Month: July 2017

Test Kitchen, Round 1

When the theme for this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge at War Practice was announced, I was struck with inspiration: “Modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion.” All entries on the table had to be from roughly the same time period and within reasonable cultural distance. Somehow, modern-traditional Polish dinners (without tomatoes and potatoes, of course) came to mind: stuffed cabbage rolls, rice or noodles, and mushrooms of some sort. I began researching and found what I wanted (mostly) within two books: Ouverture de Cuisine (1604 France) and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570 Italy). Not the closest, per se, but close enough — especially as I didn’t end up entering the competition anyway due to logistics. But I couldn’t get this menu out of my mind, so I planned a test kitchen night and had some of my favorite guinea pigs friends over.

First Remove
Stuffed Eggs
Salad
Cream of Mushroom Soup

Second Remove
Stuffed Cabbage
Rice

Third Remove
White Roman Tart

Advertisements

To make Dutch rice

While on my quest for a rice dish to accompany my stuffed cabbages, I couldn’t find many recipes that weren’t sweetened, and I had really been wanting savory rice for this menu. The recipe I settled on (and ultimately omitted the sugar from) was from Gent KANTL 15, a late 15th century/early 16th century Dutch cookbook, as translated by Christianne Muusers.

2.145 Om rijst te maken

Men moet rijst nemen en week het goed en droog het bij het vuur. Dan moet men een grote aardewerken pot nemen die schoon is. Dan moet men die in het vuur zetten met vleesnat dat niet te zout is en dat de pot niet al te veel vult (?). Schuim dan als het dik is af, en dan moet men de kruiderij erin doen. Dat is suiker, gember, kaneel, saffraan [en] langepeper. Dit is rijst op een vleesdag. Is het een gerecht op de visdag, dan moet men amandelmelk nemen in plaats van vleesnat. Vertrouw op uw smaak. Voor elke gelt [vocht] een half pond rijst en een half pond suiker.

2.145 To make rice

Take rice and steep it well and dry it near the fire. Then take a large, clean earthenware pot. Then put it in the fire with meat stock that is not too salty and does not fill the pot too much (?). Remove the froth ehan it is thick, and then add the spices. That is sugar, ginger, cinnamon, saffron and long pepper. This is rice on a meat day. Is it a dish on a fish day, then one must use almond milk instead of meat stock. Trust your own taste. For every gelt [liquid] a half pound rice and a half pound sugar.

I boiled 1 part white rice in 2 parts beef stock with drippings from the meat mixture I’d prepared for the stuffed cabbages, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. I omitted saffron and long pepper due to cost, opting for black pepper as a substitution for long pepper, though I know the taste is much different, due to it being on hand.

Stuffed Eggs, in a French Style

While browsing through Ouverture de Cuisine, I found another recipe for stuffed eggs and decided to add it to the menu with the stuffed cabbages. I substituted the raw egg yolks for mayonnaise for a smoother, creamier consistency, and skipped the sweet and sour sauce.

As an aside, as I look at this transcription, I realize that there’s not much more I can add to or otherwise modernize here; stuffed/deviled eggs don’t get much easier than this. I always make egg-filling to taste, so the best I can advise is to have fun!

To make stuffed eggs.

Make to boil eggs hard, & cut them in two pieces: then take the yolks out of both sides, & chop very finely with parsley, marjoram, a little salt, & put therein the yolks of raw eggs, chop it well together: then refill the whites with this: afterwards frying them in butter, then make a little batter thereon, that is sweet & sour, & serve so.

Stuffed Cabbages

Next up is stuffed cabbages from Ouverture de Cuisine!

I initially went searching for this recipe when this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge theme was announced — modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion. The first thing that came to mind was a traditional Polish dinner: stuffed cabbage rolls, noodles or rice, and mushrooms of some sort. My research lead me to Ouverture de Cuisine and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, but I was struck with inspiration while reading. While Scappi’s cookbook did indeed have cabbage rolls, why in the world should I stop there when both cookbooks had recipes for whole stuffed cabbages?

To make a stuffed cabbage.

