From Dame Illadore, the Lunch Cook at AEthelmearc 20th Year:
About two weeks ago, I was procrastinating about what I wanted to serve at Crown lunch for 300. Then I got a call from Muirgheall – no ovens. We had six burners but no ovens. The site had promised to fix the ovens but nope. No dice.
Well, OK then.
I pushed into high gear and came up with a menu from Bartolomeo Scappi- because the man literally has thousands of recipes. One recipe for sheep’s head is really more like 4-5 recipes. And then he’ll say things like, “Or you could do this like we did with that other recipe 20 recipes ago.”
My plan: Use roasters for everything. Roast chicken overnight and serve cold. Make pulled pork (which Jorundr made into smoked pork for us instead), hard boiled eggs, almond rice, bread, salad (because that required no cooking), lentils, garbanzo beans, and cookies that Lucreta had already made. (Yay!) I only had $4 a person and thought this would be a decent lunch for the price.
I consult with lots of cooks (thank you Katja for keeping me from panicking) and decide this menu will work. I am pretty sure I am going to be on budget.
On Friday, Jorundr and I go to Restaurant Depot to buy food for Lunch. Jorundr did the pork the night before and it’s delicious – and it had been on sale. Chicken is on sale. Everything is on sale. We get everything we had planned – and came up under budget. WAAAY under budget.
Shockingly under budget.
This is where we start giggling and come up with crazy plans. We go back into Restaurant Depot and then have existential questions like, “What will make people happier? Cheese or asparagus?” We decide to get both. We get 50 giant white onions because they were stupid cheap. Same for cucumbers. We decide to make Mac and Cheese because so many adults wanted to raid the kids menu. 🙂 We also go crazy at Breadworks – getting 15 2 pound loves for about $60 bucks. More giggling ensues. The counterperson at Breadworks helps us take the bread out to the van and goes “holy ****” when she sees the amount of food we have and asks if she can come to our house. We say yes. And we head towards site, giggling at the amount of food we have, and yet, we’re still under budget.
Jorundr scours the internet for onion sop recipes on the drive up. 🙂 We decide to make our own chicken stock – from leftover chicken parts. It’s so rich when we’re done making it, that its almost like chicken syrup than chicken stock. I feel so medieval, basically using every part of the animal and making do with what I have on hand. 🙂
The chicken gets done in record time, with Jorundr cleaving the chicken parts and me parboiling. More people start coming into help. YAY! Onions get chopped by people other than me. (Winning!) We cheat and decide to make the onions in the roasters and that turned out perfect. (Another Jorundr idea.) Eggs get hard boiled. Garlic gets minced. We stop cooking around 9, turn the onions on at 11, and then go to bed. My body decides sleep is for the weak and I get a couple of hours at best.
I’m up at 6:30 to check the onions, start the water for rice, and make the sauces. Salad gets made. Cucumbers get sliced. Cheese gets turned into cubes. Chicken stock becomes chicken and onion soup. Around 10AM I start to panic a little, as two things become apparent – we do not have enough serving gear/utensils, etc for two stations and I do not have enough pots to boil the mac and cheese and asparagus – the two things that need to get done at the last minute.
My fabulous assistants see I am starting to lose my mind and people take off for the other kitchen to get serving gear and others start loading the food into the car. (Bless my whole crew. They were all amazing and all handled me with ease. Even when I started cursing up a storm because we kept flipping breakers with the roasters.) We get the mac and cheese done but not the asparagus – but I get everything but the asparagus down to the field by 11:58, so with two minutes to spare! Jorundr is a magician and gets the asparagus done and seasoned in no time flat and we get that down to the field.
At this point I find out we have 400 people on site, not 300. And yet, somehow, we had more than enough food. 🙂 I blame Restaurant Depot. 🙂
The only food failure that I had was the orange sauce. I should have reduced it more. It ended up being way too runny and most people passed on it. The garlic sauce was a hit; however, so I feel redeemed.
Scappi’s garlic sauce*:
To prepare a garlic sauce with fresh walnuts and almonds. Get six ounces of fresh, shelled walnuts, four ounces of fresh Milanese almonds and six parboiled garlic cloves or one and a half raw ones. Grind that in a mortar with four ounces of crustless bread soaked in a meat or fish broth that is not too salty. When that is done, put a quarter-ounce of ground ginger into it.
Get a cup of raw garlic bulbs and then mince it.
Get a cup of walnuts and then food process them into dust.
Mix the two together.
Add enough stock to make it wetish (probably less than a cup.)
Add teaspoon of ginger (more if you want it to be more bitey.)
and you’re done.
It was a good yet exhausting day. My crew was hands down amazing and I am so happy they put up with me. 🙂 Great job guys. Thank you so much.
*Note: Originally shared on Facebook. The Editor asked Dame Illadore if we could post to Storfrettir. Her response: “Yup! Wait… let me give you a citation for the Scappi translation…” We love you, Illadore! Here it is:
Scully, Terence. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L’arte et prudenza d’un maestro Cuoco (The Art and Craft of a Master Cook) (Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library) (Kindle Locations 5013-5016). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.