Week 3 - A Sallet of Cold Hen or Pullet
This week, we’re cooking a simple, classic chicken salad. What’s that? Fresh out of mayonnaise? No worries, because (as Cook Off fans will know by now) when we say “classic” we’re talking 17th-century classic.
So what’s the difference between grandma’s chicken salad and stuff Samuel Pepys packed in his picnic lunch? First, forget about mayonnaise, salad dressing or similar, sweet-ish creamy “binders”. 17th-century chicken salad is tart … as in sour.
No big surprise there. In the Middle Ages, most sauces served with poultry were soured with wine, vinegar, verjuice, and/or lemon. Sweet and sour (made by adding honey, sugar or dried fruit like raisins and prunes) was also popular during this period, and remained so until the “new” French cuisine became all the rage. This week’s recipe for a sallet of cold hen or pullet is likely a holdover from this earlier period.
Our recipe comes from an unusual book titled The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth, Commonly Called Joan Cromwell, THE Wife of the Late Usurper, Truly Described and Represented, And now Made Publick for General Satisfaction. Published anonymously in 1664, it’s part cookbook and part political satire. A genre worth reviving? Regardless, the recipe goes like this:
And here’s our first attempt at a 21st-century translation. A couple of notes …. First, despite the instructions to “take a hen and roast it”, I took the lazy route and used a supermarket rotisserie chicken (don’t judge!) Hard-core Cook Off fans (and you know who you are), who scoff at modern day convenience can follow Lori and Krista’s example and begin with last season’s recipe for whole roasted capon.
Second, the original recipe calls for dark meat only. In my first attempt, I included both the breast AND the dark meat of 1/2 a chicken … no reason except that I really like white meat.
Meat of 1/2 a roast chicken, chopped small
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 small apple, diced
3 green onions coarsely chopped
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, mix chopped chicken, lemon zest, diced apple, green onions and parsley.
In a cup, combine dressing ingredients (lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper) Whisk with a fork to blend.
Pour over chicken mixture. Toss to coast.
For a true 17th-century presentation (or to simply freak out your dinner guests) blanch the leg bones by boiling them in water for 10 minutes with a slice of lemon. Clean off any remaining meat or gristle and use them to garnish the dish.
I thought the results were pretty good. The sour, acidic dressing did a great job of cutting the greasiness of my rotisserie chicken, while the addition of the apple provided a nice crunch and a sweet contrast to the sour dressing. I used a Granny Smith apple, but next time, I’ll try something sweeter … maybe even a firm pear. I also included the skin from my rotisserie chicken … which was a tad rubbery. I’ll bet Lori and Krista’s fire roasted chicken will have amazing salty, crispy skin and will make an amazing addition to the salad!
48 Hours Later
After two days in the fridge, my sallet of pullet is …. better! The flavours have co-mingled and the dressing has mellowed. This is definitely one of those dishes that improves with a bit of festering.
Ready to give Sallet of Hen or Pullet a go? Remember, post a photo of your results on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page for a chance to win weekly and grand prizes.
Deadline for this week’s entries is 11:59 PM, Tuesday, July 30th.
NOTE: For those who are wondering, a pullet is a young hen less than a year old.