[Spit-project] King's College class Test Pt 1 (long)

Michael Gunter countgunthar at hotmail.com
Sun May 20 20:08:25 PDT 2007

For the class I'm teaching at King's College in a couple of
weeks I'll be demonstrating various ways of cooking poultry
along with other dishes.

Today Elizabeth and I went to Countess Regina's place and
tested out some theories.

Being the gracious lady she is, her and her husband had
a full bed of coals ready when we arrived.

The object of the day was to test some theories for
Spinning Chicken, Cornish Game Hen in salt crust, Chicken
roasted in a dutch oven, coal roasted vegetables and
fricasseed chicken and leeks.

The Game hens were first. I wanted to cook them in the
clay but didn't have the chance to locate any so I decided
to try a salt crust since many people would have access to
the basic materials who might not have clay.

I tried two versions of salt crust. One was simply kosher
salt and egg whites. I found 9 egg whites to a box of
kosher salt made a decent ratio to mold around a Game
The other was a mix of kosher salt, flour and water. I used
another box of kosher salt and played with the flour and
water until a nice dough was formed. Of the two, I prefered
the salt/flour mixture over the salt/egg white.

I stuffed the game hens with herbs and seasoned them. Then
wrapped them in parchment paper. After they had been sealed
I patted a thick layer of the salt crust around each. But then I
discovered that, unlike clay, the salt doesn't stay together
for transport. So one of them I laid a layer of salt in the bottom
of an aluminum pie pan, set the hen in the layer and built the
rest of the crust around that. Then I put the pie pan with
hen in a hole measuring approx 2 ft wide and 1 ft deep. The
bottom of the hole had hot coals placed in it. Then the hen,
then more coals until the hen was covered. After that, dirt
was shoveled over and left to bake.

The second hen was placed on a layer of salt crust that was
on several layers of aluminum foil. Once the hen was covered
in the salt crust the foil was wrapped and twisted tighty over
the bird. It was placed in a second hole the same as the first.

Next came the spinning chicken. A tripod was set up by the
fire. A chicken was tightly trussed and then two metal skewers
were placed through the cavity. One by the wings and one by
the legs. A length of twine was looped through the "S-Hook"
hanging from the top of the tripod and then another longer
string was threaded through this loop. At the ends of this string
two small hoops where tied and these threaded through the
skewer from one end of the chicken. The chicken hung point
down and the string twisted. When released the chicken turned
until unwond and then wound itself back. I made a basting sauce
of merlot, oregano, lemon juice and rosemary which was frequently
poured over the bird.

Next I took some wood chips that had been soaked in water and
put in the bottom of a dutch oven. Over them I put a pie pan which
just covered the bottom and over that was placed another pie pan
with holes poked through the bottom for the drippings to leak through
and for the smoke from the wood chips to come up.
A chicken was seasoned and stuffed with herbs and lemon then placed
in the dutch oven. The oven was carried out to the fire and a bed
of coals was placed on the ground. The oven was set over the coals
and more coals were placed on the lid.

All that was left to do was to wait and occasionally spin the chicken.

I expected everything to be done within two hours but miscalculated
a bit. The spinning chicken didn't appear to be roasting fast enough
so we lowered it a bit closer to the fire.

After two hours I checked the chicken in the dutch oven and it read
a perfect 180 degrees F.  So it was done and looked nice.

I dug up the game hens (note, put a marker where you buried
your hen, it took some looking around to find them) very carefully
so as not to crack the shell. They were both fully cooked and looked
horrible when I took them out of the ground. But, after carefully
removing them from the ash and breaking off the hardened crust
they looked almost steamed. Very pretty.

The spinning chicken still wasn't done so I took some root veggies
and mixed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs, wrapped
them in foil and placed the package in another dutch oven. This
could have also been done by just wrapping in several layers of
foil but I had the oven and felt they would be kept cleaner by
putting them in. I put the oven directly in the coals of the fire
ring and put coals on the lid.

While the veggies were cooking we flipped the chicken so the
other end was closer to the fire and I prepared the final dish.

I was going to do this over the fire as well but I didn't have a trivit
or bricks to support the frying pan. So I cheated and just used the
kitchen stove. In a cast iron frying pan (King's College I'll be using a
ceramic pan) I heated olive oil and then browned several pieces
of skinless boneless chicken thigh. Once browned I removed the
chicken and added chopped leeks, chicken broth, salt, pepper,
white wine vinegar and parsley. I brought that to a boil, added
the chicken and reduced to a simmer over med low heat, covered.
This simmered for about 10 minutes until the leeks were tender
and chicken cooked through and the liquid reduced a bit. That's all.

The spinning chicken was brought in after around 3 hours over the
fire and was a lot more cooked than I expected. There was just a
small bit of pink that needed more cooking around the deepest parts
and the thigh. It was sent to the microwave for 10 minutes and
was cooked through. Next time 3 1/2 hours should do it as well as
cooking the thicker part of the chicken more.

All the chickens were done and very tasty. The game hens were
a little salty and some grit had gotten through. More parchment paper
needed next time. But they had wonderful flavor and were very
juicy from basically being steam baked.

The dutch oven roasted chicken was the favorite. Herby and smoky
and moist.

The spinning chicken was very moist and had the best color. It also had
a wonderful carmalized skin and delicate smoked flavor.

The chicken and leeks was terrific and would be best served over
toasted bread so the sauce isn't wasted.

Watch the fire, keep the chicken close to it when spinning unless it is
in some kind of hearth. Open flame disperses. Cook the thick part of the
chicken longest. Duh!

Keep checking the temperature of the coals for the chicken cooked in
the dutch oven. Lay down a new bed and transfer it when the first bath
dies down. Also sweep off the top layer and add new hot ones when the
old ones cool.

Perhaps the clay will hold the hens but salt crust needs support. Make sure
you have several layers of parchment paper.

It was fun and a learning experience. The food was wonderful.
Next week we'll be doing it again at Steppes Warlord, but then it will be 
a camp of hungry people.  Two weeks after that I'm going to have to look
like I know what I'm doing.

There are pictures from both Countess Regina and Elizabeth being posted
to the period-spit yahoogroups gallery.



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