01 May 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Thee Bard and Good Wine

"He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his." ~Henry IV Part I: Act 2, Scene 1

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William Shakespeare was baptized at the Holy Trinity parish on April 26, 1564. When I studied in London, we made a side trip to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. After the royal wedding this weekend, and the Bard's April birthday, it seemed fitting to have a dinner celebrating the Bard and all things British.

Below is a photo I took of Holy Trinity. A little wet on the sidewalk from a brief shower. So very English.

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On the menu:
  • Spicy Cornish Hens with Cucumber Sauce
  • Balsamic Asparagus
  • Baked Red Potatoes
  • Mozzarella and Tomato
  • Upper Crust Bread
  • Farm Fresh Cheese
  • Pear and Chocolate Tart

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I count the days I spent living in London amongst the best in my life. The history was inspiring. The infusion of foreign foods into the traditional English cuisine was magnificent.

First up, the Spicy Cornish Hens with Cucumber Sauce.

The Shopping List:
  • 2 Cornish game hens, split lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh cucumber, peeled
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

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The Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the cumin, coriander, sea salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Arrange the Cornish hens in a roasting pan, and use a brush to coat them with olive oil. Spread the spice mixes over the cover and the inside of the hens.
(continued below pictures)

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Cover the pan and put into the oven for about 35 minutes. Love these hens because they cook so much faster then a large turkey, and they do harvest quite a bit of meat for such a little guy.

While the hens are cooking up, peal and cut up a cucumber. Add the cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic, and sour cream into a food processor and blend thoroughly. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, cut the hens in half, pour over the cucumber sauce and gobble up.

I have paired the Cornish hens with my favorite Balsamic Asparagus.

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Pear & Chocolate Tart

For dessert the first thing that popped to my mind was a tart. But I wanted something a more special since its for the Bard's birthday and all.

The Shopping List:

Filling:
  • 1 pie crust dough
  • 14 oz canned pear halves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup egg beaters
  • 1 cup almonds, grated
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa,
  • a couple drops of almond extract
Sauce:
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2tbsp butter

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Preheat the oven to 400°F. I admit, I have some made from scratch pie dough in my freezer, but did not pull it out soon enough. So I resorted to some store bought pie crust to line my tart pan. It worked just fine. After putting the dough in, I placed it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough.

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To make the filling, in a bowl use a beater to mix the butter and sugar thoroughly. The mix should start to fluff up a bit. Add in the egg beaters and mix.

In a food processor grind up the almond until it is chopped well, add into the butter mixture, along with the cocoa and almond extract.

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Spread the mixture into the tart pan. Drain the juice out of the pears, and lay the slices on top of the tart. Put the tart into the oven for about 30 minutes. The filling should rise when it is baked.

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To finish it off, put the sugar, honey and water into a pan on low heat and stir slowly. Bring it to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, add in the chocolate and butter and mix that little bugger up. Poor the sauce over the tart when serving.

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"A man cannot make him laugh - but that's no marvel; he drinks no wine." ~Henry IV Part II: Act 2, Scene 4


When I visited Stratford-upon-Avon, we toured the home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna. It had a beautiful garden (photo below of me and some of my American friends in her garden) and there we learned a little bit about bread.

More specifically when the servants baked the bread, it was in a much cruder process then the baking of today. When a loaf came out of the oven, the best portion was the top. It was softer and less burnt. The servants would divide amongst themselves the bottom portion, while the aristocracy would eat the "upper crust".

I thought it would be fitting that for my Bard's birthday we also enjoy the "upper crust".

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Stratford-upon-Avon is certainly inspiring. The architecture is like stepping into the past. We visited Shakespeare's birth home, and even by modern day standards, it is certainly lovely.

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And even in the Bard's day there was a sense of humor. This is not me after burning a batch of cookies, it is actually a gargoyle hanging out on the side of a building.

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Much of my time in England was inspired by him. Including a trip to the recreation of the Globe Theatre.

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This whole meal just makes me feel like I am back at my home away from home.

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Random trivia of the day, I have stood in the same place that William and Kate were married. I highly recommend visiting Westminster Abbey if you ever visit London. It is right across the street from Parliament & Big Ben, and just down the road from the Cabinet War Rooms and Buckingham Palace. All that history in several city blocks.

So "Cheers" from B.G. ten years ago (above), to B.G. today (below). Enjoy!

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