Medieval White-Dish

White-dish

white-dish

Here is a bird’s eye view of a 14th century nobleman’s kitchen, as was common during the reign of King Richard II, as well as the foods in which they partook.

Their kitchen consisted of a large, separate structure with many fireplaces built along the walls, each with its own cooking area. At least one fireplace was large enough to roast a whole ox.  A raised, open hearth was situated in the center of the kitchen.

Bake metes (baked foods) were concocted in an oven, prepared first with a blazing fire, getting its brick walls red hot.  Cooks placed the pies, custards, and pastries in the hot oven, after they swept out the ashes.  These items baked, behind a closed door, until the oven was cool.

Bakers, however, made breads in separate buildings in larger kitchens, such as that of King Richard II.  The stoves in these bake houses were often 14 feet wide.

Our king was extravagant; he daily entertained over a thousand guests.  There is record of a very large shopping list for a banquet he gave on September 23, 1387. His overseer included 14 salted oxen, 2 fresh oxen, 120 sheep, 140 pigs, 120 gallons of milk, and 11,000 eggs, among taxing quantities of other items.

These feasts were held in the castle’s great hall.  Here the king and special guests sat on a raised platform, or high borde.  The lesser guests assembled at tables that paralleled the side walls.  The backless benches, on which they sat, were called banquettes; thus we got the name banquet for such affairs.

Cooks in many of these kitchens prepared white-dish, or blank-mang.  It was a popular dish in England, as well as on the Continent, during the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s chef made this receipt.  Our poet wrote in his “Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales (c.1386):  “For blancmange, that made he with the best.”

I am indebted to Lorna Sass for her documentation of this information in To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Below is my version for her delicious, historical recipe.  Its preparation is easy with my introduction of 21st century appliances  Can’t encourage you enough to try this.  It’s a palate pleaser!

Next week I will be making the connection between these medieval foods and our “renaissance” happening right here in Tualatin, Oregon.

White-Dish is adapted from a recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Yields: 4-6 servings.

2 large chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/2 cup raw whole almonds

1 cup brown rice  (I like basmati rice, available at Trader Joe’s.)

3 tbsp butter

4 tsp brown sugar, packed down  (Sucanat  evaporated cane juice, may be substituted; this is close to what they used in the Middle Ages.)

3 tbsp anise seed

1/4 cup sliced almonds

  1. In a tightly covered medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, boil chicken in water, to which 1/4 tsp salt is added.   Boil for about 10-15 minutes.  Be careful to not overcook.  Check meat by cutting with a sharp knife; center should be slightly pink.  (Meat will be cooked more later on.) Remove chicken from broth; set aside both broth and meat.
  2. To make the almond milk, grind 1/2 cup whole raw almonds in a 11-cup, or larger, food processor. Pulse repeatedly until almonds are a fine powder.  (A blender or Vitamix will also work; add 2 tbsp of ice water to nuts, before grinding, if using either of these.)
  3. With food processor running, slowly add two cups of broth through the feeder tube on top of the processor.  (You may have to add water to make 2 cups of liquid; if perhaps you have extra broth, be sure to save this.)  Let sit for 10 minutes.  This makes almond milk.
  4. Put almond milk in the saucepan.  Add remaining 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp butter, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add rice, cover,  and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until rice is soft.  Watch carefully so rice doesn’t cook dry; gently check bottom of pan with a fork, being careful to not stir rice.  Add more broth, or water, as needed.
  5. Meanwhile dice chicken into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.
  6. In a small sauté pan, cook almond slices in remaining 2 tbsp of hot butter.  Watch carefully, sautéing only until light brown.  Salt them lightly and set aside.
  7. Crush anise seed using a mortar and pestle.  May also grind in a DRY food processor by pulsing lightly.  Set aside.
  8. Add chicken when rice is soft; stir, and cook about 5 more minutes, or until meat is hot.  Watch moisture in bottom of pan, so rice doesn’t burn, add water or broth as needed.
  9. Serve garnished with buttered almond slices and crushed anise seed.  SO GOOD!

19th Century French Lemon Meringues a la Ude

Meringues a la Ude

meringues a la Ude

This is the third and final post on my simple 19th century French dinner.  These tart, gluten-free meringues a la Ude are a summer delight!  They are easy to prepare, though it takes about one hour of light labor; a child can follow these care-free steps of preparation.

