Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dinner: The Recipes

The big eating is coming towards the end in this meal. When purchasing my brace of coneys from Malta Ridge, I asked for their two largest, which turned out to be kind of a LOT. I did the stewing of the actual meat a week or two ahead of time, because stew freezes so beautifully that there's no reason not to make things easy on yourself.

But, there was so much of the end product that it was days before we could come close to finishing it, and that's after inviting an extra person to this portion of the party and sending heaps of the stuff over to a friend's in a care package. So there's a lesson learned: don't ask for the biggest bunnies.

If you liked the bunny stew but don't want to pay for bunnies (or have issues with eating bunny), just do this with chicken. You can even use a leftover chicken for this method, which is great because you use the whole thing that way. When making chicken stew, I often add peas as well, and make dumplings (basically biscuits that you boil on top of the stew). I definitely recommend them!

The salad was a mix of baby lettuces from the Concourse Market, with sliced radishes and two colors of carrots. I've read that salads were really made with iceberg lettuce in the Victorian era, but sometimes accuracy just needs to bow to personal tastes. There was also a Victorian salad dressing I was going to make, but at the last minute I just plain didn't feel like it; I put out oil and vinegar instead.

Hard boiled eggs are also a staple of Victorian salad eating, but I served mine whole (though shelled) and on the side. I actually steam my eggs when hard-cooking, because it makes them spectacularly easy to shell. Also, shelling eggs is even easier if you get a house-guest to do the job, like I did.

Dinner Menu
stewed brace of coneys ("recipe" below)
hard boiled eggs
strong red wine (à la Gandalf)
root beer and ginger beer (for the non-drinking set)

Stewed Brace of Coneys
2 rabbits
several onions
poultry seasoning
water to cover
1 t. or so peppercorns

10-15 medium po-tay-toes, peeled and chunked
1+ lb. carrots (I used two colors from Gomez Veggie Ville)
1-2 c. little onions (again, shallot-sized), peeled and halved
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped up
salt and pepper to taste

I made this using the same method I used for chicken stew, because rabbits taste so similar to chicken breast meat (no, really!). You put the bunnies in lots of water with stuff that makes the broth taste good. If I'd had extra carrots and some celery, I'd have probably added them at this stage. I boil it for a couple of hours, till the meat seems loose enough to come off the bones easily.

After cooling, I strain the broth (I froze it in a big gallon container). I pick the meat off the bones and cut the big pieces into nice stew chunks and freeze them, too, discarding the veggies and bones.

When it's time to finish the stew, I get the broth going and add everything but the meat. (Bunny meat really is similar to chicken breast, and I wanted it in chunks, not shredded from stirring.) I thought about mushrooms here, but decided against them randomly.

Once the potatoes and carrots and all are cooked, I add in the meat and let it all heat up. Then serve! Om nom nom nom.

Afternoon Tea: Seedcake, Lots!

Afternoon tea was simple both because some more complex dishes were in the works (I think it was around this time that I was getting the Hotpot ready for the oven) and because people were getting simply buried in food. Two chickens were distinctly too much at Luncheon, although in my defense when I ordered the things I had no idea just how gigantic a free-range chicken could be. Usually farmer's market chickens are dinky little things, to keep them at a reasonable price I think. These were great big fat birds, completely delicious and gigantic, courtesy of Malta Ridge, from whom I also bought the coneys.

Afternoon Tea Menu
Seed Cake - Lots!
Stilton (from the co-op)

Seed Cake 
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1½ c. flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
6 T. milk
2 T. seed (I made one cardamom - make sure you crush those! - and one anise)
3 T. brandy
½ t. mace
½ t. nutmeg
sprinkling of demerara sugar (I subbed turbinado)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F and grease an 8-inch round cake pan. I also lined the bottom with parchment paper to make it come out nice, but I wouldn't have bothered if it weren't for company.

Beat the butter and sugar together until it's pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Mix in the spices and flour (I saved the seeds for last when I was making two kinds, just split the batter and then mixed in the seeds) and finally the brandy and milk.

Pour into the cake pan and sprinkle with the demerara (turbinado).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test. The recipe say that this cake will stay good for days, and I can attest to that! I think it must be the ridiculous butter level in the recipe.

Luncheon: The Recipes

Luncheon was, for the most part, a collection of cold foods. I based it on Gandalf's call fro cold chicken and pickles at the beginning of the Hobbit. I wasn't sure how much was enough, or how everyone would feel about just chicken, so I also served some cold ham, some cheddars for our vegetarian guest, and since there was so little cooking involved, chose this as the time to break out some sautéed mushrooms and of course, more bread and butter.

When I'm not fussed over getting a crispy skin, I usually "roast" my chickens in my biggest crockpot. It makes the moistest, most delicious chicken, which is important when you're eating it cold. 

Luncheon Menu
cold chicken (cooking method - not exactly a recipe - below)
cold ham (from Oscar's)
variety of pickles (from Bird Haven and Grey Mouse Farm)
sautéed mushrooms ("recipe" below for this, too)
cheddars from the co-op (1-year, 4-year, and Palatine with wild onion)
more bread and butter (Granny Omi, this round)

Cold Chicken
2 chickens
spices: poultry seasoning, onion powder, (extra) rosemary, pepper, salt

Cut chickens in half so they fit in your biggest crockpot. Sprinkle with seasoning, place in crockpot, let cook for about six hours.

Remove from juices and refrigerate overnight. Remove from bones in chunks before serving.

Sautéed Mushrooms
1 pint crimini (baby 'bella) mushrooms
1 pint white mushrooms
1 small (we're talking shallot-sized) onion
sprinkling of oregano
1-2 T. butter
splash of white cooking wine
salt to taste

Throw everything into a saucepan and cook low and slow. I think maybe, with the addition of the wine, this is more like a "stewing" or something than a sautéeing. I dunno. But they tasted good!