Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving in Perspective

The Thanksgiving holiday is approaching for those of us here in the US - one that is pretty much all about the food. The menu for this year is pretty much like the ones I posted back in 2007 and 2008 (I went to visit my parents last year, and therefore didn't have much control over what was cooked).

I've been putting together the shopping list and planning what to cook when, and it stuck me that it all seems too easy. It should be complicated and stressful and a big deal, but it isn't. Then I figured out why.

When you've cooked for around 100 people, sometimes without proper kitchen facilities, and managed to serve multiple course meals with upwards of 20 different dishes, a fancy home dinner for 8 seems pretty simple. After all, I have a full day to do most of the cooking, and a decent kitchen to work with.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your turkeys be juicy and your gravy be lump-free.

(I'm trying out a medieval recipe tonight and will post about it soon)

Friday, November 12, 2010


Last week I was looking for a new recipe to try out for dinner. I wanted something that would serve as a main dish, would use eggs (because that's what I had), would use beef (because a lot of the folks in this area really seem to like beef), and would be reasonably quick and easy (because the last thing I want to do after work is spend hours in the kitchen making dinner).

Oh, and I wanted it to be medieval English (just because).

I fired up the Medieval Cookbook Search and what jumped out at me were several recipes for "Froyse". There are several recipes with this name, all English, from the 14th and 15th centuries. Here's one:

lvij - Froyse out of Lentyn. Take Eyroun and draw the 3olkes and the whyte thorw a straynoure; than take fayre Bef or vele, and sethe it tyl it be y-now; than hew cold other hote, and melle to-gederys the eggys, the Bef, or vele, and caste ther-to Safroun, and Salt, and pouder of Pepir, and melle it to-gederys; than take a fayre Frying-panne, and sette it ouer the fyre, and caste ther-on fayre freysshe grece, and make it hot, and caste the stuf ther-on, and stere it wel in the panne tyl it come to-gederys wel; cast on the panne a dysshe and presse it to-gederys, and turne it onys, and thanne serue it forth. [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books]

Generally the recipes all involved eggs and meat - usually beef, but one suggests pork. The meat is boiled and then chopped up, mixed with eggs and spices (saffron, salt, pepper), poured into a hot pan, and flipped over once. Basically it's a frittata. I looked up a couple of frittata recipes to confirm this, and to get a general idea of proportions. Then I went ahead and tried it out on family and friends for dinner.

This is the culinary equivalent to walking a tightrope without a safety net. Our standing rule is that if it doesn't work out we can order a pizza.

In this case we didn't need to call Domino's, but it wasn't a real success either.

The first problem was that I think I was off on the ratio of eggs to meat. I used six eggs for 1 1/2 pounds of beef, and the result was a little to dry and crumbly. The pan I used didn't help things either - I had to cut the froyse up to get it turned over.

The other problem was that it was ... well ... boring. The saffron flavor was good (mmMMmmm ... saffron) but even with that it sort of sat on the tongue and said "Yeah, I'm food. So what?" I kept thinking maybe some kind of sauce or gravy, kind of like egg foo yong, but none of the source recipes have even the slightest suggestion of a sauce involved.

I intend to try again, adding more eggs next time and maybe a bit more saffron. I'll also have to see what I can learn about Froyse from other sources. Maybe it was meant to be boring, but maybe I'm missing something.