These lemon meringues are effortless, because it’s another recipe from Louis Eustache Ude’s The French Cook, 1813; the lemon filling, however, is mine.  Ude also created the easy, delightful chicken a l’oignon of this series (see 2016/07/04).

This man’s incredible mind conceived elegant foods with the simplest preparations. His extraordinary talent placed him in the illustrious palace of King Louis XVI, before the fall of the monarchy; after his escape in 1795, he taught England his secrets.

Teaching young Nat how to cook.

teaching young Nate how to make meringues

I discovered this privileged information in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  This recipe is even easier for us today than it was for Ude’s followers, for we have the electric mixer to beat the egg whites!

Organic cane sugar works well for this receipt.  Nevertheless you may use regular refined cane sugar (C & H is a good brand.)

I tried to make the meringues with coconut sugar, which was a huge disaster. Sucanat, evaporated cane juice, doesn’t work either, as it is not fine enough to be incorporated in the beaten egg whites.  So stick with cane sugar, using either organic or regular.

19th century French costumeThis post includes a photo of my period costume for my 19th century French meals, which I wear when doing public events.  It is very beautiful, though it is quite bulky on me now, for I weighed 226 pounds when my costume designer fashioned it.

My Lord has healed my body and mind!  The result is a very voluminous dress on my small frame, which is joy unspeakable-health and more health!

 

Meringues a la Ude with Lemon Filling Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields: 1 dozen gluten-free meringues.  Total prep time: 1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 1 hr/  baking time: 1 hr.

3 large egg whites (save 2 yolks for filling)

2 pinches salt

1 cup of sugar (Organic cane sugar is best; available in a 2 pound package at Trader Joe’s, or in a cheaper 10 pound bag at Costco.)

1/2 tsp lemon or orange extract, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Separate egg whites in a large bowl (save 2 yolks).  Add salt and beat the whites until quite stiff, using an electric mixer.
  3. Add sugar very slowly-a scant teaspoon at a time-keeping the beaters going constantly.  As whites get really thick, after about 3/4 cup of sugar is added, increase additions to 2 tablespoons at a time.  When all the sugar is incorporated, continue to beat for several minutes.  Mix in optional extract.
  4. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper; spoon egg whites on the paper in small mounds, about 2 1/2 inches long, in the shape of an egg.
  5. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until golden brown and rather sturdy.
  6. While warm, gently cut an indentation in the meringue with a small sharp knife.  Scooping delicately with your finger, make a hollow in each.
  7. Set aside and cool completely.
  8. Fill each meringue with lemon filling just before serving.

Lemon Filling (about 3 cups, enough for a dozen meringues)

3 medium organic lemons  (Regular lemons will have taste of pesticides.)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best.)

1/4 tsp salt

2 cup cold water

2 large egg yolks

2 tbsp of butter

  1. Clean and zest lemons; juice and set aside.
  2. Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium sauce pan.
  3. Add water; mix well with a wire whisk.
  4. Beat in egg yolks thoroughly.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly; continue boiling for 1 minute more, or until thickened.
  6. Add butter, lemon zest, and juice; blend well with whisk.
  7. Remove from heat. Cool in refrigerator, covering the top of filling with a piece of plastic wrap, once cool.
  8. Spoon filling into meringues just before serving.
  9. Serve open face.  The tart, yellow lemon filling shouts summer’s blessings!

Carrots au Beurre

Carrots-au-beurre

carrots au beurre

This three-part 19th century dinner, which started last week (see Chicken a l’Oignon and Lemon Meringues a la Ude), reflects the new Classic French cuisine.  This era in culinary history became popular as the Napoleonic age followed the French Revolution.  Then self-made men, following the example of Napoleon, rose in status and wealth.  They had to learn the ways of entertaining, or how to be amphitryons (hosts).

Cook books of the time reflected this non-aristocratic class’ needs, by giving such directions.  A forty-year lapse in the publication of cooking instructions, of any sort, existed prior to the beginning of this period.  One important recipe book, with the dawning of this new day, was Le Cuisinier, by A. Viard; it was published during the entire nineteenth century; its name, however, changed with each fresh political upheaval.

