22 April 2009

To The King’s Taste

The other day I was baking a small chicken to use in enchiladas. I had several handfuls of garlic I needed to use, so I threw them into the pan with my chicken, salt and red and black pepper. The chicken cooked off the bone and I picked off the meat. Resting in thick chicken broth were dozens of glistening garlic bulbs. I took them out and mashed them in a bowl, wondering what they would taste like. I took a tiny bite and found the mash to be wonderfully sweet and delicate. I hadn't given it much thought until I ran across a description of boiled garlic in a book of recipes from the 14th century.

To the King's Taste: Richard II's Book of Feasts and Recipes Adapted for Modern Cooking is a book of feasts and recipes from Richard II. We have this interesting little cookbook thanks to Lorna Sass. In Columbia University’s library, Sass was busy researching a paper on Chaucer when she came across a volume containing two cookbooks written in Middle English.

Screw Chaucer! Sass took the book home and began translating, adapting and cooking the recipes.

Boiled Garlic

1 cup water
cloves of 6 bulbs of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch mace
garnish: 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add garlic cloves, butter or oil, saffron, salt, cinnamon, and mace.

3. Cover and cook over medium flame about 7 minutes or until garlic is easily pierced with a fork.

4. Drain and serve with a garnish of parsley.

In Sass' opinion, “after tasting this dish, you will wonder how such a subtle vegetable got imprisoned in the category of a seasoning." I agree. The next time I bake a chicken, I am going to add a big bunch of garlic cloves and make a fine mash to accompany the meat.

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