The next season of Outlander started up last week, and while I still haven’t seen it yet, the trailer already has me excited about Claire and Jaime‘s intrigues in the court of Louis XV. So while we’re waiting to drool over the costumes and opulence of Versailles, why don’t we learn a little about the food that may have graced their tables at the time?
French cuisine had already started developing into its own not long before Louis XV’s reign– mostly coming about from the encouragement of his father.
The Sun King, Louis XIV, was quite the glutton, and the new style cuisine evolved and flourished at his court. Previous monarchs enjoyed the traditional, heavily spiced and sugared dishes the rest of Europe had cooked again and again since the Medieval era.The new style, while just as decadent, emphasized and complemented the natural flavors of the food presented. “New World” items such as tomatoes and potatoes started mixing into the menu, salads of all varieties became popular, fruits and vegetables became prominent, and what later became known as the mother sauces were developed.
What’s striking around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though, is the publishing of cookbooks. Before this time it was present but incredibly rare. Many historians remark though that the birth of Classic French Cuisine can be traced to 1651 with the publishing of Cusinier Francois, by Francois Pierre de la Varenne.
The time of Louis XV’s reign enjoyed a boom in industry and prosperity with 18 years of peace following sixty years of war.
Cuisine, in turn, grew in richness and refinement. Some of the mouthwatering dishes reported to grace the king’s table would include eggs with partridge gravy, sirloin minced with chicory, Rouen ducklings with orange, beans with dark velouté sauce, and chocolate profiteroles.
So you might figure that today’s recipe is going to be French….Well, it is, but it kind of isn’t at the same time.
Funny thing about Scottish Cuisine, many traditional favorite dishes from those bonny banks and braes are of French origin. That’s right, those multi-course dinners of Collops and Howtowdie in Scottish manors are all thanks a not-so-little thing called the “Auld Alliance.” You can read more about it if you want, but it basically boils down to Scotland and France promising to go and kick England’s poncy derriere should it dare to attack either one of them (and they do often dare if history is any indicator).
So with that in mind, we’re going to make Howtowdie – a Scottish version of the French dish “Hetoudeau” – also known as “stoved chicken.” Traditionally the Scots would stuff a chicken with a pudding of toasted oats and onion (or skirlie) before baking in a covered pot in the oven.
I didn’t have the time or number of dinner guests to justify roasting a whole chicken, so we’ll be cooking chicken thighs instead.
Since I wanted to make this French turned Scottish recipe even more French, I cubed some brioche and mixed it into the skirlie as well as made an orange-tarragon velouté sauce. To thicken the sauce and complement the skirlie, I made up the roux using oat flour.
Equipment: Oven, stovetop, 12-inch skillet, medium saucepan with lid, large dutch oven or oven-safe casserole dish with lid.
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs with skin, trimmed of excess fat
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 sprig’s worth sage leaves, chiffonade
- cooking spray
- 4 cups brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes
- juice of half an orange
- 1 cup chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons oat flour
- 2.5 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 3-4 dashes ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Melt two tablespoons of butter in skillet on the stovetop and add onions and garlic. When softened, stir in the oats and sage and cook until butter is absorbed and the mix has become fragrant.
3. Spray the casserole dish or dutch oven with cooking spray and scrape the oat mix into it. Season the chicken liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the skillet and add the chicken, browning for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
4. While chicken is cooking, mix the brioche thoroughly in the casserole with the skirlie. Pour the orange juice over the chicken when browned to deglaze the pan. Place the chicken pieces on top of the skirlie and pour the pan juices, plus one cup chicken stock over it. Cover the dish with the lid and bake in for 30 minutes.
5. Start making the sauce by melting four tablespoons of butter in the saucepan on the stovetop. Whisk in the oat flour until smooth and bubbling. Scrape this roux into a separate container. Add the remaining chicken stock with the orange zest to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Tie the tarragon and thyme together with string, or put it into an herb infuser and add it to the stock. Cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low and let simmer.
4. Remove the lid and bake another 20-25 minutes to crisp the skin and skirlie. The chicken should be ready when it’s reached an internal temperature of 165 F. Remove casserole dish from the oven and put the lid back on to keep warm.
5. Remove the herbs from the saucepan and whisk the roux into the stock until smooth and thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Plate the howtowdie by making a bed of skirlie, placing the chicken on top, and dressing with sauce.