The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Historic Cooking: Chicken Saltato con Fungi from 1916

Chicken Saltado con Fungi ingredients.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Since the Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge project officially ended, and no new challenges will be posted, those of us who have completed some of the challenges in the past decided that we would continue the project on an informal basis. We choose a challenge from the whole list of previous themes, and either complete them (if we never got a chance to do so), or re-do them, on our own time, with no requirement (even such an informal one as we had) to complete the recipe and post about it within a certain time period! I've been reading Edwardian Farm by Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands, so I've been thinking about life in California during the Edwardian period, and the similarities and differences between Edwardian California and Edwardian England. 

Adding the olives, spices, and broth to the chicken.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Adding the mushrooms, onion, wine, and tomato sauce.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
frying the chicken in butter, oil, and garlic.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Google Books is really a treasure trove when it comes to antique books, and I was able to copy the pages of a book called A California Cook Book as PDF image files, and save them on my computer. The book was compiled by Sarah Williamson, published by Town Talk Press in San Francisco in 1916, and is a fairly short publication which, unfortunately, doesn't include a list of sources for all of the recipes! It does, interestingly, include a short chapter on Kosher dishes, but all of the other recipes are for fairly standard kinds of things. The one I chose sounded vaguely Italian, but then it called for the dish to be served on toast, which is not what I know as an Italian serving suggestion, especially because it says nothing about cutting the chicken in pieces small enough to be edible on toast ... 

The Redone Challenge: Soups, Stews and Porridges (October 21 - November 3, 2016) Whether it’s a delicate broth or a hearty porridge, if it’s served in a bowl, it’s fair game! 
Chicken Saltato con Fungi. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach. 

The Recipe: Chicken Saltato con fungi

Fry a young chicken in two-thirds olive oil and one-third butter, with a dash of garlic. Put in a stewpot with a little butter and oil, heat and drop in chicken, when fried adding the gravy to the pan. Then add a can of ripe olives, first draining off the water and washing the olives in fresh water before placing in pot. Then add a can of French imported mushrooms, liquor and all. (Dried mushrooms can be used, if first soaked, or fresh mushrooms added at last moment, first cooking.) Put in a little thyme, sage, savory, black and red pepper, salt and nutmeg, and small can of tomatoes, one fresh tomato and one half glass red wine. When tender serve on toast.
--from A California Cook Book, 1916.

The Date/Year and Region: California, 1916.

How Did You Make It: mostly as the recipe states, with some ingredient substitutions. Almost all ingredient amounts were guesses.

4 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 fresh garlic clove, crushed
½ cup chicken stock
1 small can sliced black olives
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 small onions, halved
1 tablespoon spiced, salted, dried mushrooms (leftover from Mushroom Catsup recipe)
1 small can tomato sauce
about 2 oz. white zinfandel wine

Put the butter, olive oil, and crushed garlic in a stew pan on high heat until butter melts and garlic starts sizzling. Rinse and pat dry chicken pieces, then carefully put them into the pan, skin side down at first, and cook until browned on both sides, turning the chicken as needed. Add the stock and the other ingredients, the fresh mushrooms last, and stir to combine. When everything is bubbling vigorously, cover the pan loosely (leave the lid tipped up on one side) and lower the heat to low, just enough to keep the stew bubbling gently. Let cook on low heat (just enough to keep the broth bubbling) for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, but tender (no pink inside).

Time to Complete: 10 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking.

Total Cost: less than $20 for 2 servings.

How Successful Was It?: It's always difficult to decide whether a recipe turned out as intended, when the amounts of multiple ingredients aren't given! The stew smelled good while cooking, and my housemate who tasted it, said it was really good, but I thought it was bland. The chicken was very tender, though, and I actually added some small onions, as well. I should have put more garlic and onion in at the beginning, and much more of the spices, salt, pepper, and wine. I could hardly taste them! I should also put in the herbs, when I make this again.

As a recipe for braised or stewed meat, it is a success, though. I do want to make this again, and I have to love a recipe that lets you put everything in a pot and walk away while it simmers!

How Accurate Is It?: I didn't have most of the herbs called for in the recipe, and I didn't have any red wine, so I had to substitute, or leave things out. I decided to use the mushroom, salt and spice mix left over from making Mushroom Catsup, because I had been wanting to use it for a while, and it contained salt, black and red pepper, and nutmeg in it already. I had to just leave the herbs out, since I didn't have any that would have given a similar flavor; I didn't have a fresh tomato or canned whole tomatoes, so I used the small can of tomato sauce that I had. I used white zinfandel instead of red wine, because that's what I had. I also decided not to serve it on toast, although I'd probably serve a crusty Italian bread on the side, to soak up the broth/sauce! I'd say my substitutions were what would have been done by a cook in 1916, too, so I'd say this re-creation of this dish was 75% historically accurate.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)