Sunday, March 6, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge 2016, No. 5: Roasts

The Challenge:
Roasts (February 26 - March 10) They’re a staple of the historic table, in many different shapes and forms and types. It’s also a cooking technique. Try a historic recipe for a roast, or a recipe that involves roasting, and tell us how it turned out.

If the fellow foodies will remember, I've set an additional challenge to interpret dishes that are listed as served at the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. This makes my choice for the Roasts challenge a foregone conclusion: Grouse.
Well, a search of the available markets proves that grouse is one of the game meats that is prohibitively expensive here in the US. For those of us who still want an authentic 19th century meal, I set about finding a more readily available substitute. According to the Cook's Thesaurus, a Cornish game hen would lend the right spirit.

So, I present Roasted Cornish Game Hen in the manner of Roasted Grouse.

The Recipe:
From: Directions for Cookery, In it's various branches by Eliza Leslie, 1840

To Roast Pheasants, Partridges, Quails, or Grouse.
--Pick and draw the birds immediately after they are brought in. Before you roast them, fill the inside with pieces of a fine ripe orange, leaving out the rind and seeds. Or stuff them with grated cold ham, mixed with bread-crumbs, butter, and a little yolk of egg. Lard them with small slips of the fat of bacon drawn through the flesh with a larding needle. Roast them before a clear fire.

Make a fine rich gravy of the trimmings of meat or poultry, stewed in a little water, and thickened with a spoonful of browned flour. Strain it, and set it on the fire again, having added half a pint of claret, and the juice of two large oranges. Simmer it for a few minutes, pour some of it into the dish with the game, and serve the remainder in a boat.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1830-1870, Mid-Atlantic US

How Did You Make It:
I thawed the frozen hens for 48 hours in the fridge and another 30 minutes in a warm water bath. They still had some ice in the gut cavity.
I pre-heated the oven to 375*.
I peeled the oranges and pierced the slices.
I placed the slices in the cavity.

I attempted the "larding" with a knife and finger, since I didn't have a larding tool. The results were laughable. I threaded the bacon fat under the skin close to the meat.

I roasted the hens for 60 minutes.

Time to Complete: 
About 90 Minutes

Total Cost: 
About $14.00

How Successful Was It: 
I got everything from "This is delicious." to "Hen is yucky." Most were on the side of "delicious" so I would say the overall process was a success. The larding clearly requires a specialty tool and I am now on the search for a period correct one. :-p

How Accurate Was It: 
Well, for what it was, it was quite accurate. :-p The larding was not done as directed, but was done in the spirit of the technique,  and I used a substitute for grouse for a recipe that suggests almost any fowl would serve. I'd say 75% accurate.

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