Something I’ve loved for a very long time is cooking.
Something I’ve loved only slightly less long is historical recipes.
When I started this blog I had it in my head that I would eventually write about food, the (sometimes crazy) recipes I try, and the old cookbooks that I collect. Last year I took some pictures for a couple of blog posts that I never wrote and kept on blogging about sewing. Well, last night I came across the Historical Food Fortnightly which kicked me into gear! I’m sliding in right under the deadline to complete the first challenge.
So without further ado, I present the latest addition to Trumpets & Trimmings: food!
The first prompt is “Meat and Potatoes” – “They’re a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables – and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic “meat-and-potatoes” recipe – however you interpret it.”
I chose to interpret it quite literally – selecting a recipe that had meat and potatoes in it. Looking in my freezer at the end of the week, my only meat option was chicken so chicken it was!
The recipe I chose comes from “Cookery for Today” which was published by Butterick Publishing Company in 1932.
Chicken en Casserole
Butter, salad oil, or other fat
1 pint (2 cups) rich brown stock
12 button mushrooms
12 potato balls
1 carrot, sliced
6 small onions
salt, pepper, paprika
Wash the chicken and cut it up. Sauté the pieces in a little fat until well browned on all sides. Place in a greased casserole, add brown stock, cover and cook in a slow to moderate oven (350 F°.) for an hour.
When the chicken has been cooking for an hour, sauté the carrot slices, the potato balls, the onions and the mushrooms in a little fat, stirring them lightly around until they are well browned. Put these with the chicken in the casserole, season with salt, pepper and paprika, add more salt if needed, cover and cook for three-fourths of an hour, then remove the cover and allow the chicken to brown before serving.
The first derivation from the recipe was the fact that I didn’t have a whole chicken to cut up. I used frozen chicken breasts which I defrosted in the microwave – certainly not a 1932 technique. Second, I only had rather large onions so I ended up using three and cut them into large chunks. Plus I didn’t have a large frypan (it had to be thrown away recently) so I was stuck with a small sauté pan which meant that I had to cook things in rounds.
As for the potato balls? I had heard of them before but had no idea how to make them so I looked back a few pages to the potato section and based them off a recipe there called “Potato Drops.”
2 cups mashed potatoes (without any milk)
salt and pepper
Mix the potato and the beaten eggs. Drop the mixture from a spoon into the hot fat and fry until a golden brown, the drain on brown paper and serve with a garnish of parsley. If the spoon is dipped in boiling water after every using, each drop will retain the shape of the spoon.
I used six smallish potatoes, thinking that I could get at least 2 balls out of each one, two eggs, and salt and pepper. I formed them with an ice cream scoop, frying them in butter. The pan heated too quickly and they started to burn so I didn’t cook them in the oil as long as I could have so later on they started to lose their shape.
In the end, though, the dish came together quite nicely! The chicken was very flavorful and the vegetables tasted good. The potatoes were amazing – definitely my favorite part. I thought they were going to taste plain or dry but I think that cooking them in the broth in the pan gave them such great flavor.
A note about time – I cooked the chicken in the oven for about 40 minutes instead of an hour and the whole casserole was in there for more like 20 minutes instead of 45 at the end. The smaller pieces of chicken cooked faster than the recipe intended. I will say that I started to run out of time about halfway though (multiple batches in small pans) so the vegetables could have stood to be cooked longer. The carrots were still a bit crunchy which actually tasted pretty good.
The Challenge: Meat and Potatoes
The Recipe: Chicken en Casserole from “Cookery for Today”
The Date/Year and Region: 1932, American
How Did You Make It: Brown the chicken then continue cooking in the oven. Halfway through brown the vegetables and potato balls. Add to casserole dish and continue baking.
Time to Complete: 2 hours
Total Cost: Chicken ($5), vegetables and potatoes (~$1) so about $6 overall.
How Successful Was It?: Tasted great! I could have cooked the veggies more.
How Accurate Is It?: I’d say 60%. I made a few modifications to the ingredients because of what I had available on short notice and I cooked it using modern tools and conveniences (microwave, timer, etc).
It served five adults and got excellent reviews from all. So, first challenge completed right in the nick of time! As of right now my goal is to complete all of them so back to the kitchen I go!