I read a recent chefs’ text book a few years ago that made me pretty unhappy. It was that old saw about “ate bad meat, used lots of spices.” Lemme tell ya, I have a lot more respect for Medieval cooks than I do for the author of that well regarded book.
It’s hard not to go on a tirade, but if you are unfamiliar with historical cooking, let me assure you that people had the same gastric systems we do, and things that would make us sick would have made them sick. No amount of spices could fix it. Frankly, no one was going to throw good, expensive spices on bad food.
That out of the way, we get to the Green Meat.
This is a form of meatloaf, which is intended to be rolled in caul fat, like a crepinette. It’s to be wrapped in the layer of fat, then spitted and grilled, while being painted with parsley juice to turn it green.
I tried for some time to find the caul fat, and wasn’t able to get it locally. I have a line on it now, but the shoulder of mutton wouldn’t wait a few weeks.
The original recipe is quite long. It’s a set of instructions for making a relatively small amount of meat into a large, festive dish for a crowd.
First, we refresh the meat, taking it from the salt it is preserved in and rehydrating it.
After poaching it, the meat is carefully removed from the bones, taking great care to avoid damaging the bone structure.
It’s minced, blended with the other ingredients, and reformed into a shoulder-shaped loaf on the same bones, then wrapped carefully with the caul fat and roasted.
While it is roasting, it’s to be endored, painted, with the juice of parsley, a popular food coloring.
Having no caul fat, I chose to wrap the meat in cheesecloth, though a terrine also crossed my mind. It was not optimal, but it did work, and we are excited to do it again once we have caul fat in stock.
The resulting dish is a rather elaborate meatloaf, which extends the dish, assures that the meat is of the same quality throughout the dish, and be humorally appropriate for the largest portion of diners.
In fact, at the end of the instructions, there are a few suggested dishes named for in case any diners might have an infirmity, to allow them to have better balanced humors in order to enjoy the shoulder of mutton as well.
The directions are very long. The results are Green Meat.
Shoulder and or leg of mutton, rinsed. If salted, then soaked for a time.
Simmer in salt water, then cooled.
Remove the meat completely from the bone, but do not separate the bones.
Mince brie (or Crampone) cheese, add parsley, marjoram, hyssop, and sage.
The spices are ginger, grains of paradise, and some whole cloves to embellish with.
Eggs, saffron, and caul fat, figure it would take four to do a full sized leg of mutton.
Small skewers or toothpicks to pin the cauls on.
Parsley, eggs, and flour for the coloring layer
And an admonition not to overcook the batter in such a way as to lose the green coloration.
I had no choice but to diverge from the recipe in a few undesirable ways.
Our mutton shoulder was poorly cut, so I decided not to build back onto it. The bone would have lent a lot of flavor and helped keep the meat moist, as well as giving the appearance of the original shape.
I used cheesecloth, rather than caul, in order to be able to do the dish at all. Because of this, I used parsley juice alone, rather than egg/wheat batter as a gilding. These choices strongly affect the texture of the dish.
I could not cook over an open fire on a spit, because the grill is under several layers of snow. The cheesecloth would have caught fire anyhow.
What I did was not optimal. Let’s call this a test run worth discussing, not a final.
I am posting it because it was so good, and so easily adapted to feast or picnic use, that it would be rude to keep it to myself for a moment longer.
We had a whole shoulder of mutton, but a couple of shanks would do quite well here for a more modest service, intended for a smaller number of people.
*if using caul, look for notes after the recipe
1,5 LBS mutton, simmered in water or simple broth
4 oz brie cheese, chilled and minced.
2 raw eggs
2 oz parsley, picked and minced
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp hyssop
3/4 tsp dried ginger
3/4 tsp grains of paradise
1 1/4 tsp salt
12-20 whole cloves
These instructions are for the simplified iteration using cheesecloth.
Mince the cooked mutton. I used knives, but a processor will do an admirable job.
Beat the eggs, add the saffron to them. Set aside for the moment.
Add the herbs and spices, but not the cloves. Fold together with the cheese. Blend in the eggs to make a homogeneous loaf, not too wet but well stuck together.
Prepare the cheesecloth by dipping it in the broth you cooked the meat in.
Lay the meat on the cheesecloth, fold it into a tidy parcel.
Mince the rest of the parsley, put it in the blender if you have one. Use a tad of water to help it along. (I don’t have a blender. I used a mortar and pestle. Don’t do that.)
When the parsley is pretty liquid, paint it onto the cheesecloth. Wait a moment for it to saturate, and paint on the rest.
Place the cloves on the surface, piercing the fabric, and roast the loaf on a pan with sides at 350 for about an hour.
*If you are using caul, rinse the caul, stretch it out, and paint it with an egg or two, to help seal it and help it stick to the meat.
Make parsley juice as above.
Blend two eggs with a quarter cup of flour, and fold in the parsley juice.
Fold the loaf into it, and pin it shut. Paint it with the flour, egg and parsley mixture,
pierce it with the cloves, and roast as above.
To do it properly, you will have closer to 6 pounds of meat, reformed on the bone, which will roast at 200* for 5 hours. The recipe multiplies up pretty well, but you will need more eggs, and several toothpicks to pin on the caul.
Green meat was really tasty. We were disappointed by how much cheese we lost to the cheesecloth, though not surprised.