Thursday, December 06, 2012

After the Cheese, the Zests.

This week we have been looking at the components of a nineteenth century Fashionable Dinner of Three Courses, with Cheese-Course and Dessert’ as described in The Cook and Housewife's Manual.  We – or rather, Mistress Dods – are not quite finished yet. There is a little more, if you can fit it in, after the five ‘courses’ already described.

In a footnote to one of the pages describing a dessert course the author advises that:

‘Spirit-lamps of neat form sometimes conveniently occupy the sides, at a large dinner, or the zests, corners, as fill-ups. Devils, and hot moist zests, should always be served over lamps.

Zests put down after the Dessert is removed, are hot Deviled Poultry and Game, Anchovy Toasts, Anchovies, Caviare, Olives, Deviled Biscuit, Oysters, Grated Meat &c. or after a long interval, Rere-Supper Articles, as Salmis, Potted Meats, Potted Shrimps, &c.’

We have discussed this particularly British habit of ending a meal with a small savoury dish (sometimes called a zests, or relishes) in previous posts (and here, and here.)  It appears that the gizzard of a fowl, which has been a subsidiary topic this week, is not only useful for making gravy, rennet and sweet ‘creams,’ it also makes a fine zest when devilled.

It appears that the gizzard may have been one of the earliest items to be treated in this way, if we are to believe the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811.)

‘DEVIL. The gizzard of a turkey or fowl, scored, peppered, salted and broiled: it derives its name from being hot in the mouth.’

Our old friend and passionate devil-lover, Dr William Kitchiner, in his Cook’s Oracle (1823) seems to support this in his own definition of a devil:

The Gizzard and Rump, or Legs, &c. of a dressed Turkey, Capon, or Goose, or Mutton or Veal Kidney, scored,—Peppered,— Salted,—and Broiled, sent up for a relish,—being made very hot, has obtained the name of a " Devil."

He goes on to describe the delights of devils a little further:

‘ … dry devils, are usually composed of the broiled legs and gizzards of poultry, fish-bones, or biscuits; and if pungency alone can justify their appellation, never was title better deserved, for they are usually prepared without any other attention than to make them 'hot as their native element,' and any one that can swallow them without tears in his eyes, need be under no apprehension of the pains of futurity. It is true, they answer the purpose of exciting thirst; but they excoriate the palate, vitiate its nicer powers of discrimination, and pall the relish for the high flavour of good wine: in short, no man should venture upon them whose throat is not paved with mosaic, unless they be seasoned by a cook who can poise the pepper-box with as even a hand as a judge should the scales of justice.’

And here is another author’s more detailed description of how to devil your gizzards:

To make Dry Devils.
These are usually composed of the broiled legs and gizzards of poultry, fish-bones, or biscuits, sauce piquante. Mix equal parts of fine salts, Cayenne pepper, and currie powder, with double the quantity of powder of truffles: dissect a brace of woodcocks rather under roasted, split the heads, subdivide the wings, &c. &c. and powder the whole gently over with the mixture: crush the trail and brains along with the yolk of a hard-boiled egg, a small portion of pounded mace, the grated peel of half a lemon, and half a spoonful of soy, until the ingredients be brought to the consistence of a fine paste ; then add a table-spoonful of catsup, a full wine-glass of Madeira, and the juice of two Seville oranges; throw the sauce, along with the birds, into a stew-dish, to be heated with spirit of wine; cover close up : light the lamp, and keep gently simmering, and occasionally stirring, until the flesh has imbibed the greater part of the liquid. When it is completely saturated, pour in a small quantity of salad oil, stir all once more well together, put out the light, and serve it round instantly.
The Housekeeper's Magazine, and Family Economist (1826)

Gizzards, devilled or otherwise, are not for everyone however. In case you need an alternative for your fashionable dinner, Miss Eliza Acton in Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845) suggests some savoury toasts, which can be served with the cheese course, if you prefer.

Savoury Toasts.
Cut some slices of bread free from crust, about half an inch thick and two inches and a half square; butter the tops thickly, spread i little mustard on them, and then cover them with a deep layer of grated cheese and of ham seasoned rather highly with cayenne; fry them in good butter, but do not turn them in the pan; lift them out, and place them in a Dutch oven for three or minutes to dissolve the cheese: serve them very hot.
To 4 tablespoonsful of grated English cheese, an equal portion of very finely minced, or grated ham; but of Parmesan, or Gruyer, 6 tablespoonsful. Seasoning of mustard and cayenne.
Obs.—These toasts, for which we give the original receipt unaltered, may be served in the cheese-course of a dinner. Such mere (“relishes" as they are called, do not seem to us to demand much of our space, or many of them which are very easy of preparation aught be inserted here: a good cook, however, will easily supply them at slight expense. Truffles minced, seasoned, and stewed tender in butter with an eschalot or two, may be served on fried toasts or croutons and will generally be liked.


Shay said...

Were devils ever served as a main course? Seems to me that a thrifty cook would make use of leftovers that way.

I'm not sure what the rest of the menu would consist of, to complement the spiciness.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Shay - I think if leftovers were 'deviled' for a main course, they were probably called 'curries'