Beef is stunningly expensive, so it needs to go a long way when we get it. It is winter right now, a time when we long for slow braises which fill the air with the aromas of warmth and comfort.

There are only two of us, though, and while it is possible to make Stew For Two, it’s not so much fun. I also find it frustrating to have a mass quantity of something with a very strong flavor profile, as meals can get repetitive after a while.

This dish is quite simple. It’s easy to ignore for hours, it’s easy to use in many different ways.

It’s very mild, so it will match quite nicely with many options of sides, and the beef flavor will shine.

The wine you choose will be important here, as the goal is a brightness from the verjus. A new wine is appropriate, something with a bit of acid such as a “two buck” or taverna wine.

 

beef in a cryopac, and the ingredients for the dish measured and arrayed in dishes.

A rather large bounty of beef

25. Verjuice soup of chicken or whatever meat you wish.

BROUET DE VERJUS DE POULLAILLE OU DE TEL GRAIN COMME
VOUS VOULDREZ. Cuisiez en vin, en eaue et en verjuz tellement
que le goust du verjus passe tout l’autre, puis broyez
gingenbre et des moyeulx d’oeufz tous cruz grant foison,
et passez tout parmy l’estamine ensemble, et mettez boullir;
puis gectez sur vostre grain, quant il sera friolé, et mettez
du lart, au cuire, pour luy donner goust.

 

Cook in wine, water, and enough verjus that it tastes mostly of verjus. Add some pork fat to give flavor.

Crush ginger and bread, and moisten with egg yolk, and strain this through a cheesecloth.

Boil it and throw it onto your meat, when it is browned.

4 LBS of beef (or a whole lot less, it’s OK)

2 cups wine

1 cup water

1 cup verjus

4 oz pork fat, prosciutto rind, or other barding,

1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 raw egg yolks

Wash the beef and place it in a vessel of the size that seems best; close but with room for wine and some simmering space. Be sure the lid fits well.

beef tenderloin in a pot, curled up to fit.

Layer the fat over the meat, if you wish to use it.This fat is partly to protect the meat, partly to allow the richness to melt in. Higher collagen cuts will rely less on this, though they would still benefit. A layer of cheesecloth with olive oil would work for a very lean cut in which you prefer not to add pork.

Add the liquids and permit to simmer until the meat is fully cooked. I choose to simmer it til the meat falls apart, much like for Ropa Viejo

about to disintegrate, the meat has shrunk.

Remove the meat, allow the broth to cool slightly,

Blend the ginger with the breadcrumbs, and fold some broth into the bowl of breadcrumbs,

Allow them to soak up the broth for a time, then add them to the pot.

Separate your eggs, and either fold them cautiously into the pot of cooled broth, or temper the broth into the eggs, then

add them to the pot.

Simmer the broth with the egg yolks and bread crumbs til thick.

Meanwhile, in a pan, sautee your meat and allow it to brown. The instructions are pretty clear that the meat and broth should be separated before the broth is thickened.

Another choice is to allow the meat to settle in the pot and brown within the broth, but I find this lends a somewhat burnt taste. I believe this might have been a not-unknown  method, as there are several notes explaining how to remove the burnt taste from a brewet as required.

Serve the meat well sauteed, with the thick, seasoned sauce.

 

Please note; There are many translations of this dish which are written differently. There are other varietions of instruction in related books, some calling for more specific seasonings.

I disagree firmly with the instruction placed in one translation of this recipe to brown the meat before braising, as the entire mindset of Medieval cookery is counter to that method, for humoral reasons.

I will go more into depth on humours some other time.

 

Scully, T. (1995). The art of cookery in the Middle Ages (p. 223). Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press.

http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm

http://www.telusplanet.net/public/prescotj/data/viandier/viandier415.html#viandier18

Norse Pies

Simple instructions for a complex palate!

Norse pies come in several iterations, from pike to “meat.”

 

In the Viander of Taillevent, the guidance is to use cooked meat, pine nut paste, currants, and harvest cheese chopped small with sugar and a little salt.

