Okay, so the titles are really terrible. They’re all my fault. – TBP
In hindsight, working until 5 then trying to scrounge up the ingredients for a feast on a public holiday was probably an ambitious move. I had been thinking seafood but after noticing The Inn At The Crossroads (an ASOIAF food themed site you should check out) had done a seafood stew recently and not wanting to be a copycat I fell back on the Westeros equivalent of an easy weeknight dinner.
Roast honeyed chicken on trenchers
Sweet pickled baby beetroots
Caramelised onions & parnsips with thyme
Spinach in pan juices
Soft & crumbly cheddar
The very first dinner I cooked for our AGOT role playing game back in 2010 was trenchers with individual roast cornish hens so I felt I was on pretty safe ground here. Last time, I bought some excellent thick crusted bread days before we wanted to eat it and let it go authentically stale. Coming off the end of an extra-long-weekend, I was lucky to find two loaves even barely big enough, and paradoxically unlucky in that they’d been baked that day! By that point it must have been just about the only fresh bread left in Perth. I toasted them on both sides on the bottom shelf of the oven and we served them on top of plates in case they weren’t strong enough.
For a public holiday I really lucked out with my ingredients – I managed to get two Mt Barker Free Range chickens from a local IGA and had stockpiled some new baby beetroots and parsnips from the farmers markets at Clontarf (as of yesterday they are now on winter hours) on Saturday. The crumbly cheddar was from Cape Naturaliste via said IGA and the spinach and onions were all I could get at that time of day.
1 Free Range (& preferably organic) chicken per 4 people
1 TB honey per chicken
1 very large loaf of rustic bread per 2 or 3 people
1 bunch of baby beetroots
¼ c balsamic vinegar
¼ c brown sugar
1 bag of young parsnips
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bunch of spinach
1 pickling onion per person (or more if you’re keen)
100g butter (or more to taste)
a litre of chicken stock (organic, or homemade, or from vegetarian powder)
a few tablespoons of plain flour
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180.
Unwrap the chicken, rinse it clean (including inside the cavity), drain and pat dry with paper towel. Wiggle it’s limbs around a bit to limber things up (especially if you’ve defrosted it) and check for broken bones. If you find any, do the world a favour and take it back to where you bought it from and make a stink. Rub the skin around a bit to loosen it up.
Cut a few thin slices of butter and put them to one side. Place the chicken breast side up on a board and starting at the cavity, ease the skin away from the flesh with your fingers. Push a few pieces of butter under the skin (if you have access to duck or goose fat, use that instead). Crack some salt and pepper over the skin and place chicken on the top shelf in the oven. Roast until done (82c if you have a thermometer, or until the juices run clear, or an hour a kilo) then remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with honey and put aside (under a little alfoil tent if you are so inclined) to rest. Pop it back into the oven 5 minutes before you’re ready to eat so the honey gives it a bit of a glaze.
Peel and trim the beetroots, avoiding any sort of porous surface in the process. Place in a small saucepan with an equal quantities of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar – not your best vinegar, as you’ll want around a quarter cup according to taste. Cover with water until all the beetroots are submerged and bring to the boil. Simmer until beetroots are tender enough that you can spear them with a fork without too much resistance.
Trim and wash the parsnips. Cut them into quarters, longwise. Simmer or steam them until almost tender.
Meanwhile, skin, trim and cut the onions in half from root end to root end. Melt the remaining butter in a heavy frying pan, add the onions, cover and start to slowly fry. Once the parsnips are tender and the onions look softened, add the parsnips to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalk and add to the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until the onions are caramelised and the parsnips have picked up a bit of crunch.
15 minutes before you want to eat, place the baking tray, sans chickens, on the stove top on a low heat (if your tray is not flame-proof, carefully scrape it into a small saucepan). Add the spinach and heat gently in the juices until wilted. Put the spinach to one side and use the remaining juices to make a gravy.
Cut the chicken into quarters using sharp kitchen shears. You could leave them intact and carve them at the table, but I find you get less wastage this way and I wanted to get the same vibe as that first time where we had a whole cornish hen each. Slices are way less visceral and way less fun. The chicken here is done, even though the juices are red – they ran clear until I cut through the bone and we checked with a thermometer to be sure.
Place everything on to the table and let everyone serve pile up their own trenchers. Cutlery was strictly forbidden.