Christmas is on the horizon, and for those of you in the USA, Thanksgiving is closer still, which means that some grand catering schemes will already be underway in many of your households. I thought this week I would try to find some tricks, treats, or temptations to amuse you as you work.
One of the terrors of catering for family events is that of unexpected guests. Professional chefs have professional-size cold rooms and pantries and professional know-how, so an extra mouth or ten to feed should cause no more than a minor ripple of reorganisation in the kitchen. Not so for the harassed home-cook with an over-stuffed fridge and depleted bank account, for whom finding more food to go around at short notice can be traumatic in the extreme. What if there is only a small piece of pork or a single chicken to roast, and find (through one of those little family communication glitches) that you were not told (or were told and forgot) that half-a-dozen extras had been invited by ‘someone’ in the circle? You could get into a long debate along the lines of ‘I told you’ - ‘No you didn’t’ ‘- Yes I did’ - ‘No you didn’t’, but this will not make the guests fail to appear, and it will also waste valuable time.
Instead of wasting it in a futile conversation, you could use the time to make a ‘sham pig’ - if you had enough potatoes and were a dab hand at modelling (Sensible Rule No. 1: always ensure that you have the raw materials at hand for Fun with Potatoes). Or alternatively, you could make two chickens out of one, if you were a dab hand at skinning a bird neatly. The following fifteenth century recipe could be your guide.
Two capons of one.
To make two capons of one, take a capon and scald him clean and keme off the skin by the back. Then flay off the skin but keep it whole. Then grind figs and fresh pork with powder of ginger and cinnamon and stuff the skin and sew it fast and roast it sokingly and serve it
Quotation for the Day.
Do not be afraid of simplicity. If you have a cold chicken for supper, why cover it with a tasteless white sauce which makes it look like a pretentious dish on the buffet table at some fancy dress ball?
Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943)