Feast of Fools 2011: The Edge of the Ocean

Yesterday was my first cooking gig in the Outlands! I cooked the first course of the Barony of Dragonsspine’s Feast of Fools event, a themed feast conceived and executed by the very talented Lady Apollonia de Avena. There was a lot of secrecy around this feast, which is why I didn’t post my recipes in advance, but now it’s done and I can talk about it!

It was a really unusual format in two ways:

First, it was an all-day feast, not a dayboard but a real served feast, with the courses going out at 11am, 12:30, 2pm, and 4pm, with fighting, performing arts, games and other activities between and during each course.

And second, it was all subtleties. The entire feast. Every course was served as a full-on subtlety. The feast was a visual, sensual prop to a quest tale, the narrative of which threaded through the entire event. It was an ambitious, outrageous, wonderful concept.

I had the first course, and I had complete creative control within the theme: the beginning of our Valiant Hero’s quest with a voyage over the ocean and landing on a distant shore. Apollonia asked for three soups, of which one should be seafood and another vegetarian, and for breads shaped to reflect the ocean theme and a soft cheese crab spread for the breads. Beyond that, I was on free to play.

For the soups, I chose two period and one reconstructed recipe, originals and redactions below.  I made a basic soft cheese with fresh herbs and faux crab; and a dozen sculpted fish loaves and about a gazillion accompanying scallop-shaped dinner rolls, using the Double Master recipe from Artisan Bread in Fifteen Minutes A Day. (“Impress your friends by memorizing this simple recipe and pulling it out of thin air! 6 (cups of warm water) – 3 (Tbsp. yeast) – 3 (Tbsp. salt) – 13 (cups flour).”)  I was just absolutely delighted with how the breads came out, and once I got the hang of it, it was not significantly more labor-intensive than making regular loaves. Bread sculpting is a skill I plan to develop and deploy at every opportunity in the future.

Cumin Broth (15c. English spiced meat broth), from Liber Cure Cocorum)

If you will make a cumin broth,
Veal and mutton and pork you hew
In small gobbets; put them in [a] pot
With minced onions, quite well I know,
And powder of Pepper you cast thereto;
Color it with saffron ere you do more,
And strain a mixture of brown crust also
To thicken this broth that is so meek.

For 1/2 gallon:
5 lbs. mixed bones and bony meat of several different kinds
(leftover bones from crown roasts or seven-bone roasts work well, as do soup bones, bone-in porkchops, etc. Use at least two, preferable three or more meats. I used beef, lamb, and pork in the recipe testing.)
1 large onion
3 Tbsp coarse black pepper
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp azafran/Mexican saffron/safflower

In a crock pot 12-18 hours or a large stock pot 6-8 hours, cook down bones, adding more water as needed to keep them just covered.

Strain liquid off and return 1/2 inch to the bottom of the stock pot. Recover any chunks of meat from the bones and chop very fine; add to pot along with onion chopped very fine and spices. Simmer at very high heat until all of the liquid is taken up. Return remaining broth to pot and cook down to desired consistency and volume. Turn off and cover to hold temp until serving.

Patine Zomore (4-5c. fish stew, from Apicius)

The zomore fish dish is made as follows [2] take raw ganonas [3] and other [fish] whichever you like, place them in a sauce pan, adding oil, broth, reduced wine, a bunch [4] of leeks and [green] coriander; while this cooks, crush pepper, lovage and a bunch of origany which crush by itself and dilute with the juice [5] of the fish. Now dissolve [break and beat egg yolks for a liaison] prepare and taste the dish, binding [the sauce with the yolks] sprinkle with pepper and serve.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, ends trimmed (use whites and softer greens)
1 bundle cilantro
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp. summer savory
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 pinch saffron
1 c. white wine
1 28-oz. can baby clams
1 8-oz. can lump crab
1 can octopus
1 can faux abalone
1 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
1 Tbsp. sea salt
2 eggs yolks

Get olive oil very hot in the bottom of a stock pot and saute all vegetables and all spices except saffron together until the leeks are soft and have taken up the oil. Deglaze the pan with wine, then slowly add water to make 1/2 gallon of volume. Add all the seafood and bring to a simmer, holding for 20-30 minutes to reduce.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks well. Add hot stock very slowly, a spoonfull at a time, beating vigorously, until yolk is well diluted; then add mixture back into the stew and stir well, Continue stirring for 5-10 minutes, until broth thickens. Bring to a full rolling boil, crush saffron and add, then add fish sauce and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cover to hold at temperature until serving.

Duszony Por z Pasternak i Gier (reconstructed, from Food and Drink in Medieval Poland)

4 pounds leek greens (use the leafy part that is normally discarded)
3 pounds small parsnips, trimmed, pared, and sliced on a slant to resemble thick potato chips
2 cups sliced leek, white part only
2 cups white cabbage, shredded as for sauerkraut
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
4 cloves Rocambole garlic, sliced in half lengthwise [Ed. Note: see glossary]
6 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup coarsely chopped alexanders (leaves and small stems only)

Boil the leek greens in 1 gallon of water until soft and until the stock is reduced by one-fourth (about 1 hour). Strain and reserve the liquid, discarding the leek greens. Put the stock in a stewing pot with the parsnips, sliced leeks, cabbage, onion and garlic. Cover and stew 45 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender, then add the honey, saffron, cinnamon, salt, and vinegar. Stew 15 minutes, then add the alexanders. Let the alexanders cook for about 5 minutes, then serve immediately over pieces of stale manchet bread or cheese dumplings.

For 1/2 gallon:

2 large leek,s sliced and greens separated from whites
2 lb. parsnips, trimmed and diced
1/2 large head of white cabbage, shredded very fine
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 large onion, diced very fine.
1 bundle kale, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey

In a large stock pot, add leek greens and salt to about 1/2 gallon boiling water and boil vigorously for 15 minutes. Remove leek greens and add in parsnips, cabbage, onion, and garlic. Reduce to a simmer and leave for 45 minutes.


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