SUNDAY SUPPER – 5: De re coquinaria – Coliculi elixati?

I am thinking in advance about Sunday Supper.

What to do?

I have been looking through Apicius’ 2nd century work De re coquinaria for some hints about how to use all the broccoli that is coming in.

Also, I have a hankering for chicken.  I want to use things that will be fresh from the garden.

Here is what I am thinking about.

From De re coquinaria, Apicius’ 2nd century cookbook in a modernized edition by John Edwards called The Roman Cookery of Apicius, I could make coliculi elixati, "Broccoli and Cabbage in Coriander Wine Sauce".  This needs coriander, of which I have loads.  There is nothing like the flavor of green coriander seeds!  It also calls for onions, which are coming along nicely in the garden as well.

BTW.. elixo means "to seethe" and that coliculus is a variant of caulis whence our word cauliflower, it being that  fine brassica – as Dr. Maturin might put it – of the world, as well as being an anti-scorbutic.  I do need to fend off scurvy in my self and my guests.

Apicius lived during the reign of the Emperor Trajan.  Perhaps you remember Pliny the Younger (+113) writing to Trajan (+117) to gripe about Christians and ask him what to do with them.  Pliny to Trajan (ep. 10):

They also declared that the totality of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a certain day to chant verses antiphonally amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves with an oath, not in a criminal conspiracy, but to abstain from fraud, banditry, and adulteration, to commit no breach of trust, and not to renege on a deposit. After completing this foolishness, it was their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an common and innocuous type; but they had in fact given up this practice since my edict, issued on your instructions, which banned all associations. This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth from two female slaves—whom they call "ministers" (ministrae) —by means of torture. I found nothing but a degenerate sort of superstition carried to immoderate lengths.

Trajan was thought in medieval times to have been a good and just Emperor, which earned him kudos from Dante in Purgatorio X.   That’s the canto which really draws the reader in.  With the pilgrim purgatorians we are invited to sing the Sunday Vesper’s Canticle In exitu.  Dante was inspired, of course, by Paul the Deacon’s Life of Gregory the Great in which the "Justice of Trajan" is recounted.  In Dante’s universe, Trajan went to hell after his death, but the prayer of Gregory allowed him to come back to life, accept Christ, and then obtain salvation when he re-died.  This is how Trajan winds up in the Paradiso.

Why am I writing about Trajan?

Let’s move to the main course.

This would pair up with a chicken recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French CookingJulia Child, Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence Chicken sauteed with Herbs and Garlic, Egg Yolk and Butter Sauce.

The recipe calls for thyme or savory, I have both.  There is a place nearby where I can get fresh eggs and probably a free range chicken.

I will need to buy fresh fennel, for the tops, and lemons.  I have loads of parsely.  Trying serving fresh raw fennel in small pieces with a dip of mayo, with a little glass of Martini "Bianco" for an appetizer.

The recipe as described in the book:

Basil, thyme or savory, a pinch of fennel, and a bit of garlic give this sauté a fine Provencal flavor that is even more pronounced if your herbs are fresh.  The sauce is a type of hollandaise, as the herbal, buttery pan juices are beaten into the egg yolks to make a thick and creamy liaison.  Serve this dish with potatoes sauteed in butter or potato crepes, broiled tomatoes and a chilled rosé wine.

Rosé… hmmm…

If anyone wants to pitch in, feel free!

Okay…. I checked out the two variations of the potato crepes, they look great, but one has about a year’s worth of extra fat (using cream cheese, swiss cheese, heavy cream and butter) and the other looks… tricky, since it has none of those things.  How to keep them from sticking.  They are a little too hard, perhaps to keep warm at the end of the prep process… dunno.  I could just make hashbrowns, no?   I must think about this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Potato latkes instead? Or, how about Minnesota Wild Rice (the real stuff) with some tomatoes and nuts
    (pine nuts)? and/or you could serve the rice cold with some green grapes and walnuts maybe tossed with
    light oil or vinagrette.

    Just throwing out ideas

    Oh, what to do? Invite Cathy for dinner! lol

  2. Cathy: It would be nice to have a limited blognic in the Twin Cities sometime.

  3. JulieC says:

    How about scalloped potatoes or garlic mashed red potatoes (skins on) with blue cheese?

