Monday, September 19, 2016

Curried Chicken

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.