Monday Funday

A Medieval Feast

By • May 27, 2013 • 23 Comments

Now that Food52's Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw has stocked her First Kitchen, she's ready to throw parties in it: no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.

Today: A feast fit for royalty, on a weeknight -- plus a step-by-step plan.

Simplest Roast chicken

There are toga parties, Renaissance parties, 60s parties, 80s parties. There are roaring 20s parties, Victorian England parties. We took a day this year and turned the entire Food52 site into a mid-nineteeth century party.

So why aren't there more medieval parties?

I get it. The medieval period, also known as the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, is the time of dirty faces and dirty jokes, of blood and gore and illiteracy and weird, creepy art. It's a time that's easy to dismiss with a cringe, to shove into the back of our collective memory and block the entrace with a gargoyle. (Unless we're visiting Medieval Times, which I plan on doing for my next birthday.)

But, as I learned this semester after taking a course on Pop Culture in Medieval Europe (yes, I am a nerd), the people of the medieval times were serious eaters.

The upper class, on a given night, ate crackly-skinned birds with their hands; they ate long-simmered, caramelized vegetables; they ate saffron and cloves and five different kinds of pepper. These feasts, to them, meant spending fortunes on products from Arab lands, meant paying for hordes of servants to cook over open fires. 

And you can have it all -- the roasted meats, the stews, the spices, the joy of pretending you're a fabulously-wealthy royal -- on a weeknight. 

The Menu

Heidi Swanson's Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt and Garlic
Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken
Tuscan Onion Confit
A Medley of Roasted Potatoes with Homemade Za'atar and Aleppo Pepper
Almond Cake with Orange Flower Water Syrup

As early as the week before your party: On a slow evening, or if you're feeling productive over the weekend, make your Tuscan Onion Confit. (It takes around two hours, so you could make it the night of the party -- but it will feel good to get out of the way.) Keep refrigerated.

Tuscan Onion Confit 

The night before the party: Make your Almond Cake with Orange Flower Water Syrup (and if you can't find the Orange Flower Water, or don't feel like tracking it down, don't sweat it.) While the cake is baking, make your homemade za'atar for the potatoes.

Almond Cake

As soon as you get home from work: Take your chicken out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature. Slice your potatoes and your onions. 

Two hours before your guests arrive: Stick your potatoes to roast in the oven. Once those are in, get your onions softening on the stove for your stew. Stir in the cooked chickpeas, then add the vegetable broth and garlic. Bring to a simmer, and then remove it from heat. Keep this on the stove -- you'll finish it off right before serving.

Chickpea Stew

An hour before party time: Take the potatoes out of the oven, and get your chicken in there. Leave the potatoes on their baking sheet -- you'll warm them up later. Take your Tuscan Onion Confit out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature.

When your guests arrive: Take the chicken out of the oven, and leave it in a foil tent to rest. Bring your oven down to 200°F. Stick in your potatoes to warm them up.

Roasted potatoes

Party time: Get your guests seated with some bottles of wine. Head back to the stove and finish up your chickpea stew. Take your potatoes out of then oven. Go join your friends.

Jump to Comments (23)

Tags: first kitchen, entertaining, party, roast chicken, chicken, weeknight, medieval, everyday cooking

Comments (23)

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about 1 year ago Clara Padrón

But potatoes just arrived in Europe after the discovery of the America, which was in the very end of the medieval age... shouldn't be turnips instead?

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about 1 year ago sew719

I was so excited to stumble on this link until I read how ineptly you characterized the Middle Ages. I understand you're young, but the sweeping mischaracterizations that opens this article are insulting to readers who might study this incredible period for a living, and I'm surprised this ground wasn't covered on the first day of your class. The Tuscan onion confit looks fantastic, though.

Dscn2212

about 1 year ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

"Weird, creepy art:" are you serious? Brunelleschi, of the Duomo in Florence? Giotto, Donatello, Fra Angelico? Editors, this story might have benefitted from a little more time on the drawing board, and perhaps a different theme for what I am sure was a lovely dinner. Warm congratulations on your graduation, Brette.

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about 1 year ago MyLime

The artists you mention are all associated with the Renaissance--the rise "out" of the Western medieval era/Dark Ages.

Dscn2212

about 1 year ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

If the Medieval era extended from generally the 5th to the 15th centuries, those who painted in the 1400's may have been on the cusp of the very early Renaissance, yet still technically within the Medieval era.