    Way to go with the free range chicken, Father. We get our chickens from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. The difference in taste and texture is astounding.
    The free range birds are leaner but have a wonderful hearty chicken flavor and aroma that their pale, fat, anemic store-bought cousins will never have.

  4. coeyannie says:

    I like Roadside Potatoes. Not very gourmet, but easy, and everyone loves them. Use your judgement on the amounts. [Hey! What’s “gourmet”?]

    Ore Ida shredded potato patties.
    Put in 9 X 13 buttered pan, or 8 X 12 pan.(I usually cook for a crowd) I let them thaw out some, so I can spread them around the pan.
    Heat enough half and half (for sure a pint) to cover potatoes, plus one stick butter.
    Pour over potatoes. Generously sprinkle fresh parmeasan cheese over top. Bake (this gets dicey) I think 325 degrees (uncovered) for 1 1/2 hours. You can tell when they are done, being a pro cook that you are.

    They are good! God Bless.

  5. lucy says:

    Coeyannie – that’s about as much fat and calories as Fr. was trying to avoid. But, when having fine French food, it can hardly be avoided, no ?

    Fr. – I would do a potato tatin, also in Julia’s book, I believe. I don’t have my book handy at the moment. [Interesting idea!]

    I made coq au vin the other evening for the extended family. With the requisite parslied potatoes, buttered peas, and sour dough batard. Delicious. [Gotta love coq au vin.]

  6. carl b says:

    I searched my google docs for broccoli and chicken, and came up with this, Father, if it suits your fancy:

    [Looks good!]

  7. coeyannie says:

    I’m back with the Roadside Potatoes. I was at work trying to get out the door. You use Ore Ida hash brown patties. They are in a box in the freezer section.

    Hey Lucy, maybe that is why I am having such a hard time losing weight.

  8. Fr: Let me know. I know people. ;-)

  9. markomalley says:

    I can’t help you out with the recipe that you are proposing, but if you have fresh broccoli and onions, that sounds like the basis for some really good stir-fry (especially with that free-range chicken).

    And since the weather is nice (minus storms), it would be ideal to use your wok directly on charcoal. Works especially well with a traditional pounded steel wok (as opposed to stir-fry pans that are the norm for most kitchens these days).

  10. Denis Crnkovic says:

    All the food suggestions sound great, indeed. I would go with Cathy Of Alex’s wild rice suggestion, a personal favourite.

    Permit me to suggest a wine, in keeping with the ancient Roman theme? Peter Seghesio has come out (in ’08 and ’09) with some every nice whites from the Arneis grape. As far as I know he is the only one growing arneis in the U.S. (Russian River Valley) and he’s managed to bring out a nice, “almondy” wine with an intriguing mineral edge. When I tasted it, I thought, “This must be how the primeval Roman imperial wines tasted”. It would be a good complement to the chicken and coliculi elixati. And I like the idea that “arneis” apparently means “little rascal”.

  11. Denis: I suspect I won’t be able to get any of that Arneis before Sunday. It sounds great, however. I like Arneis.

  12. danidunn says:

    What kind of minister were the female slaves?

  13. danidunn: I think they did the washing up. But, don’t underestimate how important that is!

  14. PostCatholic says:

    If you ever feel like horrifying a cardiologist for a good purpose, crack open Mastering the Art of French Cooking and consider creamed onions or her zabaglione broiled with strawberries. I grew up near Mrs. Child’s home (it was a great place to trick-or-treat! Put her Blanquette de Veau on the list for a future winter Sunday; you won’t be sorry.

  15. shadowlands says:

    As I read Father’s posts, I begin to truly see that I am such an unlearn-edded philistine. Previously this would make me hesitate to visit here, but lately I like to join in as the news here is always on the pulse of issues and up to date, to the minute. I have also listened to some lovely music here during a rather horrible night of insomnia and experienced a wonderful peace.
    Anyway Father Z, regarding potatoes, goose fat is brilliant for roasters, I do know that. I am known for my roast potatoes, in a positive way. I only use goose fat at Christmas or Easter (in order to keep it ‘special’ and because its nearly two quid for a small tub!!).
    This probably isn’t much use for your Sunday supper this week, but maybe it can be used for light frying too? Not sure. You did say to jump in freely though, so I did.

