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Le Menagier de Paris
by THL Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova and the Dragonsspine Cooks Guild
For the Coronation Feast of Their Outlandish Majesties Torin and Elisheva, the Dragonsspine Cooks Guild decided to create a feast from Le Menagier de Paris. I was asked to be the head cook, and the entire guild worked to test various recipes, both privately and at our monthly Cooks Guild meetings, and to prepare the feast on the day of the event.
The guild wanted to create a feast from a single time period and country. Since much of our previous work had been from English or Italian sources, we settled on France in the early Renaissance. Our source for the feast is a late 14th century manuscript known as Le Menagier de Paris. The term "le menagier" is usually translated as "the goodman" or "the householder" of Paris. The book was written around 1395 by an elderly merchant of Paris as a book of instruction for his new, 16-year-old wife. He wanted her to be able to manage the household in his absence, to control the servants, to see that the meals were cooked, and to conduct herself with fitting decorum so that neither her family (minor nobility) or his own would be able to find fault with her. He writes out for her a wide variety of recipes and cooking hints along with lists of dishes appropriate to serve for different courses of different meals.
All of the original recipes used in creating this feast are from this source, with the single exception of the Hedgehogs. Although hedgehogs are mentioned in Le Menagier, we had to go to an alternate period cookbook Le Viandier de Taillevent for the actual recipe. Since this second source is also French and from approximately the same period, we felt that it did not alter the intent of the meal.
I used two translations of Le Menagier de Paris, one by Eileen Power and the other by Janet Hinson. I obtained the Eileen Power translation through interlibrary loan at the Colorado College Library. The Hinson translation is published in Duke Cariadoc's collection of early cookbooks. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain an edition in the original French, but by comparing the two translations, I felt that the guild was able to come up with sufficient information to do constructive work.
Bread & Herbed Olive Oil
"MUSHROOMS of one night are the best and they are little and red within and closed at the top; and they must be peeled and then washed in hot water and parboiled and if you wish to put them in a pasty add oil, cheese and spice powder. Item, put them between two dishes on the coals and then add a little salt, cheese and spice powder."Redaction by Lady Cordelia fitzRobert of York
Makes 24 pasties (which should be enough for two tables - but never is...)
1 lb mushrooms
Bring pot of lightly salted water to boil. Clean and trim mushrooms. Lightly parboil them in boiling water (30 seconds). Drain mushrooms, pat dry and chop or slice them thinly. Add oil, cheese and seasonings. Mix to blend. Allow to marinate overnight in refrigerator. Cut out 48 2" round pie crusts. Line cup cake tins with half of the pie crusts, pierce with fork. Fill prepared pie crusts almost full. Top with reserved pie crust rounds. (to seal a beaten egg brushed around the edges works really well). Pierce top once to vent. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
"CABBAGES be of five sorts; the best are those that have been touched with frost and they are tender and soon cooked; and in frosty weather they must not be parboiled, but in rainy weather they must. White cabbages come at the end of August. Cabbage hearts at the end of the grape harvest. And when the heart of the cabbage, which is in the midst, is plucked off, you pull up the stump of the cabbage and replant it in fresh earth, and there will come forth from it big spreading leaves; and the cabbage takes a great deal of room and these cabbage hearts be called Roman cabbages and they are eaten in winter; and when the stumps are replanted, there grow out of them little cabbages which are called sprouts and which are eaten with raw herbs and vinegar; and if you have plenty, they are good with the outer leaves removed and then washed in warm water and cooked whole in a little water; and then when they are cooked add salt and oil and serve them very thick, without water, and put olive oil over them in Lent."Redaction by Lady Branwyn ni Ceallaigh
Serves 12-15 people (usually enough for two tables)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in a sauce pan, heat to boiling. Simmer, covered, until tender and place in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight.
"Cut up the coarsest, and this is the flank; and cook it in water, then grind in a piece of ginger and some saffron, and add verjuice, wine and vinegar."Redaction by THL Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova
Serves 16 people (approximately two tables)
2 1/4 lbs. leg of lamb (weight includes bone), cubed
Boil the cubed lamb meat and the leg bone in the chicken stock. Cook it thoroughly over medium heat, until the meat is very tender. Remove the bone. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer until the flavors are well blended.