Mini_modiglianised

about 1 year ago NoraMunro

I -- and many other historians -- would argue against accepting a description of the years between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Italian humanism as the "Dark Ages." That term, like the terms "medieval," "Gothic," and "renaissance," was coined in 15th-C Italy as a way of putting down the centuries between the fall of Rome and the rise of the soi-disant "renaissance" humanism. Similarly many of the standards that are now considered the mark of good art, literature, etc., were developed for the express purpose of making the "Middle Ages" look barbaric. Don't believe it.

(why yes, I do have a few degrees in history, why do you ask? :P )

Cimg0737

about 1 year ago cookinginvictoria

Even though these recipes may not be totally authentic to the medieval time period, I really love this dinner party menu! Thank you, Brette, for sharing. And a belated congratulations to you on the occasion of your college graduation!

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about 1 year ago Alicia Van De Kop

This looks awesome and kudos to you for the research and keeping it all... Plausible. There is a very large (international) group dedicated to Re-Creating the Middle Ages called the Society for Creative Anachronism. SCA. Information can be found at SCA.org. As a New Yorker I believe you reside in the Province of Ostgardr and contact people can be found here http://www.ostgardr.org...

These people are an un-tapped wealth of period food knowledge. I highly reccomend.

Alicia Van De Kop
known in society as
Lady Gwyneth Blackthorne of House Hunter
Barony of Three Mountains in the Kingdom of AnTir

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over 1 year ago Bubba Mac

geez...give brette a break here...she is a college student making the transition to adult....maybe she didn't major in history? I would be high fiving my college kids if they put together this menu...and executed it close to acceptable...heck, I would marry my wife again, if she did the same!

Mini_modiglianised

over 1 year ago NoraMunro

... I hate to be "that person," but this menu really disappoints me. Or rather, the fact that it's labeled "Medieval Feast" really disappoints me. "Medieval cuisine" is a thing, sort of like "Indian cuisine" and "Chinese cuisine" are things, and as with Indian and Chinese cuisine, there are aesthetics, theories of health and nutrition, and local tastes underpinning it. This doesn't reflect anything medieval (and as others have noted, includes anachronistic ingredients like potatoes and baking powder).

There is a vast body of very accessible research into medieval foodways and cooking available; it would have been great to see Food52 dip into some of that. Or at least not label this "Medieval Feast."

Mini_modiglianised

over 1 year ago NoraMunro

And since I feel bad complaining without offering something constructive, too, may I suggest medievalcookery.com as a very good resource for actual medieval recipes?

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over 1 year ago Brette Warshaw

Hi NoraMunro,
SO appreciate this! I actually spent a few months researching medieval foods for school, and I know that these recipes aren't exactly "authentic" -- these recipes were actually already on Food52. I was just drawing a spirited menu out of our current recipes. I've tested a bunch of medieval recipes from cookbooks of the time, and sadly none of them were delicious enough to share here!

Mini_modiglianised

over 1 year ago NoraMunro

Brette,
I think this menu looks delicious. It's just that, as I said, it doesn't reflect the medieval culinary aesthetic, and I was disappointed that you decided to call it a "medieval" feast. "Medieval-inspired" would have been better.

I'm glad to hear you looked into some medieval recipes. I encourage you to keep looking -- there are in fact many that are delicious enough to share. If I can shill for my own cooking, let me suggest you check out my redaction of a 14th-C French recipe for chicken in orange sauce (blogged at http://damenora.blogspot...). It's excellent, if I do say so myself. I don't have it on Food52 because I've had issues adding recipes here -- something about the site doesn't seem to like my browser, so I get annoyed and stop trying after a while.

Stringio

over 1 year ago Ralph Delamare

edited to add: i would sub turnips instead.

Stringio

over 1 year ago Ralph Delamare

potatoes would be new world, after columbus.

Kmd0412.2

over 1 year ago Katey501

I love this menu...but edit your timeline...a mid-nineteenth century party would be the mid-1800's...a medieval party would be 11th-14th century.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I believe she was talking about our April Fools' gag this year, which was when our site turned into 1852 -- it's linked through.

Kmd0412.2

over 1 year ago Katey501

Thanks, Kenzi...I see that now.

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over 1 year ago duckfat

Turkeys are native to North and South America, continents still unknown to Medieval Europe.
A little OT but I ate in a restaurant in St. Remy that served ancient Roman cuisine. I can't vouch for its authenticity but it was not French or Italian and definitely introduced new flavors to its patrons.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Every year in high school I went to a Renaissance fair with my class, and we'd speak latin and wear things with billowy sleeves. So when are we planning this feast?

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over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Did you also eat ham legs?

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over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Turkey legs! I mean turkey legs. Also, I feel like this should have something to do with Game of Thrones.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I don't remember any turkey legs (shame on them), but I do remember grape juice in goblets.