I am never making a rice pilaf again. Barley is where it’s at. Holy mother of tacos.
So barley pilaf is amazing. It’s the perfect mix of savory and sweet thanks to beef broth, salt, and cinnamon. A generous helping of butter makes this rich and creamy and stick to your ribs filling. This my darlings. This will be my winter comfort food.
Originally the book called for sauteed radishes in here as well. I… didn’t have anymore because I got excited and used them all earlier in the week. But I can picture the crunch and bite they’d give this and it is divine.
Lamb? Lamb was pan seared in butter, kosher salt, and garlic and friend of mine grew. I then topped it off with a honey mustard sauce (honey, yellow mustard, white wine vinegar, cinnamon. I used horseradish prepared yellow mustard because I wanted bite). Om nom nom.
Most sauced lamb I’ve eaten has had a very classic mint sauce, or a sweeter BBQ sauce. That tends to mask the musky taste lamb can get. This? This drags it out, plays with it, makes it a counterpoint to the mustard bite and really is a perfect pairing for the rich and creamy barley.
I am so glad I chose to end my week of eating like a Saxon with this meal. This? This was an utterly perfect way to go out with a bang.
Ok, here we go. This is my first attempt a saxon style meal without using my cookbooks. We’re going to make pan fried chicken thighs with spinach and cabbage.
Apple cider vinegar
I’m doing this all in one pan. Brown the chicken first, then drizzle in honey, add a couple teaspoons of vinegar, cover with the chicken broth, add the herbs (no spinach yet), reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and let it rest. Toss your spinach into the same pan with all the tasty stuff and wilt it. Remove the spinach and add a touch of flour to thicken the sauce if you want. Drizzle the sauce on the chicken.
This…kinda worked? The mint is weird and I’m not sure it works in the spinach. Combined with the vinegar it leaves an after taste like faint mold smells. It’s just faint enough to leave that impression. If it were stronger it wouldn’t play nice with the other herbs though. So I’m not sure I’d put that in again.
The chicken is super tender. And the mint plays nice with the other herbs on the meat. I don’t like turning the sauce into a full on gravy. You can add flour and do it like I did if you want to, or you can leave the sauce thin like I should have.
I don’t hate it, it has a decently complex flavor, not sure I’m making it again.
Not going to lie, this is the one I was most hesitant about. It’s basically bread pudding, with sausage, onion, and white wine vinegar. I love bread pudding. I love bread pudding so much I refuse to make it lest I mess it up and be faced with disappointing sorrow. So a savory bread pudding got some hella side eye.
Honestly? It kinda deserves it. There is so much going on here and I’m not positive it all works.
The spices (cardamom, cinnamon, salt) get over powered by the white wine vinegar. I can’t really make the sweetness out around the sour. The bread soaks up both milk and vinegar in a way that, while it’s not bad, I wouldn’t describe as good either.
The apples stay crisp through the baking, and play nice with the onions and sausage. But that’s a winning flavor combination in modern times as well, so I’m not so shocked about that.
I think if I were to do this again I’d halve the vinegar and use apple cider instead of white wine. This is a dish with potential, and may work really well in the late fall when it’s not 1,000,000 degrees outside. And it is a complete dish on it’s own, no sides needed. As is right and proper from something calling itself a casserole.
Tonight was the first time I really ignored the book as far as what it says to put in the salad itself (cress, lettuce, parsley, spinach) and did my own thing based on other green referenced.
My Saxon salad:
Loose leaf lettuce (ripped up)
It’s really just your run of the mill salad. Nothing complicated.
The herb dressing isn’t bad. White wine vinegar, oil, dill, rosemary, chopped cress or cress substitute. It’s a simple and healthy dressing that I am going to make again.
Roasted chicken is a bit different than I’m used to. The glaze is cinnamon, clove, honey, and apple cider vinegar. That’s it. No salt, no other seasonings I associate with “chicken”. It’s not bad, just…sweet? But not cloyingly sweet or sticky candy sweet. More like sweet bread without icing sweet. Still worth a try if you’re willing to play around with your expectations, but if roasted chicken needs to be entirely savory? You won’t like this. I don’t notice the lack of salt honestly. I’m too confused about whether or not I like the cinnamon to notice.
Cucumber salad. This is basically a quick pickle salad. I added radishes because I have them, I like them, and I thought it’d be a good idea. It was and I regret nothing. Cucumber, onion, white wine vinegar, salt, and honey. Put them together and forget about them in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you leave them the stronger the flavor.
Honey butter is honey butter. If you’ve gone to an SCA feast you’ve been offered honey butter. This called for some cinnamon too, and honestly I really like it here. It keeps the butter from being too sticky sweet.
I’m finding I like the over all flavor profiles I’m playing with this week. A little sour, a little sweet, not much salt or spice. Food tastes mostly like a formal version of itself rather than a vehicle to carry herbs. I admit I generally cook, especially chicken, by dumping so many different flavors on it that the food itself vanishes. This is a nice change and I think I’ll try to remember this going forward.
Confession: today was my “cheat” as far as experiments go. I’ve made honey carrots before. These were my ace in the hole in case everything else tasted horrible. Today is also note worthy in that I did not use any salt. Anywhere. It still has flavor.
That being said calling these honey carrots in like calling a pizza “cheese bread”. There is so much more going on that what the name implies and it works so well. Carrots cooked soft work as the base for a honey/cinnamon/apple cider vinegar glaze. Mint keeps it from tasting sticky sweet and dandelion greens and radishes add a peppery bite that make up for the lack of other spices. It’s flavorful, complex, and dirt simple. I’ve made it for holiday meals before and am far too smug about working them in on a weeknight.
The salmon cakes? Well… Those are underwhelming at best. Flaked salmon, oatmeal, egg, and onion. I like my salmon sushi rare. So frying it in patties after it was baked and flaked makes it taste sad and chalky to me. And with these the lack of spices the modern palate is used to is super obvious. Next time I’ll skip the bake/turn into patties step and just fry up a hunk of salmon with some salt and garlic and be a happy camper.
Holy shit folks I do not regret scheduling this twice. This may end up as my default post work out soup. Let’s back up and see how we got here.
I’m not going to lie, the name is not a major seller here. And the lack of spices doesn’t make it seem promising. Trust me. This is simple and hearty as fuck.
I used canned kidney beans instead of dried, and double milk stout rather than ale. I also threw everything in the instapot on slowcooker for 4 hours instead of simmering on the stove. No regrets.
The thing that makes this soup is the lamb. It’s beans, lamb, salt, garlic, carrots, beer, stock, and onion. That’s it. No other spices. No pepper, no bay, no celery, nothing I’d normally throw into soup as a needed thing. It doesn’t need it.
If the rest of this week goes as well as today then I’m going to eat like a 950s queen.