What to CookChicken

A Medieval Feast

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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.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Entertaining, Party, Weeknight Cooking, Everyday Cooking, First Kitchen