Every Thanksgiving a fair proportion of the American populace tries to transform themselves into chefs. Although we spend more money eating out than on groceries these days and not cooking 40 percent of the suppers we serve, Thanksgiving is the day when we take to our kitchens and attempt to cook “traditional” dinners. Add that to this decade’s obsession with fine dining and there’ll be a lot of untrained cooks in the kitchen this week trying to pretend they’re Escoffier. If you’re looking for a cookbook rich in tradition that will make your Thanksgiving feast the talk of the town, have I got one for you!
How to Cook a Peacock a/k/a Le Viandier is so much more than an eye-catching cookbook, it’s a journey into medieval France. These are the recipes of Gillioume Tirel, chef to Philip IV, Charles V, and Charles VI of France. So when you serve dishes that come from this book, your guests can claim they feasted like kings. But I should say this is no ordinary cookbook.
See, the 14th century wasn’t as obsessed as we are with precision. There’s not a word about cooking temps or time in the book. Nor are there any of those lovely measuring amounts, like cups and teaspoons, that we hold so dear. Instead, you’ll use your imagination and tastebuds and learn a few new cooking terms as well.
For example the first direction in the recipe Lark Grané says:
“Take larks, restore them, then brown, and put veal in the pot with them, for a better broth.”
Restore them? Is he kidding? Bring them back to life? Luckily the glossary says restoring meat means blanching or brining it. I remember blanching from Home Ec. Unfortunately, the recipe also calls for verjuice, something I don’t think they sell at my local Piggly Wiggly. Too bad since it comes from under-ripe grapes
For the truly ambitious, there is a way to prepare “Pheasant and Peacocks In Full Display” that calls for a marinade of (amoung otherthings) long pepper, true cinnamon and rose water. and preservation in sugar and household spices. Not a word about what to do with the feathers. You know, cooking for royalty is all very well but I think I’ll stick to turkey this year. The peacocks can stay in the zoo.