This month for our online Lit Happens book group, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm picked The Wizard's Butler by Nathan Lowell. This isn't a cook-from-the-book kinda group, but most everything I read or watch sends me into the kitchen anyway. This book was no exception. In fact, since the protagonist is the butler as well as the de facto chauffeur and cook, there is quite a lot of food in the book.
The Wizard's Butler tells the story of former Army medic Roger Mulligan who is hired to be the butler for a man who believes himself a wizard. For five thousand dollars and a million dollar bonus if Joseph Perry Shackleford survives the year, Roger doesn't really care if Shackleford is a wizard. And, in fact, Shackleford is a wizard and has pixies who clean his house and fairies who tend the garden!
To me, the most interesting part of the book isn't the magic, really, it's the growth and transformation that Roger undergoes as he embraces his new role and career. But this is a quick, enjoyable read.
Getting back to Roger's cooking...he is trying to grow into his role and begins reading cookbooks and taking cooking lessons.
"Roger left and went to the kitchen to find a recipe for hot chocolate. The last time he’d made it, he put a couple spoons of powder in a mug and poured boiling water on it. He felt certain that Shackleford wanted something a little more than powdered gratification" (pg. 56).
"Roger served a lobster bisque—canned but tasty—with a salad of summer greens. The warm soup felt right. He was proud of himself for whisking up the balsamic vinaigrette with only one side trip to a recipe on his phone. 'Lunch, sir'" (pg. 81).
"Using some of his new skills, Roger prepared chicken marsala with rice and steamed green beans. The cellar contained a nice selection of wines and his reference materials suggested a red. He shook his head at the suggestion but as the chicken developed, he realized that a white wouldn’t do. He opened a bottle of Collioure to let it breathe. Being a beer guy, he’d never heard of it before but he trusted the references" (pg. 257).
But it was the comments about game hens that sent me into the kitchen. "He often padded through the kitchen in the night, looking at the equipment and examining the larders. The spice rack—which had seemed overwhelming in the beginning—proved to be almost as enchanting as the freezers full of meats and fish. Game hens became his favorite poultry because they were essentially little single-serving chickens—each a delightful portion alongside a brown rice pilaf and a side of steamed vegetables" (pg. 105). Single-serve chickens?!? So true!
This is a riff on the Parthian Chickens I've been making since I read Crystal King's The Feast of Sorrow a few years back. I love the sweet, salty, and spiciness of these birds. I made half a dozen to serve me, Jake, my parents, and have leftovers. Adjust proportions as needed.
Ingredients serves 6
- 6 Cornish game hens
- 10 teaspoons spice rub (I used a rub from Spiceology)
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
- 3/4 cup sweet white wine (I used a local Muscat wine)
- 3/4 cup dry white wine (I used a local Sauvignon Blanc)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons fish sauce (the Colatura di Alici, photographed above, was the closest approximation to the ancient Roman garum, a fish sauce that was used in almost all ancient Roman dishes)
- 6 teaspoons softened butter
- 4 small apples and 4 small lemons (for stuffing the birds, you can use onions or anything else that will fill the cavity)
- fresh herbs (for stuffing the birds, I used fresh rosemary from the garden)
- Also needed: six 9" length of 100% cotton twine, roasting pan
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove giblets from the Cornish game hens and stuff them with apple, lemon, and fresh rosemary. Use the twine to truss the hens. Place them a roasting pan.
Rub 1 teaspoon of softened butter into the skin of each bird. Sprinkle the spice mixture and pressed garlic over the top. Gently massage the spices over the surface of the hen.
Whisk together the wine, olive oil, and fish sauce. Pour the liquid over the birds.
Put the pan in the oven and roast for 90 minutes. Every 20 minutes or so remove the pan from the oven and baste with the cooking juices.
After 90 minutes in the oven, remove the hens from the oven and let them rest for 15 minutes before serving.
In addition to sharing this with the #LitHappens group,
I am adding this to the September #FoodieReads link-up.