I thought I’d discuss the “how to” aspects of the receipt (recipe) that I recently posted. As you may recall it was “To Broil Chickens,” from Hannah Glasse’s mid-eighteenth century work, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
Let’s go through it line by line:
“Slit them down the Back…”
Remember, this receipt was published in 1747, and the cook would’ve just
caught and butchered the chicken, plucked and gutted it, etc. We modern
folks can skip those steps, for we enjoy the marvelous convenience of being
able to purchase chicken already “slit…down the back” (and more). In any event,
use whichever chicken pieces you prefer. Or, as I mentioned previously,
the boneless, skinless work nicely, as well.
“…season them with Pepper and Salt…”
Self-explanatory. Feel free to add your own favorite seasonings.
“…lay them on a very clear Fire…”
You may ignore this, unless you’re cooking at the hearth; but basically,
it’s calling for a good-burning-with-no-smoke fire or coals.
“…and at a great Distance…”
In other words, don’t put the meat too close to the heat, or it’ll burn!
“…let the Inside lie next the Fire till it is above Half done, then turn them…”
Cook one side, then the other.
“…take great Care the fleshy Side don’t burn…”
Again, self-explanatory (unless, of course, you like burnt meat)
[see also, “at a great Distance” above]
“…throw some fine Raspings of Bread over it…”
Strew grated bread or bread crumbs on each side; I usually do this
before I start the cooking, but it’s up to you.
“…and let them be of a fine Brown…”
Cook until each side of every piece is brown, or to your liking.
“…but not burnt.”
And, once again, self-explanatory, but in case it wasn’t clear:
Be sure you don’t burn it!
Why are there all the reminders to “not burnt” the chicken?! It’s most likely
because cooking of any kind requires careful thought and watchfulness. It was
easy then, as now, to burn the food (or yourself). It’s really just an admonition
to “Pay Attention!”
As for what pan to use?
The same as for an 18th Century cook: Whatever you have, whatever works.
And how long should the pieces cook?
Now as then, until they’re done. And to your liking.
So, there you have it. Pretty easy, yes?
And feel free to experiment, if you like. As I said in the earlier post,
I often mix up a lemon-herb-‘n-butter (melted) sauce with which I baste
each piece periodically. I’m sure cooks in earlier centuries would’ve been
creative, too, at least every now and then. We can do the same!