Chicken with Rosewater
"In summer the sauce for a roast chicken is half vinegar, half rose-water, and chilled, etc. Item, orange juice is good with this."Redaction by THL Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova
Sauce for 2 chickens
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
The lemon juice is added to this because medieval oranges were not as sweet as most modern ones. Mix the sauce ingredients with juices from the roasting pan and pour over the chicken before serving.
"MUST FOR YOUNG CAPONS Take new and black grapes and crush them in a mortar and boil them once and then run them through a strainer; and then sprinkle spice powder over them, a little ginger and more cinnamon, or cinnamon alone, because that is better, and mix a little in a silver spoon and throw therein little crusts, or brayed bread, or eggs or chestnuts to bind it; brown sugar and serve forth. Item, if you want to make this sauce after St. John's Day and before that there be any grapes, you must make it of cherries, wild cherries, quinces, mulberry wine, with powder of cinnamon and no ginger or very little, boil as above and then sprinkle sugar thereon. Item, after that no more grapes are to be had, as in November, the must is made of wild sloes, with the stones taken out, then brayed or broken up in the mortar, boiled with the shells, strained, spice powder added and the rest as above."
Redaction by Baron Eric Edmundsson
Equal portions of green & black grapes
(2 2/3 cups made 1 cup juice)1/8 tsp (or more) garam masala
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs bread crumbs
Place juice in saucepan on low, add spices, and whisk in bread crumbs. Bring to a boil and allow to thicken slightly. Adjust seasoning. If using plums, place crushed plums in pan and cook until plums become tender and most of the juice has been extracted. Strain. Add bread crumbs and spices and heat to boiling, allow to thicken.
Candied Orange Peel
"To MAKE CANDIED ORANGE PEEL, cut the peel of an orange into five pieces and scrape away the loose skin inside with a knife, then set them to soak in good, fresh water for nine days and change the water daily; then boil them, letting them come once to the boil only, in fresh water, and this done, spread them on a cloth and let them dry thoroughly, then put them in a pot of honey until they be quite covered therewith, and boil on a slow fire and skim. And when you think that the honey is cooked (to try if it be cooked, have some water in a spoon, and pour a drop of the honey into the water and if it spreads it is not done, and if the drop of honey remains in the water without spreading, then it is done), then you must take out your pieces of orange peel and set out a layer in order and sprinkle ginger powder thereon, then another layer, and sprinkle etc., and so on; and leave them for a month or more and then eat them."Candied Orange Peel (adapted from several modern recipes)
With sharp knife, score the peel of 2 large oranges into quarters. Remove peel gently with fingers. Heat orange peel and 6 cups water to boiling (1 tsp salt may be added to 1st boiling only). Simmer 30 minutes; drain. Repeat process, cooking peel in another 6 cups water. With spoon, gently scrape off remaining white membrane from peel. Cut peel lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips. Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup hot water and 1/4 cup honey. Place over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add orange peel and cook to 230¡ (very soft ball) when syrup will be nearly absorbed and peel will be clear. Drain and roll in granulated sugar and ginger. It is important to note that at high altitudes the soft ball stage will be reached at a lower temperature, so use the cold water test rather than relying solely on a candy thermometer.
"TAILLIS to serve in Lent. Take fine raisins, boiled milk of almonds, scalded, cakes and crusts of white bread and apples cut into small cubes and boil your milk and add saffron to colour it and sugar and put all in together until it is thick enough to be cut. It is served in Lent, instead of rice."Redaction by Mistress Elaina de Sinistre
To make a taillis large enough to slice for two tables of eight (16 to 20 slices):
Although 'cakes' in period would have been sweetened yeast cakes or shortbreads, I go ahead and use some pound cake or angelfood cake in my breadcrumbs for the additional sweetness. Leave these out if you choose, or if you object to the leavening in them.
I have tried leaving the almonds in rather than straining them out, but do not like the grainy texture that this gives to the finished product.
This makes a nice, make-ahead dish for a feast. The slices are moist, but hold their shape. The flavor is mild and pleasant - rather reminiscent of a slice of Christmas pudding but less rich and less spicy.
"Item, hedgehogs are made with mutton, and this is very expensive and a lot of work with poor returns and little profit, so no more of this."Despite what Le Menagier has to say about hedgehogs, we felt that it was worth the effort, and so compiled recipes from other sources.
