The recipe, which came in a Twitter update from the chef and television personality Andrew Zimmern, was succinct, as the form requires: “Brown 8 thighs, 3 C shallots. Add wine, tarragon, Dijon, sim 30 min covered. Remove lid, reduce. Add 2 C cut cherry toms.”
There was no photograph attached, but he was clearly writing about chicken. An image of the dish was instantly in my mind: the burnished brown of the skin peeking out of a sauce the color of goldenrod, with flecks of green from the tarragon and bright red from the wilted tomatoes. Such is the power of a great recipe in whatever form. The dish seemed obviously cookable. Better yet, it was deeply appetizing. I made it for the family right away.”
Sifton goes on to say how he knows it’s chicken and how he cooks it and cooks it again, and that the twitter has the essence of the recipe.
and cherry tomatoes
Now, if Sifton didn’t know from chicken or tarragon or cherry tomatoes….this might not have been the image he would have conjured up. But since he had an image and an impression of the dish, he knew how to cook it. So much of cooking is memory.
So much the same for cooks of the past. Just a few words could conjure up an image, and then they’d know what to do, if they even want to do this at all.
In the 17th century they didn’t have Twitter, but some of their recipes are succinct enough for the form. And the spelling is totally creative.
Parboyl them with beaten Parsley and Butter in their Bellies, then put them into your Boyler with strong Broth, add a blade of Mace, and some gross pepper, with half a pint of white-wine, grate a little bread into the broth to whitten the Fowl; and so serve them up with the Gravy and a dissolved Anchovy, Garnish’d with Parsly and Violets, or their leaves.
The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex, 1696
This is a recipe for………
Pigeons or any small Fowl to Boyl.
It would work equally well with chicken. Not too far from the the first recipe either – bird, wine, herb.