Thursday, March 16, 2017

Photographs from the Forest Preserves

I had a couple of chances in February to spend some time in the Lake County Forest Preserves and took some pictures that came out rather well.  Some highlights from Heron Creek Forest Preserve are included in this post.  

I took pictures of seeds along the trail and of some of the flowers that remained from fall.  The black and white version of the frozen flower came out well as did the seeds on the verge of escape from their pods.

It was a gray day, but I was able to brighten up this picture of the woods and creek in lightroom.  I met several dogs along the trail, including this rescued beagle who was practicing staying quiet as people approached.  His owner was rewarding him with treats if he didn't bark.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Historic Food Project 5: Roast Chicken

The next installment of my Historic Food Project is Roasts.  I didn't want to cook another large piece of beef or pork, so I looked at the poultry recipes in Practical Housekeeping.  The chapter on poultry provides detailed instructions starting with "Do not feed poultry for twenty-four hours before killings; catch them without frightening or bruising, . . " and proceeding with how to hang a chicken, cut the throat and allow it to hang until all the blood has dripped out.  The description for chicken preparation continues with instructions on how to scald the chicken, pluck the feathers and the dress the bird.  Detailed instructions are provided for stuffing the bird with recommendations to properly place the stuffing so that the bird will look as plump as possible.  Instructions are also provided for larding different types of birds with bacon, chicken fat, or butter.

Since Practical Housekeeping  was published before oven thermometers and temperature gauges were available, the information about how hot the oven should be and how long to cook is approximate.  One paragraph recommends "placing the roast in an oven rather hot at first, and then graduate the heat to moderate until done".   Another suggests steaming the bird first for three hours and then roasting it in a hot oven for a relatively short period of time, mainly to brown the skin and melt off some of the fat.  All of the recipes include recommendations for cooking the giblets and neck to use in a gravy.

The specific recipes for roast poultry focus more on what to stuff the bird with and how to created the best crisp and brown skin.  A simple recipe is provided for a potato dressing to cook in the bird:

Dressing for Chicken or Beef

Boil potatoes, mash as if for the table, except that they should be less moist, stuff the chicken or roast with this, and bake as ordinarily; for ducks add onions chopped fine; if the bread-dressing is wanted too, it may be laid in the corner of the pan.  -- Mrs. Carrie Beck.

A more complicated recipe for Roast Turkey includes instructions for plumping the bird by plunging it into boiling water and then cold water before dressing, and describes how to make a bread based stuffing.  In this recipe the turkey is larded with fat and dredged in flour before placing it in a pan with boiling water in the bottom in the oven.  The recipe recommends adding additional boiling water and basting the bird often.  Another recipe for Roast Turkey recommends larding the turkey with butter and covering it with brown paper before roasting.  For the first 2/3 of the cooking time, it recommends basting every 10 minutes with from the pan.  During the last 1/3 of the cooking time the cook is supposed to remove the turkey from the oven, place it on a specially prepared block of wood, and dredge the breast in flour.  The turkey is alternately basted with the pan drippings and dredged in flour until it is fully cooked and "the entire surface is a rich, frothy, brown crust which breaks off in shells in carving and makes the most savory of morsels."  The recipe for Roast Turkey with Oyster Dressing includes a recipe for bread and oyster stuffing and recommends steaming the turkey and serving with a cream based gravy.

I decided to try the recipe for English Roast Turkey:

Kill several days before cooking, prepare in the usual manner, stuff with bread with bits of butter read-crumbs (not using the crusts) rubbed fine, moistened with butter and two eggs, seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley, sage , thyme or sweet marjoram; sew up, skewer, and place to roast in a rack within a dripping-pan; spread with bits of butter, turn and baste frequently with butter, pepper, salt and water; a few minutes before it is done glaze with the white of an egg; dish the turkey, pour off most of the fat, add the chopped giblets and the water in which they were boiled, thicken with flour and butter rubbed together, stir in the dripping-pan, let boil thoroughly and serve in a gravy-boat.  Garnish with fried oysters, and serve with celery-sauce and stewed gooseberries.  Choose a turkey weighing from eight to ten pounds.  If it becomes too brown, cover with buttered paper. -- Mrs. C. T. Carson.

I decided to roast a chicken instead of a turkey.  I purchased a 4.6 lb chicken at the grocery story which had already been killed, plucked and dressed.  It was also missing the giblets and neck, so next time I will have to read the packaging more carefully.  I made a bread based dressing with day old bread, hot water, butter, thyme and an egg.  I added some minced onion and celery which is consistent with other dressing recipes in the Practical Housekeeping.  I put my chicken breast side up in a cast iron skillet and roasted it in a 450 F oven for 20 minutes and then at 350 F for an hour and 40 minutes, until a meat thermometer said it was done. I basted it a few times with butter or water.  It came out with beautiful, crisp brown skin. 

I made gravy using the pan drippings and chicken stock I had purchased.  I did not make fried oysters, or the celery-sauce but I did make stewed gooseberries.  I purchased frozen gooseberries at Garden Fresh which has packages of them in their frozen foods section.  Since I could not find a recipe for stewed gooseberries in Practical Housekeeping, I used a recipe I found on-line which recommended combining 2 tbsp butter, zest and juice of one lemon, 3 oz of sugar and 10 oz of gooseberries in a pan and then simmering for 3 - 4 minutes.  Since my gooseberries were frozen to start with, I let it simmer for 30 minutes.  I served my chicken with sauteed spinach, dressing, gravy and stewed gooseberries.  It was delicious.  I bought milk and may try the celery sauce with some of the left over chicken.