaniard called Nola

This was our supper tonight. This is plated for 2, but it does a good job of showing how someone might cope with such a high fat recipe--balance the meal with a lot of vegetables and fruit. Another grain would have been nice but I was too pressed for time tired to cook any more and really, there is plenty to eat here. :-)

To cook the main dish--the redaction of almondrote que es capirotada--I used:

2 Cornish Game Hens
3/4 a loaf of Breadsmith's Rosemary Garlic Ciabatta
4 cups of broth
--broth made with:
---bouquet garni of lovage, sage, rosemary, bay
---6 cups water
---2 teaspoons chicken base
---1 teaspoon vegetable base
---1 teaspoon beef base
---dripping from hens
-----this was boiled down to create 5 cups of broth. 4 of which went into the redaction.
2 heads of garlic
3/4 lbs of shredded, low fat farmer's cheese
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 tsp bacon grease
olive oil as needed

I split the hens in half and put them under the broiler while I peeled the garlic. When the garlic was peeled, I put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, threw the garlic cloves into the oil, covered it, and popped it into the oven to roast. I then moved the hen halves from the broiler to a baking pan and roasted them at 350 degrees F. While that roasted, I toasted the chibatta (chosen mostly because we just are not eating it fast enough and I thought the rosemary in the bread might complement the poultry), shredded the cheese (chosen because it's a fresh, slightly sour cheese that can be found in a low-fat version and seems to me similar in taste to the simple, fresh goat cheeses I have had), and blended the broth. There isn't a lot of mutton stock in my grocery store, and I didn't want a broth that was obviously beef or chicken or vegetable, so I tried to blend something that was tasty and not obviously one or the other. I basted the hens once with the bacon grease and the rest of the time just basted them with their own juices.

When the garlic and hens were finished roasting, I prepared the sauce. I just mashed the garlic in the roasting pan as this would use the roasting olive oil as a substitute for the bad, bad lard suggested by the receipt. I added the egg substitute, 1/2 lb of cheese, and 2 cups of broth and noted that the sauce looked like.... em... something Miguel would not eat if it kept on looking like that.

So I warmed the sauce to make your average cheese sauce.

I placed the bread into the bottom of a baking pan and poured the remaining 2 cups of broth over it; this soaked the bread. I did not choose to bone the hens or layer the meat and the bread. Instead, I placed the hen halves over the bread and poured the sauce over it all. I sprinkled the remaining cheese over the dish and popped it back into the oven to melt.

I intended to leave it long enough to let the cheese get toasted but we were too hungry, so we took it out when the middle of the cheese was melty and bubbly and the edges were toasted.

We each deboned our own hen and I pulled the skin out of mine before eating. I wanted to leave the skin in for flavor, and Miguel certainly can eat it, but I shouldn't, so leaving the hens intact worked well for us.

The other components of the meal were:
Brussels sprouts cooked per the receipt on godecokery, here
Pickled beets, mushrooms, cucumbers
Really wonderful antique variety russet apples and a pink pearl apple.*
White wine

Even with the removal of the egg yolk and lard, the minimal use of bacon fat, the substitution of a low fat cheese and the use of nicely unsaturated olive oil in places where fat is needed, this is a pretty high fat recipe. Michael liked it a lot, and I thought it was okay. I'm not sure the step for broiling was needed, and I might try a whole grain bread next time. I'm also not sure that the egg substitute proved enough of a binding/thickening agent in the sauce to make it worth adding; you might be able to skip that if you are not going to use egg yolk. I'm also not convinced that the single tsp of bacon grease I included made a flavor difference; next time, I'd just baste in the hen's drippings.

*There is a local orchard that grows antique apples including several period varieties. Unfortunately, their White Pearmain died this year, but cort pendu plat and Caville Blanc d'Hiver are about to come in season, so hopefully I can get a bunch to experiment with in some period receipts.