Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poetry on the Plate

A good digestion to you all: and once more I show'r a welcome on ye; welcome all. -King Henry VIII, 1-4

April is National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate the poetry of words than with the poetry of food. This week's cookbook is Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes For the Contemporary Cook by Francine Segan.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Though art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date...
-Sonnet 18

Chicken Plum Pie
(serves 6)

This is a lovely summer picnic dish that makes perfect use of leftover chicken. The nobility enjoyed outdoor dining in Shakespeare's day. A 1575 painting shows Queen Elizabeth I at a picnic during a hunt. One foreign visitor observed that when Queen Elizabeth dined, her ladies in in waiting 'gave to each of the Guards a mouthful to eat...for Fear of any Poison.'

1/2 recipe of Renaissance Dough (page 239 of this cookbook) or store-bought ready- to-use or frozen crusts
1 pound cooked chicken meat, shredded
3 tablespoons Renaissance Stock (recipe listed below)
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 purple plums, pitted, peeled, and diced
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 plums, cut in 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the Renaissance Dough to 1/8 inch thick on a floured work surface. Press into a round or square pie pan and bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottom is very light golden.

2. Combine the chicken, Renaissance Stock, cloves, mace, cinnamon, and diced plums in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the piecrust and place the plum slices on top of the chicken mixture. Drizzle the butter over the top and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the plums are caramelized. (If serving the pie cold, double the quantity of mace, cinnamon, and cloves.)

Renaissance Stock

4 1/2 pounds chicken parts (necks, backs, wings, giblets)
1 lamb shank (about 8 ounces)
2 springs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of mint
4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 whole mace
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
8 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup currants
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Place the chicken and shank bone in a large pot. Add 2 3/4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Skim the impurities that rise to the top. Add the rosemary, bay leaves, mint, parsley, mace, and onions and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the wine, almonds, dates, and currants and simmer for 1 hour, periodically skimming any impurities that rise to the top. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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