I received a request for a private workshop. Bart and Connie, who live in Massachusetts, wanted to make a few receipts they could then try at home, in their own fireplace and bake oven. The day’s receipts were for a Coffin, Escalloped Potatoes, Asparagus in Crust, Mushroom and Artichoke sauce and Orange Pudding.
Bart and Connie wanted to start from scratch and build the fire in the bake oven so they would know just how to do this at home. Allan helped show them while I put things on the table. Afterwards, Bart and Connie shoveled the coals out and cleaned the bottom of ash.
The coffin was the most time-consuming receipt, as there are several parts to it. So we started on that first. The dough can be a bit tricky being that you use hot water with melted lard and butter in it. Bart did an excellent job of it and you would have thought he was a potter. Connie roasted marrow bones, the marrow would go into the little meatballs like little nuggets for the coffin.
The meatball mixture was of veal, pork and lamb, known to all of us as a “Meatloaf” mix. It’s modern, yet faster and easier than chopping the meat fine by hand. Herbs and spices were added and the meatballs were stuffed with the marrow. Connie partially fried them in the spider.
The pork loin was cut into cubes sprinkled with flour, salt and pepper and also partially fried.A separate dough was rolled out and decorated with a rolling pin that has designs on it and applied to the side of the coffin and asparagus crust. With the coffin ready, the inside was layered with the meatballs, browned pork, mushrooms, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, figs, herbs, spices and a bit of cold gravy
Connie placed the top on the coffin; sealed it with beaten egg; and poked a steam hole in the top. She cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and used them for decorations. When done with the coffin, she worked on the crust for the asparagus and then blind baked it in the bake oven.
The Coffin decorated and ready for the oven
The oranges for the orange pudding needed to have the inside removed and the skins boiled to make them soft. In the 18th century they would have used Seville oranges, which are very tart and need to be boiled in several waters. For this modern application we used Florida orange and boiled them once.
With the crust for the asparagus half-baked, Connie adds the asparagus and then made a cheese and cream custard to pour inside. Into the bake oven it went, in front of the coffin an had been baking for awhile.
Bart made a pudding with currants, eggs, sugar, sack and heavy cream poured over crumbled Naple biscuits which I made two days beforehand. This went into the oranges; the top placed on and stuffed into small bags, tied with string, and boiled for 45 minutes. They were very hot when they came out and Bart gingerly removed them from the bags.
The potatoes for the scallop shells were ready and mashed with butter and cream. They were then spooned into shells and sprinkled with herbs and bread crumbs. and put into a bake kettle. The last receipt was for a mushroom and artichoke sauce. The spider was deglazed of the meatball and pork bits, the mushrooms added to brown, then the artichokes. A walnut size of butter with flour incorporated in to it made a roux. Chicken broth, cream and two egg yolks were slowly mixed in to make a sauce.We used several methods of hearth cooking during the day to make this meal. Things were fried in a skillet, baked in a bake kettle and a bake oven. We boiled a pudding over the fire.
With everything ready, we sat to a lovely winter dinner. We discussed how 18th century receipts could be made with modern ingredients for ease of cooking and how Bart and Connie can replicate this delicious meal in their own fireplace and bake oven.
Happy New Year!
You don’t have to be a chef or even a particularly good cook to experience proper kitchen alchemy; the moment when ingredients combine to form something more delectable than the sum of their parts.