First printed in 1806, Le Cuisinier Imperial was named after the Emperor who loved classicism; Napoleon’s strong passion gave this new style of cooking its name Classic French cuisine.

The book’s title changed to Le Cuisinier Royal, when Louis XVIII became king in 1814.  Other name conversions reflected the politics of the century: it became Le Cuisinier National, at the time Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Republic; then, it went back to employing “Imperial”, when this man declared himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852.  The cook book was known by Le Cuisinier National once again, when France became a republic in 1871; it has remained such; thus, this recipe for buttered carrots, taken from these pages, dates back two centuries.

In 1964, Esther Aresty documented the history of European and American cuisine in her account The Delectable Past, from which I got my above information. Here she improved on this delicious recipe from Le Cuisinier by pureeing this vegetable in a food mill.  I have augmented her outstanding method with easy, modernized, 21st century steps, utilizing a food processor.

You’ll be immensely pleased with this memorable dish; a comfort food of all comfort foods!

Carrots au Beurre  Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s  The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields 4 servings.  Total prep time: 50 min./  active prep time: 20 min./  cooking time: 45 min.   Note: may make this the day before, as flavors are better the second day; double recipe for great leftovers.

½ cup pecan pieces

1 pound carrots  (Organic  carrots are very inexpensive.)

2 cups green beans  (Use either fresh or frozen;  excellent French-cut beans are available in Trader Joe’s freezer.)

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste

Butter or coconut spray  (Needed for oiling pan, if making ahead and refrigerating.)

  1. Preheat oven to 265 degrees. Roast pecans on a small cookie sheet for about 40 minutes, or until light brown, when piece is broken; set aside.
  2. Spray carrots with 97% distilled white vinegar mixed with 3% hydrogen peroxide, an inexpensive effective produce spray; let sit three minutes; rinse thoroughly; scrape with a sharp knife (scraping, as opposed to peeling, saves the vitamins which are just under the skin).  Cut into 1 inch pieces; if the carrot piece is thick, cut it in half.
  3. Cover cut vegetable with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium/high heat, lower heat to medium, and cook until soft.
  4. Meantime steam green beans in a medium saucepan.  (If you are making carrots ahead, prepare green beans during last half hour of  the reheating of carrot dish in oven.)
  5. Place the hot, drained, soft carrots in a food processor; add cream, butter, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; blend until carrots are a smooth mixture, stopping once to scrape down sides.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  (IF preparing ahead, butter a baking dish large enough to hold recipe; then, place pureed vegetable in it; cover well with tin foil; refrigerate; reheat in 350 degree oven 1 1/2 hours before serving.)
  6. Place hot pureed carrots in the center of a vegetable platter, surround with green beans, and top with roasted pecans.

Chicken a l’Oignon

Preparation of Chicken a l'Oignon

preparation of Chicken a l’Oignon

I will be giving easy recipes for a complete 19th century French dinner over the next three posts.  The main entrée for this meal is Chicken a l’Oignon (chicken with onion); this receipt was created by Louis Eustache Ude, chef to King Louis XVI, at the time of the French Revolution.

Our chef of renown escaped France during the tumult and moved to England; here he wrote the cookbook The French Cook, published in 1813.  His English was poor; thus, he lapsed into his native tongue when he couldn’t recall the proper English words; the title Chicken a l’Oignon demonstrates this trait of Ude.

His food preparations tended to be very simple and exceptionally elegant, of which the following is a perfect example.  Here thinly sliced onion is stuffed under the skin over the breast meat of a roaster; you do this by gently making a cavity under the skin with your hand; hence, the onion juices seep into this succulent meat, as it is roasted to perfection.  The results are tantalizing!

The ease with which you make this dish will astound you. Trust me it will become a family favorite.

Be sure to save the carcass for bone broth; instructions for this are given in Tortellini Sausage Soup; meanwhile freeze your leftover carcasses, until you have the needed three for the recipe.

Note: Bone broth is a power food, extremely high in protein; it is packed with nutrients that aid the digestive system and build up your adrenal glands; one cup of regular chicken stock has one gram of protein, while one cup of bone broth has nine grams of this essential food item!  The manner of preparation makes all the difference in producing these two diverse broths.  Buying prepared bone broth is highly expensive, while making your own is practically free!