Take a red cabbage that is not too large, & put it to boil whole sweetly, & leave it so a long time that you can open the leaves the one behind the other, while the leaves of the cabbage are large like a fist, cut that out, & put chopped meat therein that it will be arrayed like the other meats with eggs & spices, & then layer the cabbage with the leaves all around, that it will be well bound, & put it to cook, sausages with, or that which you want.

Though Scappi is specific about boiling his stuffed cabbages in meat broth or water, de Casteau is more vague. I took the opportunity to boil it as I prefer: in beef broth, red wine, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. For the first boil, I let it go for about 20-30min at a full boil while I prepared a meat mixture of ground beef, garlic, and onions with sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, bound after cooling with egg. This meat mixture is the base of my meatballs, and I figured would be suitable for a trial run of this cabbage.

And then the fun began..

Peeling the outer layers was tricky at first, but the closer I got to the core, the cooler the cabbage became, and I was very surprised that it was still cold at the center. I carefully cut the heart of the cabbage out, then replaced it with a large handful of ground beef mixture.

After folding the first layer of leaves back over it, I put in another layer of meat, folded the next layer on, and put in the last layer of beef before folding the rest of the leaves back. I wrapped the whole cabbage in twine, then set it back to boiling for another 20-30 min in the wine and vinegar that I’d refreshed with a bit more of all ingredients.

The result was beautiful and tasty. It was a bit of a pain to cut and serve, so perhaps decorative pennants on skewers may be part of the serving plan next time.

White Roman Tart ala Ouverture de Cuisine

 

I found the rough translation of Ouverture de Cuisine (1604) over at Medieval Cookery as I was researching some late-medieval/Renaissance fare, and I kindof fell in love with this cookbook. One of the top reasons being this tart.

The transcription by Thomas Gloning et. al reads:

Pour faire tourte blanche a la Romaine.

Prennez vne liure de blanc fromage de creme, puis prennez le blanc de six oeufs, & le battez longuement qu’il le face escumer dessus comme vne neige, & laissez vn peu reposer sans battre, puis prennez l’escume de dessus, & le iettés dedans le fromage, puis rebattés encor le blanc de rechef qu’ilface [>qu’il_face] encor escumer comme le premier, & iettés sur le fromage, & faictes encor deux ou trois fois ainsi, puis prennés deux onces de beurre fondu, vn peu de gingembre, vn peu de basilicque hasché, & faictes tourte, & cuire comme les autres.

The translation at Medieval Cookery falls in line with what I would expect from the transcription, with what I remember of French:

To make a white Roman tart.

Take a pound of white cheese of cream, then take the whites of six eggs, & beat then well until a foam forms on the surface like snow, & let a little stay in without beating, then take the foam from thereon, & cast it into the cheese, then beat the whites at the top until again foam forms on the surface like the first time, & cast onto the cheese, & make again two or three times as such, then take two ounces of melted butter, a little ginger, a little chopped basil, & make the tart, & cook like the others.

This reads to me like beautiful, light, and fluffy cheesecake. So, I made it. The first time I made it was at home, with a gluten-free pie crust to serve to friends, and the second time was at the July Althing in Port Oasis, with the assistance of three awesome folks!

The recipe is fairly straight-forward, but I did make a few changes to accommodate what I wanted this to be (– adding sugar, omitting butter, using Philadelphia cream cheese). I also didn’t have a controlled test oven — the first time, our power went out after this had been in for about 10 minutes, but sustained plenty of heat to finish baking at 40 minutes. The second time was with a convection oven, which I’m not so familiar with using, and I had to actively monitor and adjust temperature.


White Roman Tart

16oz cream cheese (2 bricks)
6 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
Grated ginger
Fresh basil, finely chopped
Prepared deep dish pie crush

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar in a food processor, until smooth.
  3. Separate the eggs — yolks into the food processor and whites into a separate bowl. Pulse the cream cheese mixture until the yolks are fully incorporated, then pour into a bowl. Fold in about 3 or 4 large pinches each of ginger and basil, then set aside.
  4. Use electric mixer or whisk to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold this into the cream cheese mixture, then pour into the prepared pie crust.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until firm in the middle.
  6. For a more dense consistency like modern cheesecake, serve chilled. For a more custard-like consistency, serve hot.