Promethean Chicken at Pennsic XL

First, if you think you like cooking over a fire, you may think for a moment, that if a little is good, more is better, right?

Which is why the night of Promethean Chicken was both better and worse than I hoped.  First – fire cooking is awesome. A fat capon or rooster dripping and sizzling could warm the coldest heart! However, try to feed 26 people, and you now need three fat hens, and a lot of extra chicken parts! Because cooking for five, or even eight, or even ten is one thing. Cooking for more than two dozen is – well, let’s just say I should have planned better for that in terms of time management.

HOWEVER, we never fail to stare at adversity and not make a face of some sort, so we went onward and upward and chose to still cook, for nearly everyone at camp, over the fire during Tuesday evening at Pennsic. Luckily, my camp was pretty patient, and I had some good help from Erin, Hannah and Petra to prep. Mathias made me a great fire, and Justin dug me the most awesome fire pit ever. People seemed to have enough to eat, and the chicken was utterly delicious, as were the veggies which managed to actually cook all the way.


Promethean Chicken (that’s bardic for “chicken in fire”)

  • Chicken/s (removed of gizzards and such, with skin on)
  • Two onions per chicken, roughly cut
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, spices to taste (in this case, garlic powder, salt and pepper)
  • Fire.
  • Tinfoil

Build a nice fire with excellent coals.  Stuff chicken with onions.  Coat with oil and spices.  Wrap in several layers of foil and put into the coals of the fire, heaping them on the chicken if possible.  Cooking time will vary, but will likely be about 2.5 hours total (if the chickens are evenly spaced.)

Roast Vegetables

  • Potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic cloves (whole)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (spices if desired)
  • Foil

Cut the veggies coarsely. Toss in spices and oil. Pack in packets of foil. Place in the fire, heaping coals on the top of them. Check after about 45 minutes. Cooking time will likely be about 2 hours. You may wish to open them now and then to add a little water (or beer!) to help steam them a little, keeping them from burning and also cooking them faster.

Chicken in the Pot

  • Good size Dutch oven with cover, to hang over hot fire
  • Ten lbs thigh/leg combos of chicken
  • One bottle dark beer
  • Dozen garlic cloves, crushed
  • Five onions, chopped coarsely
  • Salt, pepper and spice as wished
  • Extra dish for rotating the top and bottom pieces

This is easy. Get a big pot. Fill with chicken. Add beer. Put cover on. Hang over fire for about 1 hour. Try not to drool into the pot when you open it.  Move chicken pieces so the top pieces are on the bottom, and vice versa, so it all cooks more quickly and evenly. This chicken is to die for. And it’s insanely easy.

Lab Report

Now, of course, it’s Pennsic. So I got dinner started late, and then everyone got hungry. And it’s on a fire, so well, there’s variance in the cookery.  Suffice to say, start about 3.5 hours before dinner, using half an hour to prep.  As it was, some stuff cooked beautifully (perfect carrots and taters) and other packets were crunchy, which is not awesome in a potato. However, all the chickens cooked in about 2 hours and change, and were tender, succulent and wonderful. Totally worth the wait. The Dutch oven chickens cooked very well and quickly – they’d be a good started for the first batch of diners, while the roasters finish roasting.  All in all, it was a little later than normal, but everyone had lots to eat and were full of happiness by the time it was darkish out. Then we sang by the fire.


Salmon Dinner at Pembridge at Pennsic XL

So we had driven for miles and miles and miles and at last had arrived at the Pennsic War.

We were grocery shopping for the week’s supplies and there, before us, were these beautiful salmon fillets.  Our house didn’t have a cooking fire pit dug yet, but I had a feeling where we might find one…

Suspecting (correctly) that Pembridge Manor just might have had a nice cooking fire ready for a girl, we sent a message to the good Baron, who replied that indeed, were such foodstuffs procured, a fire to order would be made.

We picked up planks of cedar for the salmon, and the fish (beautiful, beautiful, though a little thinner than what we often get here in Endewearde).  We had a few non-period root vegetables, onion, garlic and some summer squash and zucchini.

We took the salmon, coated it in oil, and tied it onto the plank with oil-soaked cotton string, then rubbed the fish down with sea salt and pepper. The veggies we tossed in oil, threw in whole cloves of garlic, the onion and everything with salt and pepper as well into a neat little packet of foil (so as to not need to clean the cast iron. I am a lazy cook.)

The salmon faced the fire, and soon was dripping and steaming in the radiant heat from the nice fire. The veggies were steaming gleefully in their package, and so we headed out to park the beast of burden someplace in the next county.  Of course, it always takes longer than you think, so when we returned the salmon was not so moist as it ought to have been had I tended it, but it still was a bit moist in the thickest parts, and a flavorful, flaky jerky at the lean end. It was utterly delicious, and the veggies were magnificent – perfectly cooked to tenderness and full in flavor without being a bit dry or really burned, even those at the bottom of the pot.

With a lovely glass of brandy, and the company of Drew, Angus, Margarite and Connor, we passed a lovely evening away before the fire, eating our fill and then taking the salmon on a walkabout for neighbors to sample. And that was how the war began, and it set a wonderful tone for the rest of the week!


Planked Salmon

  • olive or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper (or spices to taste)
  • wood for planking – it need not be cedar, but ought to be, obviously, untreated and clean
  • cotton string (enough to wrap the fish onto the plank)
  • ideally a little butter or oil to baste the fish as it cooks

Get the fire nice and hot, so it is fiercely radiating. Wet the string with oil, oil the board lightly and tie the fillet to the board with string so it is secure – it ought to be able to stand tall-ways and not slide. Prop the salmon up near the fire so it is getting the best heat; you will need to turn it.  It does dry quickly, so one should (not leave camp to park a car in Ohio) stay with the fish and baste it to keep it moist, turning it frequently. You can use any kind of fillet in this method, but salmon holds up to a lot of abuse in a way a more delicately tempered fish might not.