  16. Just to clarify — the female slaves weren’t slaves owned by the church; they were members of the church who happened to be slaves. Your outside social status didn’t bar you from doing anything in the Church.

  17. Vincent says:

    I very much like Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence. A great accompaniment to this dish is broiled tomatoes stuffed with the same herbs you use with the chicken, fresh bread crumbs, EVOO, and Parmesan cheese.

    Another good option, especially if you’re looking to limit the fat, would be to make some simple roasted red or new potatoes, which you can do with a drizzling of olive oil in the oven, along with whatever herbs you desire (though I wouldn’t use any herbs because of the herbs in your chicken and hopefully tomatoes). Just some large-grained salt when they’re done roasting.

    Of course, don’t forget some good crusty bread to soak up that great egg yolk and butter sauce!

  18. PostCatholic: If you ever feel like horrifying a cardiologist

    I regularly dine with a cardiologist and other priests. I shall have to make some of these heart stoppers, so that when we have the big one right there at the table, we will be covered.

  19. marthawrites says:

    Never heard of Apicius until your mention of his cookbook, and then I encounter his name in a novel I’m reading, Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle. An art forger suggests Canard Apicius as the entree to the protagonist, his girlfriend, and a dealer as they sit in a Paris restaurant. Voila! C’est une nom familier. Reading this blog comes in handy in so many unexpected ways.

  20. Dennis D says:

    Father, I made the poulet saute aux herbes regularly back in the early ’80s for guests at a bed and breakfast in Geneva, New York. It’s wonderful!

    Despite Julia’s recommendation to use fresh herbs, please consider using a small amount of fennel seed ground to a powder, rather than fresh fennel. The greens of Florentine fennel don’t compare to the true foeniculum vulgare (which has no bulb). Sometimes the chopped greens have little to no flavor. They do make a nice garnish, however, or added to the sauce when it’s finished.

    If you and your guests like cooked fennel, wedges of the Florentine fennel can be braised with the chicken and garlic. Brown it deeply and remove it with the chicken when you finish the sauce. The combination of the fennel, garlic and lemon is to die for.

    The saute recipe can be varied by sauteeing sage leaves and finely chopped prosciutto fat with the garlic and chicken. Finish by folding in the slivered prosciutto for a French take on Saltimbocca. Or you can use whole shallots instead of the garlic cloves and a couple whole sprigs of tarragon for a bearnaise-like chicken sauce.

    I recommend against potatoes because their texture doesn’t take the sauce very well. A simple rice pilaf–sweated onion, long grain rice and chicken broth works better.

    I’ll step away from the ambo now.

    p.s. I know this is coals to Newcastle, but never, ever, ever use dried basil. It’s nasty and only exists due to original sin. Let the Protestants use it.

  21. coeyannie says:

    Gourmet – 1. Someone who is a connoiseur of good food and drink.
    2. Gourmet food is of the highest quality and flavor, prepared well and presented in an artful manner.
    3. A gourmet restaurant is one considered to serve the highest quality food.

    I meant #2, as close as I could get to a dish that is not prepared starting in my own personal garden, which I do not have. Geeez!!!!

  22. Girgadis says:

    Father you won’t find this idea for broccoli in a Julia Child cookbook but you will enjoy it just the same. Stir fry the florets with some finely chopped garlic in olive oil. Meanwhile, take a half pound or so of capellini (depending on how many you’re feeding)and break into two-inch pieces. Add to the stir fry, and just as the vermicelli have browned, add some chicken broth, about a quarter cup at a time, until it’s absorbed by the pasta. On occasion I’ve added some chopped up clams to the mix. I find this to be a simple way to make an interesting and delicious use of a vegetable that can get boring quickly but I don’t want to go to waste. It works better with broccoli rabe but, in the interest of making do with what’s on hand, plain old broccoli will work just fine.

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