To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.

I snipped the last leaves of sorrel off the plant on my porch this morning. We’re on the verge of the first frost in Philadelphia and I’m harvesting the last of my summer herbs. I used leaves from this same plant for the delicious savory snack “Sorrell with Eggs” over the summer.

I’ve had this recipe for “Chicken on sorrell sops” bookmarked for ages. It’s from one of the oldest manuscripts in the UPenn Kislak collection, MS Codex 1601, and Alyssa and I made “A tarte of green pease” from it a while back.

Cooked chicken, toasted manchet bread croutons, and sorrel sauce sounded like the perfect combination for a chilly fall day.

The Recipe

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.
Truss your chickens & boile them in water
& salt, verie tender, then take a good
handfull of sorrell & beate itt stalke &
all, then straine itt & take a manchet
& cutt itt in sippetts & drye them before
The fire, then putt your green brouth
vpon the coules, season itt with sugar
& grated Nutmegg, & lett itt stand vntill
itt bee hott, then putt your sippetts into a
dishe, putt your Chickens vpon them &
poure your sawce vppon that & serue itt.

Our Recipe

I’ve taken some liberties to update this one. I used chicken legs for this recipe because I love them and I had them around, but you could use a whole chicken. I roasted the chicken following a favorite Mark Bittman recipe, but you could boil it as the original suggests. For the “manchet” bread, I used pan levain from my local bakery, but you could use any bread. To create more delicious sauce, I added stock to the sorrel and seasonings. If I had more sorrel, or peak summer sorrel, it might have produced a juicier sauce all on its own.

6 chicken legs
butter, salt, and pepper for roasting
2 slices pan levain, cut into croutons
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t salt
grated nutmeg
6 sorrel leaves, finely chopped

Heat your oven to 450F. Put your chicken legs in a roasting dish with butter or olive oil skin side up. Season them with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 min. Flip the legs over, bake for about 10 minutes. Flip the legs a third time so the skin side is up once again. Put the croutons on a baking sheet and put them in the oven as well. Bake everything for another 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the bread begins to brown.

When you put the bread in the oven, heat your stock to almost boiling in a small saucepan. Lower the head and add the sugar, salt, nutmeg, and sorrel. Turn the head down, but keep this sauce warm until you are ready to use it.

To serve, layer the bread pieces on a plate or platter. Then arrange the chicken on top. I also poured the pan drippings over the chicken and bread. Finally, pour on the sorrel sauce.

The Results

I knew I liked the sound of this recipe the first time that I read it, but it is a delicious, comforting dish. A deconstructed chicken with sauce-soaked croutons and herbs, this chicken recipe is perfect for a fall day. My apartment is toasty and smells like chicken. I’m about to go back for seconds.

 

 

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A tarte of green pease

This is the recipe book that started it all: At a meeting of the Penn Paleography Group almost five years ago we transcribed a few recipes from MS Codex 1601. In the process of deciphering the handwriting of this recipe, and others from the volume, I became very curious about what on Earth “a tarte of green pease” would taste like. While peas, especially fresh spring peas, have a delightful sweetness, I was intrigued by the mix of sweet and savory ingredients in this tart.

The Recipe

green pease

To make a tarte of green pease

Take green peas & seeth them tender
then poure them out into a cullender, season
them with safron, salt & sweet butter
& sugar, then close him then bake itt
almost an houre, then draw itt forth
& ice itt, putt in a litle wergice; & shake
itt well, then scrape on sugar & serve itt.

This recipe is made from fairly common ingredients, but it includes no measurements. We approximated all our ingredients to make one small tart. The most surprising ingredient in the list is “wergice,” which we think is an alternative spelling for “verjuice,” a bitter liquid made from young grapes that was also called for in our Could Possett recipe. Like before, we used lemon juice instead to add an acidic sourness to the recipe.

Our Recipe

2 c. peas
1 sheet puff pastry (homemade or store-bought and defrosted)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 t sugar, plus some to sprinkle on the top
1/4 t salt
pinch saffron

Cook the peas. If you’re using fresh peas, remove them from their pods, blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, and refresh under cold water immediately. If you’re using frozen peas, cook them according to the instructions on the package. We used frozen peas and they worked well.

