Monday, May 18, 2015

HFF #26: Working-Class Dinner


Historical Food Fortnightly Icon
The Challenge: Make a dish of the common folk.

The Receipt: Irish Stew from A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles Elme Francatelli

No. 117. Irish Stew.
Inferior parts of any kind of meat make a good Irish stew. Let the meat be cut in pieces the size of an egg, well rubbed all over with pepper and salt, and placed in a good-sized pot or saucepan; add peeled onions in the proportion of six to the pound of meat, and enough water just to cover in the whole. Next, set the stew on the fire to boil very gently for an hour and a-half, then add such quantity of peeled and split potatoes as you may think will suffice for the number of persons about to dine off the stew, and put the whole back on the fire to boil briskly until the potatoes are thoroughly done soft; the Irish stew will then be ready to eat.
Date/Region: 1852, London

How did you make it: Procured 1/2 lb of the cheapest chicken available, cut it into egg-sized chunks, rolled in salt & ground pepper, and placed in the pot.  Sliced 2 large yellow onions (should have been three, but it was a lot of onion with just the two) and added it to the chicken, along with water enough to cover (est. 2-3 cups).  Set on medium heat for 90 minutes.  Peeled and cut 3 medium russet potatoes, and added to the stew (along with another 1.5-2 cups of water, so that the potatoes were mostly covered).  Continued heating for another half hour, until the potatoes were also soft.

Time:  10 minutes prep, 2 hours cooking

Cost: $2.50 for the meat, vegetables were on hand

How successful was it? Simple, but tasty: it's hard to go wrong with onions, salt, and pepper. I was surprised at how much the onions cooked down--even coarsely sliced, they had basically vanished.

How accurate was it? Slightly reduced number of onions (noted above), and the extra water added with the potatoes.  I expect "cheap cut of meat" also changes it's definition when one is slaughtering one's own animals, or at least procuring it from a real butcher (ie, not Trader Joe's).

Stewing meat with onion.
Meat & onions, after 1 1/2 hours stewing
Irish Stew, from an 1852 recipe.
Irish Stew

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