The Good Housewife’s Jewel page 24

Dawson, Thomas. The Good Houswife’s Jewel. 2002. Lewes, East Sussex: Southover, 1996. Print. 1870962125

take a pint of white wine and a small quantity of water and small raisins and whole mace. Boil them together in a lttle verjuice, yolks of eggs mingled with them, and a peice of sweet butter. So serve them upon bread, sliced.

 

two thick slices of bakery bread on a plate, with a layer of chopped stewed meat, and liberally sauced with a yellow egg based sauce showing specks of raisin

definitely not finger food

While there are no instructions for the actual cooking of the feet in question, I have my preferred methods (slow braise, a lid, no salt or acid until the meat is tender, as it can be toughened by either).  Then again, I have no feet right now. I do have an oxtail, which is something of a scarce item in our freezer.   Though the tail cannot be sliced for an elegant service as the meat of a foot could, it has similar enough textural qualities as to be a fine substitution.

a plate with a packet of ox tail, surrounded by the spices, bottles, and butter needed for the dish. Not shown are the eggs.

Eggs are off camera

I set the tail to simmering on the lowest heat, and in a smaller pot, made the sauce separately.

While the meat was somewhat unappealing to look upon, the longer it cooked, the more unctuous it got. It smells lovely.

When the meat was completely cooked and soft, I removed it from the bone and minced it, knowing I could not get elegant slices.

I then placed it on the toasts to wait for the sauce and held it in a warming oven.

The only quantity given for this recipe is that pint of white wine. This leads to all of the other decisions for balance.

 

Recipe: To Boil Calve’s Feet

Ingredients

  • 1 calf’s foot or oxtail, simmered in water til tender, and sliced or otherwise prepared for service
  • slices of bread on which to serve the meat and sauce
  • 1 pint white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 oz raisins
  • 1 teaspoon whole blade mace, intact (to be removed later)
  • up to ½ cup of verjus (taste as you go, it can go too sharp quickly)
  • allow to cool, then in a pan, blend
  • 3 egg yolks and 3 oz warmed butter
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. when the butter and egg yolks are gently warmed, stir in the wine mixture, off the heat. Be gentle, or the eggs will curdle.
  2. Folding the butter and eggs into the liquid creates an oily mass, and cooling the liquid then slowly beating the yolk in then adding the butter does similarly.
  3. Use your best judgement.

Variations

– a less well regarded food

– the sauce is unlikely to work in bulk, and is challenging even in small quantities

– the acid balance can be difficult, wine depending

+ sumptuous without being greasy

+ deep flavor

+ gives a side product of a lovely beef broth

+ Sophisticated enough for a nice appetiser.

 

Remember this is not a hollandaise… but all of the requirements for a hollandaise are there. The techniques required to make the creamy velvety sauce were not delineated until much later. There’s a fair amount of history available online and in books for emulsified sauces should you wish to find more information.

Because I did not wish to have a grease slick, I did stir the wine blend in to the butter, rather than pouring the butter overtop of the wine. I then folded in the egg yolks and warmed the sauce while stirring, It sure looks like a hollandaise.

a sautee pan filled with egg-yellow sauce with specks of raisin showing, and a little froth on top.

Runnier than a custard, the sauce uses wine and verjus where modern cooks would think to use lemon.

This also permitted me to taste the sauce as I built it to prevent adding too much acid and damaging the balance of flavors.

Now I had to decide whether I was going to follow the implication in the instructions and simmer the meat in the blended sauce, or read it the other way as an overlaid sauce.

Being that the meat I chose is quite unctuous and tender, and that the bread is rather stiff, I opted to pour the completed sauce overtop and serve the dish as sops.

It cannot be stressed enough that the success of this dish relies on a lower acid white wine, as too much acid will unbalance the dish. A highly gelatinous meat is also helpful to the quality and enjoyment of it, as fatty meat would lend a greasiness which cannot balance the egg-yolk sauce.

If you don’t wish to fuss about with wine specifics, go easy on the verjus and taste critically as you add the eggs and butter to the sauce, in order to bring the flavors into a bright, creamy balance.

