Renaissance Nibbles for a Pity Party I

This coming week, my medieval club has a major event coming up in Sweden and everyone is going. Well, almost everyone. I’m not. After getting together with some other people who are also not going, we decided to throw a ‘pity party’ for those left behind. The initial plan was to meet at a friend’s house where there is a garden, for me to cook some pastries based on Renaissance recipes, and for everyone to settle into needlecraft, nerdy conversation and self-pity. Then a) a group of people passing through on their way to Sweden asked if they, too, could join us and b) my friend pointed out she had a goose in the freezer that really needed using up. That is how we got to the foods that I will be describing over the next few posts.

Goose in a Green Sauce

I thought that roast goose – the universal standby – would be too rich for a late spring day and thus opted for two recipes that laid greater emphasis on the vegetables. Both are from Marx Rupolt’s magisterial 1581 New Kochbuch.

Goose in green parsley sauce and onion gescharb

4 Geese in green sauce. Take green parsley with the root and wash it clean in cold water so that the dirt and sand is all removed. Take clean water and set the parsley to cook with several goose livers. But if you have this much (i.e. enough) beef broth that is not oversalted, it is all the better that you set it to cook with that. Take the parsley out of the broth with a slotted spoon and put it into a mortar with the goose livers. Add toasted slices of white bread (Weck) and pound it all together, and when you have pounded it, pass it through with the broth you boiled the parsley in. But if the broth is strongly flavoured by the parsley, take different broth of good beef and pass that through so that it turns out thick. And when the goose has been boiled until done before, place it in the sauce you have passed through and season it with ground pepper and a little saffron, set it up (by the fire) and let it boil up once. But if the goose is not yet fully cooked, let it boil well, but see that it does not boil away nor becomes overly salty. Thus you cook geese in a green sauce. And if you wish to cook geese with such green sauce, set it to cook with parsley and water, because you do not always have beef broth. That is why we must seek advantages (solutions) that are suitable to the purpose.

(p. LXXII recto)

This was a lengthy preparation. We cut the goose to pieces, reserving the breast for the other preparation, and chopped the bony bits into smaller pieces to fit into the pot. Then we set the liver to cook in broth with parsley root until the meat was done and the roots softened. This was then mashed into a sauce, slightly thickened with breadcrumbs, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and saffron and had lashings of fresh parsley and garden herbs added. Meanwhile, the goose meat was cut or ripped into pieces and added to the sauce. It is possible that this dish was meant to present a whole bird in sauce, but the practicalities of a modern kitchen militated against it.

If it tastes this good, it doesn’t need to be pretty

The taste was a definite success. Parsley root provides a wonderfully earthy, rich undertone against which especially sage and thyme come into their own. Garlic would have made a good additiojn in my opinion. Unfortunately it turned out that there was nowhere near enough meat to fill out the sauce because our bird had been cursed with an ample chest and scrawny legs in life. Thus it was fortunate, in a way, that the other recipe more or less failed, giving us a ready supply of roast goose to add to the first.

Goose Roasted over Onions

Given there are very similar recipes in the Liber de Coquina already, I suspect this was a very common method of preparing roast goose.

12 Roasted goose with onions in a sauce (gescharb). Take the onions, peel them and slice them across and very thin. Put them in butter and fry them well, but take care you do not burn them and also not make them brown. Add a little flour and stir. If there is too much butter, pour off some and add good beef broth that tastes and smells good (wolgeschmack). Season it with ground pepper so that it becomes ash-coloured with the pepper. Add a little black raisins that are washed cleanly and let them cook down with the onions. You may make it sour or leave it as it is, but it is better without vinegar. And when you serve such a roast goose, place the sauce (gescharb) underneath it, for such sauces are good to serve with many roasted dishes.

(p. LXXIII recto)

I started out with a kilo of onions and about two tablepooons of butter in the hope that this would turn out to be a good proportion. After the onions had all had at least fleeting contact with the hot fat at the bottom of the pot, I added about two cups of beef broth and let the pot simmer for about 90 minutes before adding the pepper and raisins. The resuilt was amazingly good: meltingly soft onions added a sweet note to the rich meatiness of the mix, and the light dusting of flour bound the remaining liquid to stop the whole from being soupy. Happily, I suspended the goose breast above the gescharb in a roasting pan and set it in the oven to cook. That was a mistake.

The lovingly prepared onion sauce drowned completely in the juices and enormous amount of fat this bird sweated out. It was possible to fish out some of the onions and serve them as a sauce, and they were still quite good, but really far, far too rich. I have some ideas how this can be averted next time – cooking at a lower temperature, longer exposed to the circulating air (as the bord would be on a spit), using more onions still, and skimming off some of the fat as the bird roasts. The goose breast itself was excellent, sliced and added to the parsley sauce.

Tomorrow, I will speak more of the pastries. Some of these, too, were great successes.

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