Saturday, August 23, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: #6 Seasonal Fruit/Veggies

6. Seasonal Fruits/Vegetables
Concoct a dish based on the fruits and/or vegetables that would have been in season and available to the particular time you wish to interpret. It needn’t be the place you are in at this moment, but it should coincide with the season!

Lemons!!! Lemons are sort of an almost year around crop in southern Italy but they tend to be "best" from the end of July until October. Knowing that I wanted to do lemons for this HFF, I looked up recipes with lemons in Italy.

Lemon Sauce for Chickens or Capons. Get one or more chickens, capons or cockerels that have been cooked a little in water; take them out of the water and mount them on a spit; then get peeled, well ground almonds and temper them with the bouillon of the chickens; then get lemon juice and mix it all together with good spices; and put it into a saucepan to cook a little; then pour it over the roast with a little fat; serve it very hot.

Okay so, lemons, almond milk made with chicken broth again, "good spices" and chicken.  This sounds...strangely normal.  Basically, it sounds like grilled chicken with a creamy lemon sauce.  However, what are the good spices?  Luckily, there is another recipe for the lemon sauce in the same book.

This is an excerpt from The Neapolitan recipe collection(Italy, 15th c - T. Scully, trans.)The original source can be found at University of Michigan Digital General Collection
Lemon Sauce. Get almonds, blanch them, grind them up, make milk of them and boil this with cinnamon, ginger and saffron; the milk - I mean, the almonds - is strained with lemon juice or pomegranate juice and a very little verjuice and lean broth; and if you want it quite strong, put in more lemons or other citrus juice

Based on this recipe, the good spices are cinnamon, ginger, and saffron. Great! I have those!

My recipe:

3 chicken breasts
11/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
1/2 tablespoon ginger
a pinch of safforn
4 very large lemons

I started with making the almond milk.  This time, I cheated a bit.  I used the almond flour they sell at the store rather than grinding my own almonds.  I put some of the almond flour in the nut bag I just bought and had this suspended over a tall container.  I mixed chicken broth with the almond flour until the chicken broth was gone.

 I basically would make a valley of the almond flour and put the chicken broth in, mix them together, and the almond milk would seep through the bag.  Below is the resulting almond milk.
 I ended up making enough that I can make some more chet soup later as well.  :-)

Next, I juiced the lemons in a separate bowl to add the lemon juice to the almond milk.  I put 1 cup of the almond milk in the sauce pot along with the spices.  I didn't heat it up yet, however.   I did start to boil the chicken breast and turn the oven on to 450F.
 Once the chicken breast was white, I put them in the oven and started to heat up the sauce.  I added the lemon juice and then stirred up everything.  I also basted the chicken breast in a bit of olive oil for a slight hint of flavor.

I left the sauce on a medium heat and stirred it until the chicken was almost done.  I turned the chicken at the 10 minute mark.   The sauce is a creamy lemon sauce and I poured it on the chicken when it was done.

It tasted a LOT like the "lemonade" chicken my Mom used to make for us.  I loved it.   It was completely delicious.  The lemons really taste sweet with the almond milk although I didn't use a hint of sugar.  The sauce gets very creamy as it cools - it's rather watery when it's hot- and the cinnamon and ginger remind me more of a jerk chicken recipe.  I almost think this would be a good "getting used to medieval food" recipe as it does taste similar to many modern dishes.

EDIT:  Forgot the total cost!   I only used a bit of the almond flour but it was the most expensive at $11 for the bag.  The chicken was $6.71 and the chicken broth was $2.75.  The lemons were 75 cents each.


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