Season the peas with the lemon juice, butter, sugar, salt, and saffron. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Roll out the puff pastry. We folded the pastry into a rustic galette. You can also line a tart pan and reserve strips or a second sheet to cover the peas.

Add the pea filling to the puff pastry and fold or cover. Sprinkle sugar on top of your tarte. (An egg or milk wash on the top would be a nice touch as well.)

Bake at 350 F for 30 min or until the pastry is golden brown. Slice and serve.

Results

Perhaps not surprisingly, the “tarte of green pease” was somewhere between a dessert and a main course. The peas were both sweet and vegetal, the seasonings bright and savory. While I confess that it was not my favorite dish we’ve prepared over the course of this project, the taste was certainly unique. The starchiness of the peas made me feel like the dish was lacking an essential element and I wanted  to include other ingredients in the pie itself or on the side.

Since there are no measurements in the original recipe, we think this is a great opportunity for experimentation. With a few alterations, we think this recipe could be transformed in either a sweet or savory direction. To make it into a true dessert we would add more sugar and serve this tart with a side of vanilla ice cream. To turn it into a savory side-dish we would cut out the sugar altogether and instead add caramelized onions or shallots to the mix. The savory version might accompany roast squash, spicy baked tofu, or a roast chicken.

 

Chery brandy

There are many recipes for making alcohol in Penn’s manuscript recipe books. But most would require the average home cook to purchase complex equipment and invest quite a lot of time, energy (and, dare I say, courage?) in their execution. From recipes for “braggart liquor” (spiced beer), “sperit of rasberrys” (raspberry wine), and “Meade to make according to Queen Elizabeth receipt” (the “Queen’s” mead) in Penn’s manuscripts, to the infamous recipe for “cock ale” held in the Folger Shakespeare Library collections, working with spirits can challenge even the most adventurous cooks. (And we’re the cooks who made  fish custard!) There are some approachable beverage recipes in the archive. Our recipe for could possett was one, “Chery brandy” from Ms. Codex 1601 is another.

The Recipe

cherry brandy

Chery brandy

to a gallone of Brandy one dossin of blake
cheryes, pound the stons in a mortar to
brake them put them into an earthin pot
with the brandy stir them once a day
for nine dayes stop them uery close.
then straine it and squeise the chereys
[a]s drey as you can, then bottle it.

This is a very simple recipe. Cherries mingle with alcohol and magic happens. Other than reducing the volume a bit, we only made one major change: We didn’t break the cherry pits or add them to the liquor. Cherry pits carry low-levels of toxins, like cyanide. We may be fearless in the kitchen, but we see no need to experiment with known poisons, whatever flavor they may impart to a beverage.

Our Recipe

2 c brandy

6 cherries (washed, pits removed, and halved)

Put brandy and cherries in a well-sealed glass container. Place in a dark, cool area and stir daily for nine days.

The results

Over the nine days the cherries infused the brandy, the color of the concoction slowly, incrementally deepened to a rich red. Chery brandy is beautiful to look at in the bottle and in the glass.

Straight up, chery brandy is a bracing beverage. Like any brandy, it is a warming drink with strong flavors. The cherries added a pleasing, rich sweetness. After the initial sipping, we added an ice cube, bitters, and lemon peel to create a mellower drink, a sort of “chery brandy old fashioned.” We think this would be a great way to savor a hint of summer cherry deliciousness on a cold winter night. But it’s high summer, so we took it one step further and added some ginger ale to the mix. This final result created a lovely refreshing cocktail.

To make a “Chery brandy old fashioned”

2 oz cherry brandy
ice (one giant cube or 2 small cubes)
slice of lemon peel
dash bitters

Put ice in a rocks glass. Add brandy. Season with bitters. Garnish with lemon peel.

To make a “Chery brandy fizz”

2 oz cherry brandy
6 oz ginger ale (preferably high-quality, sweetened with cane sugar)
Lemon slice
ice

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add brandy and ginger ale. Garnish with lemon.

With late-summer stone fruits flooding the farmer’s markets, we’re curious to see how this recipe would work with apricots, plums, and peaches. Other base alcohols could add unique flavors to the mix (plum vodka? peach rum?). Melissa Clark proposed a related method for preserving summer fruits in alcohol in the New York Times  a few years ago. But, as you now know, mixing fruit and alcohol is a very old idea.