Monday, January 30, 2017

Alexis Soyer's Magic Stove and His Recipe for Grouse Pie

Grouse Pie

Recipe Provenance
The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.

Morris's hand-written recipe is an exact copy of a recipe from Alexis Soyer's 1850 cookery book called The Modern Housewife (Philadephia edition). Here is a copy of the recipe in the manuscript:

Soyer’s Recipe for Grouse Pie 
Roast very underdone, a couple of nice plump grouse. When cold, cut into joints, being the two wings, two legs, & the breasts into two pieces each, season them lightly, &lay them in a pie dish, building them to form a dome. then break up the back bone & other trimmings, which put in a stew pan, with glass of sherry, a bay leaf an onion in slices, a few sprigs of parsley, 3 or 4 whole allspice, set the stew pan over the fire a few minutes until the wine boils, when add ½ pint of brown sauce, & ½ pint of broth, stir it over a fire until again reduced to ½ a pint, strain it through a sieve, over the grouse when quite cold. cover with paste as directed for rumpsteak pie & bake in a very hot oven. About half an hour will be sufficient as the paste requires to be laid on thinner, the contents of the pie having been previously cooked.

About Soyer

This recipe was taken directly from celebrity chef Alexis Soyer's 1850 cookery book called The Modern Housewife (Philadephia edition). Here is that recipe:

Alexis Soyer was a Frenchman (1810 - 1858) who became very popular in England. He worked hard to create innovations in the kitchen to serve the nutritional needs of the poor and the military.  Soyer is remembered for his design of soup kitchens for the poor (particularly for the Irish during the famine) and for his design of Soyer's Magic Stove which allowed cooking with heat to be done anywhere. The Magic Stove was designed to use a wick to draw fuel from a tank or reservoir to a burner, just like a kerosene stove. This innovation served both the poor and soldiers fighting on the frontlines (particularly British soldiers in the Crimean War).

Here is Soyer's Magic Stove:

Source: Soyer's The Modern Housewife (London, 1851)

About the Recipe

When Morris wrote down her recipe, she would most likely have prepared it with a type of grouse commonly available in Maryland, the Ruffed Grouse. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

"The Ruffed Grouse is a ground-dwelling, gallinaceous (chicken-like) game bird found in the forests of Western Maryland. . . . Two color phases exist; grey and brown, but brown-phase grouse are far more common in Maryland. . . . Ruffed Grouse are widely distributed across the North America, but their range in the Central and Southern Appalachians is primarily limited to higher elevation forests. In Maryland, grouse are most abundant in Garrett and Allegany Counties. Lower densities of grouse exist in Washington and western Frederick Counties, which is the easternmost extent of their range in Maryland." 

The Ruffed Grouse season in Maryland starts October 1 and lasts until January 31. Though still legal to hunt, grouse are harder to find these days because they prefer to dwell in areas of open land with young vegetation; these areas in Maryland have beed on the decline for the past 50 years.

If it's out of season, you cannot get your hands on some Ruffed Grouse, or would just rather use a substitute, there are options available. Scottish Wild Red Grouse from D'Artagnan, pheasant, pigeon, quail or Cornish game hens can all be used in place of grouse. I could not get Maryland Ruffed Grouse and used Scottish Wild Red Grouse from D'Artagnan.

Here is another recipe for grouse with a Maryland provenance. It is from Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen by Mrs. B.C. Howard (1881 edition):

Grouse Pie: Modern Recipe Adaptation
Serves 2

Step 1: Roast the Grouse
  • Slather butter over two grouse, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 25-30 minutes at 450º F.  (I used two small Scottish Red Grouse that only weighed about .3 pounds each; you will need to adjust cooking time if you use birds that are larger.) They may not be completely cooked which is the way you want them. (Skip ahead to Step 2 while the hens are cooking.)
  • Cool the hens and then cut them up. Separate the wings, legs and cut the breasts into two pieces each. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready for use.
  • Keep the carcass scraps (back bones) for making the gravy in step 3.
Raw Grouse

Step 2: Make the Brown Sauce
Brown Sauce: The recipe calls for a prepared yet undefined "brown sauce" to be added to the gravy. It is likely that is a type of Espagnole sauce, one of the mother sauces of French haute cuisine.

Here are two period versions of brown sauces from Ann Allen’s cookbook, The Housekeeper’s Assistant (1845) :

  • Cullis, or Brown Sauce:  Lay as much lean veal over the bottom of a stew-pan as will cover it an inch thick; then cover the veal with thin slices of undressed gammon, two or three onions, two or three bay leaves, some sweet herbs, two blades of mace, and three cloves; cover the stew-pan, and set it over a slow fire. When the juices come out, let the fire be a little quicker. When the meat is a fine brown, fill the pan with good beef broth, boil and skim it, then simmer an hour; add a little water, mixed with as much flour as will make it properly thick, boil it half an hour, and strain it. This will keep a week.  
  • Sauce for Wild Fowl:  Simmer ten minutes one pint of good meat gravy, a little shallot, a little pepper, salt, a grate of nutmeg, and a bit of mace; put in a little butter and flour, give one boil, and pour through the birds.
(Note: This is a modernization of the second 1845 brown sauce recipe listed above)
  • 1/4 Cup Prepared Commercial Veal and Beef Demi-Glace 
  • 3/4 Cup Boiling Water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Mace
  1. Mix together the prepared demi-glace and the boiling water. Whisk thoroughly to dissolve.
  2. Add the nutmeg and mace to the demi-glace and stir well.
  3. Set aside until ready to use. You can refrigerate it.

Step 3: Make the Gravy
  • Take the hen backbones and an other scraps and place them in a small stock pot. Add the following ingredients and bring to a boil:
    • 1 Cup Sherry
    • 1 Cup Beef Stock
    • 1 Onion, Diced
    • 1 Bay Leaf
    • 3-4 Sprigs of Fresh Parsley Leaf
    • 4 Whole Allspice
  • Once this reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 60 minutes. Then, strain through a sieve and return to the pot.
  • Add the Brown Sauce from Step 2.
  • Bring back to the boil and simmer on medium-high for about ten minutes, or until the gravy reduces to about once cup.
  • Allow to cool.
Step 4: Assembling the Pie
  • Heat the oven to 375º F.
  • Take the disjointed pieces of the hen and arrange them in a small pie dish in the form of a dome. You do not need to remove the bones; this was typical in historic recipes for meat pies.
  • Pour the gravy (about one cup) over the grouse pieces.
  • Roll out one sheet of puff pastry until it is large enough to cover the top of the pie. Use a small biscuit cutter to cut a hole in the center of the puff pastry to vent. 
  • Brush the top of the pastry with a beaten egg.
  • Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry puffs up and is golden brown.


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