We had leftover chicken from the other night’s roast, and went with it. I put about a quarter cup of pine nuts into the processor and pulsed til they were a crumbly nut butter. Then I added about the same amount of raisins (still out of currants!) and pulsed again. 3 cups of chicken went in with this mix, and were pulsed until the whole thing was crumbly and fine, but not a paste.

We tasted for flavor, and agreed that the raisins were sweet enough for our taste, but the salt was lacking, and fixed that.

Using a pie machine and commercial pie dough, we cooked the pies until done, and they did not last long.

+This iteration of norse pies can be made successfully with beef, ground beef, lamb, mutton, pretty much anything with feet.

+We have been satisfied with whole pine nuts, pine nut paste, currants, raisins, cubed meat, diced meat, and anything else we have thought of.

+simple construction

+few ingredients, so few incompatibilities on a menu

+freeze well

+scale up or down well.

– pine nuts, currants, and meat are not cheap, and there are no fillers. It’s not enough of a showstopper for the cost.

 

-Unfortunately, no pics this week, the camera took a bit of a nap.

Millet, probably best known as a primary ingredient in birdseed, is making a bit of a comeback.

It’s showing up in mixed-grain products and recipes more frequently, as well as grocery shelves. I used “pearl” millet, it seems there are several varieties, not all related. All judgements and proportions are based on “pearl” millet.

The pitfall I have run into with millet is the need to soak and/or cook for a very very long time in order to combat chalkiness. The seeds are very low in oil and the hulls are just thick enough that it takes a little more work, time, and water to get them to a point of fluffy and light.

whole millet in a bowl

While it looks like coarse cornmeal, it's tiny seeds.

The recipe calls for soaking in hot water three times, but does not suggest how long to soak. In experimentation, I found that at least a 24 hour soaking of pearl millet is needed just to get it started on the way to being pleasant, anything less was unsatisfactory.

After soaking, the next step is to beat the seeds very vigorously with the back of a spoon, in order to crack them and allow them to absorb more milk. Having beaten the millet, and not being vigorous enough for this task, I tried this with both whole millet and “millet grits,” cracked millet.

two small bowls with a coarse, dry-seeming cereal, stiff and lumpy.

I could not add enough milk to make whole millet work.

Once the millet was drained and beaten, I put milk into the pot and seethed it, added the saffron, and folded in the millet. As the milk boiled and thickened, the millet came together much like polenta.

soft, creamy, hot porridge of cracked millet, resting in a 12' cast iron pan to cool. Texture of fresh polenta.

cracked millet, cooling in the form

The contrast between whole millet, requiring “vigorous beating,” and cracked millet, an adapted selection, made all of the difference in the success of this dish.

The cracked millet soaked up twice as much water, allowing the starches the opportunity to convert when heat was applied, where the whole millet soaked up very little water, maintaining a less pleasant flavor and mouthfeel.

Cracked millet also absorbed twice as much milk, making for a thickened porridge, where the whole seeds were a less-well integrated ingredient in a sauce. The whole millet just could not get enough time seething in the milk before the milk ran out or began to burn.

The cracked millet was able to set into a lovely polenta-like dish which held well for two days and reheated well, where the whole millet was crusty, dry, and unpleasant in several hours; the mass was still absorbing liquid days later.

 

We loved the creamy tenderness and gentle texture of the porridge as part of a simple spring dinner. It is basic enough in flavoring to go well with many types of dish, and the way it set when it cooled in a pan into an easily sliced cake was convenient. It reheated very nicely the next day.

Recipe: Viander Millet

Summary: a porridge

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cracked millet “grits” or whole millet
  • 6 cups water
  • (1 tsp) salt (to taste)
  • 4 or 6 threads of saffron
  • 2 cups of milk
  • Strainer
  • cookpot with rounded bottom if you have one
  • Flame tamer if you don’t trust your stovetop
  • Spatula

