For my first recipe I picked something relatively simple and familiar since it was for a weekday dinner. Here is the original recipe from page 93 of The American Woman's Cookbook (1910) by Ella M. Blackstone:
Take a dry-picked young chicken from three to 3 ½ pounds; wash thoroughly; cut up in pieces, dividing all joints. Roll pieces in flour seasoned with salt only, to be ready for cooking. Have an eight quart saucepan well heated. Take two ounces butter in which to fry four medium sliced onions until the latter are well browned, almost to a crisp. Mix two tablespoons curry powder into a paste with ½ wineglassfull of tamarind water and place in saucepan with browned onions. Stir well and fry pieces of chicken in the pot, after which add from four to six teacupfuls of soup stock of either beef, veal or mutton, to which has been added ½ teacupful of cocoa and nutmeg. Bring to boil and then let slowly simmer for twenty minutes. Serve with boiled rice. This can be thickened with a little flour.
There is something so fun about the way this and most of the recipes in the book are written. It’s how someone would verbally instruct you and reading through the book is like have Ella tell you what to do while using slightly fancier language than I'm used to. It gets especially hilarious in the etiquette chapter. Also, the measurements are amusingly descriptive, while not actually saying how much a modern cook should use. The problem of how much is in a wineglassful is going to be a bit of a challenge and I will make good use of Google and common sense. To make it a bit easier to follow the original recipe I changed the format to match what most of us are used to seeing and clarified some of the instructions:
The American Woman's Cookbook
flour (I guessed about ⅔ of a cup)
salt (I guessed about 1 teaspoon)
2 ounces or 4 tablespoons butter
4 medium onions, sliced (I had only had one giant onion)
2 tablespoons curry powder
½ wineglassful or ½ cup* tamarind water**
4-6 teacupfuls or 2 ⅓ to 3 ½ cups of soup stock: beef, veal or mutton
½ teacupful or 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons each of (unsweetened) cocoa and nutmeg***
additional flour to adjust thickness as needed
Roll chicken pieces in flour seasoned with salt. Heat a large pot over medium-high, melt butter and add onions. Sauté onions until they are starting to brown at the edges. Mix curry powder into a paste with the tamarind water and add to the onions. Add the chicken pieces and continue cooking, while turning to brown evenly. Add enough stock to cover the chicken and stir in cocoa and nutmeg. Bring to boil and then let slowly simmer for twenty minutes. Thicken with flour or thin with water as necessary. Serve with boiled rice.
*I couldn't find what exactly a wineglassful equals so I am hoping they also had 6-8 ounce wine glasses
**I used tamarind paste that I bought at a local Asian market per the recommendation of Kate Heyhoe
***According to Conversion Center one teacupful equals 137.7 milliliters. Then using Google I converted to tea and tablespoons.
Right off the bat I was nervous about cooking the chicken with the onions since I was worried about the onions burning. Also, adding that much nutmeg did not sound like a good idea. So, during my very first attempt at cooking a 100 year old recipe I changed the (my) rules, which since I made them, I can change them all willy-nilly when ever I like.
My original idea was to cook one meal, see if its edible and then try again with my changes, in case it wasn’t. Since it was a Wednesday night, and we didn’t have any leftovers to fall back on, I decided to cook a pot of the original recipe and another one making the adjustments I thought it needed (splitting the chicken between the two pots). Doing this all at the same time, was not ideal, but I did it all for you, my imaginary reader. There ended up being A LOT of dirty dishes for the husband to deal with.
I cooked both versions in tandem and made adjustments to my version as I went. The pot on the right is the original recipe and my version is on the left. We agreed that the chicken from both pots was tasty, although the husband called the chicken from the original recipe “eggnog chicken” thanks to the strong nutmeg flavor. The sauce from the original recipe was super strong, bitter and even in small amounts on the rice, was no good. My version of the sauce was decent, but could use some improvement. I’ll take another stab at this recipe someday, but right now we are waiting for the curry smell to dissipate.
|Chicken Curry-Mole with basmati rice and apple-carrot slaw|
Chicken Curry Mole:
Based on the recipe Curry Chicken in The American Woman's Cookbook
3-3.5 pound young chicken, cut up into pieces, dividing all the joints
⅔ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
4 medium onions, sliced or about 4 cups
1 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon tamarind paste mixed with ¼ cup hot water (strain if necessary)
3 ½ cups of stock*
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons sugar
*Whatever you have on hand, I used beef, but would probably switch to chicken next time
Mix flour and salt together in shallow dish (or be lazy like me and use 2 paper towels stacked) and the roll chicken pieces to coat. Heat a large pot over medium-high, melt butter and add onions. Sauté onions until they are starting to brown a little at the edges. Add the chicken pieces and continue cooking, while turning to brown evenly. Mix curry powder and the tamarind water in a small bowl and add to the onions and browned chicken. Add stock, which should almost cover the chicken. Stir in cocoa, nutmeg and sugar. Bring to boil and then let it slowly simmer for twenty minutes. Turn the chicken pieces every 5 minutes, if they aren't covered by liquid. Season with additional salt as needed and serve with rice (I used basmati).
Overall I like the idea of this recipe. The chicken was juicy and tender, the onions were great on top of the rice and it took less than an hour from start to finish. Next time I will definitely monkey around with the spices and proportions. Maybe get a bit of inspiration here.
If anyone is reading this... What would you do to improve the recipe?
Next Up: Very Good Muffins