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I love to read. No, really. I love to read. I have been known to ignore my family’s basic needs lose myself in a good book. I also love to cook. Therefore, this new feature was a complete no-brainer for me.

This time I’m cooking, along with six other bloggers, from Kate Quinn’s The Serpent and the PearlThe story takes place in Rome, 1492 and tells the tale of the Borgia family. One of the main characters is Carmelina, the family cook. This book will make you hungry. Very, very hungry.

Carmelina is a complicated character, but one thing’s for certain; the girl can cook. And she knows it. Carmelina sees promise in a young, but talented kitchen-boy turned apprentice named Bartolomeo Scappi, who later becomes a famous Renaissance chef in real life. Many of Scappi’s recipes still survive.

To read what my fellow bloggers have created click the links below:

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Of the many dishes mentioned in the book, I chose the capon (chicken) with white wine, garlic and coriander. I’m really glad I did because it was delicious and will surely have a place in the dinner rotation.

Scappi’s original recipe calls for a lot of soaking in saltwater and cutting up half-baked chickens. Not that realistic for today’s world. Instead, I’ve decided to dry-brine chicken quarters in salt, preserved lemon, ground coriander and thyme. Dry-brining, much like wet-brining, takes some time. But you will be rewarded handsomely for your patience.

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Garlic Coriander Chicken

  • 1 chicken, quartered (about 4-4 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken
  • 1 Tble fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tble preserved lemon, cut in strips or 1 Tble lemon zest
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tble olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 cups dry white wine

Two days before serving:  Dry chicken with a paper towel. Mix together kosher salt and coriander in a small bowl and set aside. Carefully, slide a finger between the skin and the meat, creating a small pocket. Shove some thyme leaves and a couple of strips of the preserved lemon into each pocket. Liberally sprinkle the salt and coriander mixture all over the chicken, including the underside. Season the thickest sections a little more heavily. Place chicken on a rack set over a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator, uncovered for 2 days. 

Serving day: Preheat oven to 425˚. Remove chicken from refrigerator and wipe off excess salt (do NOT rinse). Set chicken aside. In a large dutch oven or skillet heat olive oil, sauté chicken skin side down. If chicken pieces are large, you may need to do this in batches. Sauté only until chicken has browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. In the same dutch oven or skillet, sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in white wine and cook until wine has reduced by a third, about 5-7 minutes. Reintroduce chicken to dutch oven or skillet and cover loosely. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a serving plate to rest before serving. Serve with chicken jus.

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Baked Apples

  • 4-6 cooking apples such as Braeburn or Golden Delicious
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tble currants
  • 1 Tble walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground cloves, depending on your affinity for cloves
  • 2 Tble honey
  • 2 Tble butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375˚. Core apples almost all the way through, leaving a little at the bottom. Cut a 1″ strip of skin around the top of each apple. Mix brown sugar, currants, walnuts, cinnamon and ground cloves in a small bowl. Place apples into a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Using a small spoon, fill each apple with sugar mixture. If there is any left sprinkle it over the top of the apples. Drizzle honey over each apple. Dot each apple with a few pieces of the butter. Pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the baking dish and place into oven to bake for 30 minutes until apples are softened and browned. Using a pastry brush, brush cooking liquid over apples then serve.

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Notes:

  • Preserved lemon takes some time. The above link takes at least 6 weeks. I also found this link that only requires 2 weeks. I haven’t tried it, so I don’t know if it’s the same or not.
  • This is the same method I used for the Zuni Cafe Roasted Chicken. It worked beautifully both times.
  • The gravy served with the chicken is more jus than gravy. If you’d like it to be more gravy-like, simply add 1 tablespoon of flour to the cooking liquid before you reintroduce the chicken back into the dutch oven or skillet before it goes in the oven.
  • Clove is a very strong flavor and not everyone likes it. If you don’t like clove, don’t add it. I won’t tell. You could add 1/2 tsp of nutmeg instead. Cloves and cinnamon just happen to be very popular in Renaissance cooking. They were in practically everything.

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