Today I cooked chicken by leaving it on the counter for six hours. And no puke resulted! That is pretty well my only standard when it comes to historical recipes. Actually, that rule is flexible*.
Thermal cooking is the historical equivalent of the electric slow cooker. They were particularly in vogue during WWII, as a means to save fuel. Simply heat a pot of food up to boiling, then insulate to keep the temperature stable to finish the cooking.
|This model from 1926-1930|
|This hay-based model from the late 19th Century|
My new toy has insulating foam instead of hay, but the principle is the same. As a bonus, it actually stays a bit warmer than a slow cooker for up to eight hours.
For its maiden voyage, I chose a recipe from Margaret Mitchell's classic work that so perfectly and nostalgically captures a bygone era of grace, abundance, and perserverence: The Fireless Cookbook. She also wrote some book about the American Civil War that did quite well, I believe.
Stewed Chicken Draw and cut up a fowl. Put it, with the giblets, in enough boiling salted water (one teaspoonful of salt to each quart of water) to cover it. Let it boil for ten minutes and put it into a cooker for ten hours or more. If not quite tender, bring it again to a boil and cook it for from six to eight hours, depending upon its toughness. Skim off as much as possible of the fat from the liquor, pour off some of the liquor and save it to use as soup or stock, and thicken the remainder with two tablespoonfuls of flour for each cup of liquid, mixed to a paste with an equal quantity of water. A beaten egg or two, stirred into the gravy just before serving, improves it. Add pepper and salt to, taste, and serve the chicken on a hot platter with the gravy poured around it. The platter may be garnished with boiled rice piled about the chicken.
Curried Chicken Prepare and cook one fowl as for stewed chick- en, adding two onions, pared and cut into slices. Add one tablespoonful of curry powder to the flour when thickening the gravy. Or the chicken may be rolled in flour and browned in butter, and the curry powder added before putting it into the cooker. It is served with a border of boiled rice.
Verdict: Not terribly photogenic. I did try. Chicken is kind of tricky to get just right; it is tricky to hit that sweet spot between chewy and dropping off the bones so you look like an idiot when you eat it. This had the most perfect, tender texture. The seasoning was reminiscent of the hospital, but what do you expect for 1909? I ended up dumping a... generous amount of extra curry powder in after tasting, and it was much improved.
I love my new toy forever and ever and next time we go camping it will be my bosom friend. But probably with a different recipe.
*There is a rule about mayonnaise not being used with Jello, though.