I think I surprised Daniel when I asked him to take part in this series. He doesn’t write fiction. But this isn’t about fiction, it’s about books we love to read, and good food. Daniel Allen Butler is a maritime and military historian, and he writes darn good books. I suspect that many of my readers, like me, appreciate history, and even more so when we find an author who can write well enough to make reading a history book painless. The Burden of Guilt was well done, and I’m looking forward to the Lusitania (even if it is available in hardcover only!)
Coming from a historian, it’s perhaps no surprise that he sent me a historical recipe.
You MUST remember that after the first boil the soup should be allowed to simmer gently. Cooking it too hard or on too high a heat will turn the chicken tough.
You will need a 4qt stockpot to prepare this properly.
This makes a generous amount of a meat-heavy soup, so there will be plenty for lunch the next day, after all the flavors have really “gotten acquainted.”
This recipe was a frequent feature on First Class Dining Saloon menus on almost every British liner for over a century. It’s ideal as a starter if you’re having an Officers’ Mess Guest Night, by the way….
2 bottles of McEwan’s Export (cool but not chilled) — Optional but recommended.
- 4 chicken quarters
- 2½lb leeks, sliced and washed (including the green bit)
- 12 prunes
Begin by opening the first bottle of McEwan’s. Consume 1/2 bottle, and recite, “There’s damned few like us, and most o’ them are died.”
Place the chicken in the stockpot with 5 pts (2 1/2 qts) of water and bring to the boil.
With a ladle, skim off the white scum that comes to the surface and IMMEDIATELY reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Consume remainder of first bottle of McEwan’s.
Simmer for a half-hour, then add half the leeks and all the prunes, plus a couple of fat pinches of salt and a grinding of pepper.
Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, then add the rest of the leeks and keep simmering for 1/2 hour more. Enjoy second bottle of McEwan’s during this time.
Taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary.
Scoop out the chickenquarters, leave to cool slightly, then pull off the skins; discard the skins.
Pull the flesh from the bones, shredding it slightly, and return to the pan. Heat through gently, and serve. Best served in a proper soup plate and eaten with a proper soup spoon.
Recommended beverage at serving: McEwan’s Export.
Cedar’s notes: I was a little taken aback at the prunes, but on second (and third) thoughts, they made sense. If this was a soup for on board ship, fresh fruit wasn’t an option and the prunes are high in certain vitamins. I faithfully followed the recipe and it came out very well! I did have to add chicken broth, the initial amount of liquid evaporated more than I wanted.
Chickens were at one time an expensive item, but they made sense aboard ship, as a coop of chickens would be possible where beef wouldn’t make it long without preservation methods.
The First Reader’s comment on this was that it was chicken soup, and not bad chicken soup at that. He says he’s really glad he lives in modern times where it doesn’t qualify as rich food.