Chicken a l’Oignon   Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields about 5 servings.  Total prep time: about 2 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: about 1 3/4 hr/  inactive prep time: 15 min.

4 ½-5 pound chicken  (Foster Farms is all-natural and inexpensive.)

1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly

Spray oil

Salt and pepper  (Real Salt is best; available in the health section of your local supermarket.)

Steamed brown rice  (I prefer basmati brown rice.)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Wash the inside of the chicken.  (Note: it isn’t necessary to wash meat, which is cut; only whole fowl, where blood is caught inside the carcass.)
  3. Cut off excess fat at neck; salt and pepper inside of chicken.
  4. Gently working your hand under the skin, make a cavity between the skin and the breast meat.  Go down into the thigh meat with your fingers, being careful to not tear skin.
  5. Gently stuff onion slices in the cavity over the breast meat, pushing them down over the thigh meat area by the legs.
  6. Using a cheap, canola spray oil, thoroughly spray the inside and top (also the underside of upper rack and edges) of a broiler pan; this makes cleaning extremely easy!
  7. Place chicken on pan, salt and pepper generously.
  8. Put in oven, reducing heat to 350 degrees immediately.  Bake for 20 minutes for each pound; temperature should be 165 degrees when done-legs should move fairly freely and juices should come forth, when skin is pierced.
  9. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
  10. Serve with steamed brown rice.

1960s French Dinner

Cotes de porc braises a la moutarde

cotes de porc braisees a la moutarde

I have a repertoire of what I call my childhood recipes, of which the following is one of my favorites.  It stretches my imagination every time I eat it: I can hardly believe that food tastes this good!

My Culinary Heritage

My mother taught me so much about cooking; she was excellent at this endeavor in her day.  My mentor exercised her expertise with hospitality in our home, rather than in our family restaurant, inspiring me to follow in her footsteps with her extensive gourmet preparations.

The passing on of tradition from generation to generation is so important.  I’ve never married, but I have a vast quiver full of spiritual children-more than I can count!  Thus, I have a desire to give them what was so freely given to me, which is wisdom.  I gaze at this precise diamond through the perspective of food, with all its joys and health-providing benefits.  I am so grateful to God, my parents, and my entire family for this knowledge that was birthed in me.

Childhood Comfort Foods

We all identify with comfort foods, especially those from our youth.  I will offer numerous ones, with which my mother nurtured our family’s souls.  Cotes de porc braisees a la moutarde is my first choice in this marvelous journey into the past.

Time-Life Books Foods of the World

Time-Life Books put out a series of cook books entitled Foods of the World, showcasing the cuisines of numerous countries in the mid-twentieth century.  Mom subscribed to these superb sequel; my family and our guests experienced incredible pleasure as a result.  Hence I grew to appreciate the world, through its food in the confines of my home at a very young age.  This instilled an appetite in me, which was gratified in my twenties and thirties, when I went to the nations to study their eating habits.

Receipts for Braised Pork Chops

For another great pork recipe, using cream and mustard, inspired by Julia Child, see Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette.

I have greatly simplified the following recipe for pork loin chops from its original complex detail in Time-Life Books.  My version is uncomplicated and literally explodes with unforgettable flavor!  Enjoy…

Cotes de Porc Braisees a la Moutarde  Yields: 4 servings.  This recipe is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of Provincial France, M.F.K. Fisher and the Editors (New York: Time-Life Books, 1968).

4 center-cut, boneless pork loin chops, about 1 1/4″ thick

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

flour for dusting meat

2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 lg yellow onion sliced, about 2 c of 1/8″ slices

3 tbsp wine vinegar

3/4 c heavy cream

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp lemon juice

Serve with brown rice  (My favorite is brown basmati rice; available at Trader Joe’s.)

  1. Heat butter and oil in a large, heavy skillet, over medium heat.  Wash pork chops and lightly pat dry; salt and pepper generously.  Dredge in flour, shaking off all excess.  Sautee in hot oil for 2 minutes on each side; do not overcook. Remove from pan; set aside.
  2. Add onions to pan, stirring in pan drippings well.  Sweat onions (cook until translucent).  Add vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan; cook until most of moisture is gone.
  3. Add cream.  Stir well and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Place pork chops in onion mixture, coating well with onions/sauce.
  4. Cook until pork chops are hot; do not overcook.
  5. Take off heat; stir in mustard and lemon juice, mixing into the onions by moving around the chops with a spatula or spoon.  Adjust seasonings.
  6. Serve immediately with steamed rice and be wowed!