From Le Viandier de Taillevent (French, circa 1390)
"HedgehogsThis recipe seems to be incomplete as it does not mention how to cook the hedgehog, or anything about decorating it with almonds. It is the almonds sticking out of it that make it resemble a hedgehog, so it seems likely that this part of the recipe was somehow omitted.
From Harlein MS. 279 (English, circa 1420)
"YrchounsRather than making one giant sausage in a pig or sheep stomach, our redaction uses spiced meat formed into a loaf which is shaped and decorated to resemble a hedgehog. The eggs and bread crumbs are added to bind the meat together, and give it more substance. In Le Menagier, egg whites are used to bind meatballs in one recipe, indicating that this is a period technique.
Redaction by Baroness Miranda MacTyre and THL Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova
Moisten meat, bread crumbs and seasoning with beaten eggs, mixing thoroughly. Shape into 2 hedgehogs, using 1/2 of mixture for each. Decorate with almonds, currents and juniper berries. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or until internal temperature reaches about 120 degrees. Uncover, poke a few deep holes in the top to allow some of the grease out, and brown for 15-20 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
"WHITE BREWET (BROUET BLANC). Take capons, pullets or chickens killed the due time beforehand, either whole or in halves or quarters, and slices of veal and cook them with bacon in water and wine and when they be cooked take them off, and then take almonds and peel and bray them and moisten them with sewe from your birds, and let it be as clear as may be, with no dregs nor any thickness, and then run it through the strainer; then take white ginger, pared or peeled, with grain of Paradise moistened as above, and run them through a very fine sieve and mix with milk of almonds And if it be not thick enough, then run in flour of amidon or rice boiled and add a drop of verjuice and put therein great plenty of white sugar. And when you have served it forth, powder thereon a spice that is hight red coriander and set pomegranate seeds with comfits and fried almonds round the edge of each bowl. See hereafter concerning this under Blankmanger.Redaction by Baroness Miranda MacTyre
serves one table of 8-10
1 chicken breast, poached cooled and shredded
1 c. uncooked rice
1/2 cup (2 ounces) ground almonds
3 c. chicken stock
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp grains of paradise
1 to 2 Tbs. soured red wine (let it stand out for a little while)
Cover rice w/ water and let stand 15 minutes. Cover almonds with stock and let stand 15 minutes. Drain rice and add to chicken and almonds and broth. Add 1 Tbs. fat skimmed from the stock if necessary, and spices. Cook, stirring carefully (this is easy to burn!) until rice is tender.
"Towards All Saints' Day [Nov. 1st] take large turnips and peel them and cut them into four pieces and set them to cook in water ; and when they have been cooking for a short while, take them out and put them in cold water to make them tender, and then set them to drain; and take honey and melt it as you did for the nuts, and be careful not to cook your turnips too long."(from the nut recipe mentioned above)
"Melt a sester of honey, or as much as shall suffice to steep them all therein and let it be liquid and well skimmed; and when it shall have cooled until it is just warm, put your nuts therein."Redaction by the Dragonsspine Cooks Guild
Three pears (quartered) usually serve one table.
Take ripe d'Anjou pears and cut them into quarters, removing the core. Parboil them in boiling water until they are just tender (1-2 minutes). Place them in cold water to stop the cooking. Meanwhile, heat honey to nearly boiling but do not let it actually boil. Skim off the white scum that rises to the top, and continue skimming until very little foam rises up. Allow the honey to cool until it is cool enough to touch, then dip the pears into it, and serve.
"There is a kind of porray called spinach and it has longer leaves, thinner and greener than common porray and it is eaten at the beginning of Lent. Black porray is made with spiced strips of bacon to wit the porray is picked over, washed, then cut up and blanched in boiling water, then fried in the fat of bacon slices; then do you moisten it with boiling water (and some say that if it be washed in cold water it is darker and more black) and you must set upon each bowl two slices of bacon."Redaction by Lady Ilana Amante
3/4 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned
Blanch the spinach in water until it is not quite tender. Drain, then remove excess water with paper towels. Slice the bacon strips in half and cook with the spices. Set the bacon aside, reserving the grease. Fry the spinach in a small amount of bacon grease until it is tender and dark in color. Serve with two half strips of bacon per person.