22 April 2009

To The King’s Taste

The other day I was baking a small chicken to use in enchiladas. I had several handfuls of garlic I needed to use, so I threw them into the pan with my chicken, salt and red and black pepper. The chicken cooked off the bone and I picked off the meat. Resting in thick chicken broth were dozens of glistening garlic bulbs. I took them out and mashed them in a bowl, wondering what they would taste like. I took a tiny bite and found the mash to be wonderfully sweet and delicate. I hadn't given it much thought until I ran across a description of boiled garlic in a book of recipes from the 14th century.

To the King's Taste: Richard II's Book of Feasts and Recipes Adapted for Modern Cooking is a book of feasts and recipes from Richard II. We have this interesting little cookbook thanks to Lorna Sass. In Columbia University’s library, Sass was busy researching a paper on Chaucer when she came across a volume containing two cookbooks written in Middle English.

Screw Chaucer! Sass took the book home and began translating, adapting and cooking the recipes.

Boiled Garlic

1 cup water
cloves of 6 bulbs of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch mace
garnish: 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add garlic cloves, butter or oil, saffron, salt, cinnamon, and mace.

3. Cover and cook over medium flame about 7 minutes or until garlic is easily pierced with a fork.

4. Drain and serve with a garnish of parsley.

In Sass' opinion, “after tasting this dish, you will wonder how such a subtle vegetable got imprisoned in the category of a seasoning." I agree. The next time I bake a chicken, I am going to add a big bunch of garlic cloves and make a fine mash to accompany the meat.


  1. I love this "To the King's Taste" and have most of the recipes, Ms. Sass was so lucky to find the volumes and I'm very glad she wrote. Thank you for your blog.

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