 

 

Mushrooms, how I love them! Tender and tasty, it’s hard for me not to love a mushroom.

 

I fell for the funghi on a road trip with my Mom many years ago. We stopped at a country club, and split an appetizer of mushrooms in a red wine sauce for lunch.  Phenomenal. The real revelation with that dish was the idea that a button mushroom can be every bit as lush and complex as any other variety, if treated well. This recipe does treat them well.

The trick with this book is to be aware that the translator/transcriber used modern weights and measures rather than the historical ones, which can lead to misperceptions of balance. Of course, like most recipes, measures are not given for each step, so it’s more directly about portion and proportion.

(please check http://www.medievalcookery.com/helewyse/Lost_in_Translation.html for more information, the author of the page as done some excellent work breaking down the specifics of this particular title)

 

This recipe, sops of field mushrooms, calls for cooking in a casserole or ceramic pot. I did manage to scare up a ceramic pot, and can attest that it cooked rather similarly to a cast iron dutch oven, but the flavor was perceptibly different when cooked in each. The tight lid is the trick, to hold in steam and re-baste the mushrooms.

 

all ingredients and required dishes measured and in individual containers. Sliced mushrooms, chopped mushrooms, herbs, spices, water, verjus, and the ceramic pot

an old-style pyrex oven/stove pot with a glass lid would be perfect if you want a sense of what ceramic would do.

The instructions call for soaking the mushrooms in order to clear them of sand. Most modern farm mushrooms do not have this issue, but soak them anyhow in order to give them the moisture boost which will help them create the wealth of sauce which is the hallmark of the dish.

 

Ceramic pot containing mushrooms which have sweated down to about 1/4 their original size, in a vessel designed to trap and save steam. The contents of the pot are about 40% liquid at this stage. Very steamy environment, be careful when removing the lid to not get scalded.

Open the lid away from you, lots of steam.

An oddity is the guidance to grind a quarter of the mushrooms, and allow them to macerate with a very small amount of spinach tops. I handled this by making a spinach dish at the same time, and simply stole a little of the spinach.

 

cooked mushrooms on thin toasts with plenty of liquid. It is monochrome to a point, and could use some fresh herbs both for color and scent

an appetiser.

Seasoning is light, but the book does suggest the flavor be “tangy” with spice and verjus.

Recipe: to prepare sops of field mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 48 ounces of mushrooms, set aside 12 ounces
  • an ounce and a half of wilted or thawed spinach
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • 1 TBS minced herbs (I used garlic chives)
  • 4 oz verjus

Instructions

  1. Make sure mushrooms are clean, allow to soak and drain if needed.
  2. Slice any larger than a walnut.
  3. Mince, grind, or otherwise reduce the 12 ounce portion of mushrooms.
  4. Fold minced mushrooms with spinach, set in a small bowl with some water.
  5. Set the heat on medium, put the pot on the heat, and add the olive oil.
  6. Put the other 36 ounces of mushrooms in the cooking pot, put on the lid.
  7. Check the pot every 5 minutes, there will be a lot of steam and a lot of liquid developing in the pot.
  8. When the mushrooms are reduced to about half the size, fold in the minced mushroom-spinach blend, the spices, herbs, and half of the verjus.
  9. Fold the contents of the pot, put the lid back on.
  10. After another 5 or so minutes, taste and adjust seasonings, allow to simmer for another 5 minutes
  11. Double-check seasonings, and turn off the heat when you consider the balance correct.
  12. Slice some bread rather thin, and toast it in a dry pan.
  13. Lay the toasts on plates
  14. Put mushrooms with a good amount of broth on the toasts and serve

Notes

– Mushrooms are not universally loved

-spice balance can be slightly fiddly -requires a good pot

-calls for a small amount of spinach, requiring extra planning

+requires checking in somewhat regularly, but not constant attendance

+simple assembly +Easily made in advance

+Leftovers easily converted for future use; can be frozen as-is, can be sauteed down into another dish, added to soup,

folded into a meatloaf. Not a lot you can’t do with this one.

Preparation time: 5-15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2-4