Roasted Vegetables

  • half dozen red potatoes, cut coarsely
  • one sweet onion, cut coarsely
  • one bulb garlic cloves, peeled but not cut
  • two each small zucchini and summer squash
  • other veggies as preferred
  • oil, salt and pepper

Make a packet of tin foil which will hold all the vegetables, or line a pot with a few layers of foil. Toss the veggies with oil and spices and put them into the foil, wrapping it tightly to help steam them. You can place them over the fire in a Dutch oven, or over coals, or put the packet itself right in the middle of the coals.  They should be done in an hour or less, over a hot fire, but they won’t really overcook if they’re above. Burning the bottom layer is really the worse threat to this dish.  You’ll want to check periodically to see that it’s cooking but not burning. Make more than you think you’ll need, because even people who hate vegetables seem to love them when they’re cooked in this steamed/roasted method.

Cooking at Pembridge Manor

Pembridge Cooking
Pembridge Cooking
The Pembridge Fire Pit

The War of the Roses in Concordia is a three-day event in beautiful upstate New York.  We were hosted at the camp of Baron Master Angus Pembridge, at Pembridge Manor.  One of the best parts of the camp was the large fire box Angus had built, raised and made of wood, with a bottom consisting of 300lbs of masonry sand. While a lot of great things happened at the event, this post is just about the food and how we cooked it.

Dinner Saturday: Marigold, a lovely but (fatally) inappropriate farm cow, was the guest of honor.  Cooked in a large cast iron pan over a hot-coal fire by Angus as Katheryn, who actually asked Sir Walter Raleigh how to cook the new world vegetable BEFORE assuming we boil the tops, took the tuberous roots from the potatoes and boiled them to good effect.

Breakfast Sunday: fresh farm eggs and handmade home-cured bacon.  Eggs cooked in the standard fashion, but the bacon was fried over hot coals in a large cast-iron pan.  After eating that bacon, all other bacon in the world is almost an insult to it.  We reserved the grease, which would be important for everything else!

Lunch Sunday: Drew and I prepared Saturday’s lunch, which was onion cooked in bacon fat, and then we added two jars of moose meat which had been cooked with onion and canned (by Drew’s mother) after he got a moose a while back.  To this mix we added a generous pour of red wine, some black pepper and salt and what cooked potatoes had lasted from the night before. We also made ployes, a French-Acadian buckwheat and wheat pancake, which are traditionally served with stews.  We had maple syrup for dipping them as well, so they were both the starch for the meal and a light desert.

Dinner Sunday: Making this dinner was one of the best SCA experiences I have ever had.  The end result was Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence and Ginger Bourbon Coney, fresh green beans, and potatoes pan fried with onions and rosemary.

Angus provided three rabbits, which had been skinned and dressed, to a degree.  We chopped them (one by Angus, one by my own hand, and the third by Isabel Chamberlaine) into large pieces (about 6 pieces per rabbit) for cooking, which was entirely over the Pembridge Pit.  Our recipes are as follows, or are at least as good as I can remember them, because it was a fury of cookery going on:

Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence

2 onions, chopped small and sauteed to clear in bacon grease
1/4 cup maple syrup (roughly) added to onions
pepper and salt added to the onions
2 rabbits, cut to fit in the pot
2 cup Cotes du Rhone (or other red wine, we picked what tasted “right” from what was in stock at camp, a terrible process, of course….)
2-3 tbs blend of Herbes de Provence (ours included generous lavender…)
some water as needed

We let it boil merrily over the fire for a couple of hours, periodically opening the pot to exclaim and congratulate ourselves on how lovely it smelled.  We took all the rabbit out at one point to shift the top pieces and bottom pieces so everything would cook at about the same rate.

The resulting dish was intensely fragrant, causing a ruckus every time we opened the cauldron.  The meat was sweet, tender, and succulent.  The broth was a beautiful purple, appropriate for the lavender influence of the herbes de Provence. Everyone who tried this dish was greatly impressed with its flavor, and it is a true pity there was no way to make stew dumplings for it, because they would have been spectacular. (We boiled it again the next morning for lunch, and it was, remarkably, even better the next day!)

Ginger Bourbon Coney in Dutch Oven

1 onion clarified in bacon grease
a generous pour of Maker’s Mark Bourbon (add just when the onions are almost dry…)
1 rabbit, cut into about 6 pieces
salt, pepper, powdered ginger (to taste / by instinct)
a little water as needed

We heated the pan and onions up well, and there was a good amount of bacon grease added to this dish.  The bourbon caramelized the onions and the ginger gave the little flavor beyond pepper and salt that it needed.  As there was less liquid, the rabbit also got a caramel flavor and the skin seared where it touched the pan, which was close to low, hot coals.  The rabbit was turned half-way through the cooking, and water was added, which brought up a sizzling cloud of fragrant steam, which made us dance with anticipation.  The taste of this was less intense than the other dish, but I liked it a little better, maybe because of the sweetness of the bourbon and onions.

Monday Morning: Plain, slender, civilian bacon cooked on the cast iron skillet over the fire; French toast with potato bread and farm eggs, with maple and black pepper peaches on top (for those patient enough to wait), and fluffy scrambled eggs with the remainder of the eggs.  We used up a really good amount of food that morning, making the packing up a little better.

Monday Leaving Lunch: My last taste of the War of the Roses was of the Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence, which tasted even better after lying in the stew all night and being boiled up again.  It was like a sweet, sweet kiss of farewell to Pembridge Manor, and I savored the last moments before the long road back to home and daily life….