Cocoa Bread from 1920’s Portland, Oregon

Roaring twenties' cocoa bread

‘roaring twenties’ cocoa bread and fresh rosemary loaf

The spell-binding Cupid’s Book was a cookbook published twice in this city of roses in the 1920’s.  The downtown retailers enticed the brides-to-be into their shops with colorful advertisements, bountiful recipes, and good instructions on how to be a wife in these two editions.

The recipe for cocoa bread is the best of this collection.  It is a slice of heaven!  Unsweetened cocoa powder lends a flavor to this yeast loaf that makes one think of pumpernickel, with the first bite.  Hints of chocolate surface as one experiences it further.

I discovered this blessing, while I was researching at the Oregon History Center’s excellent library, during my graduate work.  1991 marked the completion of  my Master’s Degree, at which point I had exhausted every inkling to food in this archive.  My 114 page thesis, which they have on file,  closely documents the library’s details on nutrition.  It was here that I found the two romantic cook books appropriately named Cupid’s Book.

Bread is the staff of life!  It sustains one’s soul when made with love from scratch.  I grind the flour for all my bread from organic hard red spring wheat berries.  My understanding is these-of all the wheat berries-have the highest content of protein.  One serving has 7 grams of this compound, the same as an egg.

The superb quality of the freshly ground flour allows the bread to last for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.  It is, however, necessary to wrap it in paper towel to absorb the moisture, which keeps it from molding; always store the bread in an air tight storage bag.  Toasting it brings out optimum freshness.

Making bread with a food processor is quick and mess-free.  I encourage you to venture out using my technique; learning this will bless you with easy, homemade bread forever.

Be nourished by the baking and eating of this luscious loaf.!  Also recommended is my receipt for chocolate scones (see chocolate scones).

bread dough in food processor

bread dough after kneading twice in processor

Cocoa Bread  This is adapted from a recipe in Cupid’s Book (Portland, Oregon: Oregon History Center, 1921, 1925). Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1/4 c tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1  individual package active dry yeast  (May use 3 level tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, available in a 2 lb package at Costco, which keeps well sealed in the freezer.  Yeast is best at room temperature for proofing.)

1/3 c, plus 1/4 tsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is ideal; available at Trader Joe’s in 2 lb package, or less expensive at Costco in 10 lb package.)

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality.)

1 1/2 c unbleached white flour  (You may grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 c of flour.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 1/4-1 1/2 c tepid milk, 110-115 degrees  (May use alternative milks, such as hazelnut or almond.)

3 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do, for oiling the inside of a 13-gallon plastic bag.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water.  Let sit until it foams, looks creamy, and is nearly doubled in size, about 10 minutes.
  2. In an 11-c-or-larger food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. dough after first kneading of 35 seconds

    Add yeast mixture and 1 1/2 c milk to flour mixture (only 1 1/4 c milk will be needed, however, if grinding your own flour, as the grind is coarser and doesn’t absorb as much liquid.)  Knead for 35 seconds, see photo.

  4. Let rest for 4 minutes; then, knead one more time for 35 seconds (see photo at top of recipe). Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.
  5. dough after kneading by hand

    Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth (see photo).  This process is relatively foolproof, but if dough is too wet and sticky, add flour to board to facilitate kneading; it helps to wash hands, if dough is sticking to them.  Dough should be firm, elastic, and smooth to the touch after kneading.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead easily, place in machine, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  Repeat this last step, if needed, until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough as not to overheat.  It should be firm and satiny smooth when finished kneading by hand.

  6. Place in a 13-gallon plastic bag, in which several  tbsp of oil are evenly distributed. Let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes, or until double.  (Only if you’re grinding your own flour, punch dough down and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes. for lighter bread with coarser freshly ground flour.)
  7. Punch down and form into a loaf.  Place in a bread pan sprayed with oil; loosely drape a piece of plastic wrap also sprayed with oil over loaf.
  8. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  9. Important: 30 minutes into the last rising process preheat oven to 400 degrees; this insures oven is ready when bread has fully risen.
  10. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  11. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!