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.

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.


Liz said...

Your photo is inspiring! Interesting choice to make the sauce more cheesy. I don't think I'll get a chance to try this recipe until the weekend of the 13th. I'm going to set up my spit over the fire pit and do some outdoor cooking. I may make my sauce in one of my pipkins too.

Gwyneth said...

How was the combination broth? That sounds clever.

ecb said...

The broth worked pretty well. I tend to cook to taste, so i keep futzing with things until I find them enjoyable. The only thing I really noticed is that you couldn't really taste whether it was "right" or not until you allowed the broth to sit and blend for a bit. If I were doing this again, I'd probably make the broth a little stronger than I did (3 t chicken, 2 beef, 2 veggi to 6 cups water) because I thought the hen drippings would add more flavor than they actually did. :-)