Instructions

  1. Soak grits 24 hours, changing water three times Use the strainer, grits are small!
  2. If using whole millet, drain it and bash the heck out of it. A little smashing will not do. Destroy it. Smack it around til you think you are done, then do it again. It takes effort.
  3. If using cracked millet… drain it.
  4. After full soaking, begin to seethe milk in the pot, making sure that it does not scorch. (preheating it in a microwave might make sense)
  5. Add saffron to the warm milk, allow to sit for a few moments to start giving color and flavor.
  6. Fold in the drained millet, and begin to stir. Watch for lumps and splattering. It starts to absorb the milk pretty quickly but keep boiling, not just hot, but actually boiling, until the mix begins to set up. Salt it.
  7. At this point the instructions call for it to be set out in bowls, but you can also cool it in a form for later service.
  8. In order to make it ahead, but still serve it as a hot porridge, heat a cup of milk per batch, and fold in the cooled recipe, breaking it with a wooden spoon and a whisk. It won’t be easy, but it works.

Quick notes

Ratings:

-trying to get past the texture issue was a little challenging

-boiling milk is scary

-Millet can be hard to find.

+underused interesting ingredient

+only a little bit of attention needed

+just as pleasant as a make-ahead dish

+ very simple flavor profile, complements many types of food well.

I would be perfectly comfortable serving this in most settings.

Preparation time: 25 hour(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8-12

 

 

Fish! It’s season. The rivers are stocked, and the windows can be opened to air out the house. Yay!

The recipe calls for pike or pickerel.
Pike is a river or lake fish also found in some slightly salty situations, but it doesn’t tolerate brackish water well.
It is long and skinny, and can, depending on conditions, have the “muddy” flavor associated with catfish and tilapia.
They grow a couple of feet long, and have two extra lines of bones.

I could not get a pike; though the rivers are stocked, they are a challenge here. I chose whiting instead, as being a suitable mild white fish. Shad would have been another good choice, but the fisheries in my area are depleted of them.

a loaf of wine, a bottle of wine, a bottle of verjus, seasonings, and in a bowl, three little fish.

a short shopping list

One was split and boned, the other two cooked on the bone, for comparison.
I roasted them in salt, as a later recipe made a special note of not salting a fish in a manner suggesting that not to do so was unusual.

three fish on a roasting tray; one boned and split, two cleaned but otherwise intact.

I prefer bone on, but often test sauces on fish cooked a few ways.

For the sauce, I grated stale bread, and added the crumbs, ginger powder, and saffron to the pot of water, and added a little salt.

breadcrumbs, saffron, and seasonings in a pan.

The instructions admonish to sift the crumbs well, in order to have a fine sauce.

Once the pot began to simmer, I added wine and verjus, though I was concerned that the wine would change the color. It really wasn’t an issue.

a small pot with a dark amber sauce, held at an angle to show breadcrumbs settling to the bottom.

It takes a little work to get the crumbs to homogenise well with the sauce, but with attention, it does coalesce.

After roasting, I peeled the fish off of the bones and out of the skins, and placed it in a bowl. There was not an elegant way to do this for such little guys.

On tasting, we agreed that more ginger elevated the sauce and balanced it, but the addition of vinegar unbalanced the sauce somewhat. Readjusting the ginger solved the problem.

The strong saffron and ginger flavor provided a lot of depth and interest to what is often a flavorless fish, and would have enhanced the richness of a pike nicely. It is an attractive color, and is of itself vegetarian, so would be useful as a hot dressing for pressed tofu, or for steamed chicken.

Unfortunately, the sauce does not hold long or well, it begins to set quite quickly. As it comes together easily, it would not be hard to pre-measure dry ingredients for preparation at need, but with the balance of flavors and the tricky nature of the breadcrumb thickening, it might be more of a challenge than wise for a large scale service. If I were to serve it to larger groups, I would use a wide, shallow pan, and have one person doing only that sauce at time of need.

2 cups water
1/2t saffron
1 t powdered ginger
1/2 c fine breadcrumbs. (Italian loaf, staled overnight, grated or whizzed, and sifted)
River-fish fillets, grilled or roasted with nothing but salt.

-needs careful balancing
-sauce can stick and burn in an instant
-uses a fair lot of saffron.
-hidden gluten, need to warn loudly.

– fiddly

– short holding time.
+reasonably common ingredients
+can be adapted to alternate dining needs quickly
+attractive and somewhat unusual color.