Course One ~ The Salad Platter
The salad is based on one created by Robert May (1588-1665) in The Accomplisht Cook, called A Grand Salat
with Divers Compounds. It has a basic salad mixture in the center of the platter along with meat and tarragon
and is surrounded by mounds of ingredients that can be added to individual plates. Salads were highly popular,
especially on non-meat fast days. Robert May was an Englishman who was trained in France and was sometimes
criticized for trying to make English cooking French. But if there is one truth to period cooking it is that
food traveled. Nobles brought their cooks where ever they went. They borrowed from local fare and found new
ways of preparing dishes, new ingredients, and then gave the new dishes names that would reflect its origin,
such as ...in the French Manner...a Turkish dish of Mete...etc.
To make a grand Sallet of Divers Compounds -
Take a cold roast capon and cut it into thin slices square and small (or any other roast meat as chicken, mutton,
veal, or neats tongue) mingle with it a little minced tarragon and an onion, then mince lettice as small as the
capon, mingle all together, and lay it in the middle of a clean scoured dish. Then lay capers by themselves,
olives by themselves, samphire by itself, broom buds, picked mushrooms, pickled oysters, lemon, orange, raisins,
almonds, blue-figs, Virginia Potato, caperons, crucifix pease and the like, more or less, as occasion serves, lay
them by themselves in the dish around the meat in partitions. Then garnish the dish sides with quarters of orange
or lemons or in slices, oyl and vinegar, beaten together and poured on it over all. On fish days, a roast,
broil'd or boil'd pike boned and being cold, sliced it as above said.
For my salad, since I am serving beef, chicken, and pork in other places, I have decided to use smoked turkey
for the meat in this dish, along with fresh snips of tarragon. For the side ingredients I have chosen olives,
raisins, almonds, figs and peas. "And the like" would seem to me to be an open invitation to add whatever was
handy or seasonal, to that end I have also added carrots, cucumber, egg, pear, dates and dried apricots.
I was fresh out of neats tongue, which would have been either ox or calf's tongue. Samphire is an aromatic
salty plant that can be eaten fresh or used for pickling, I am afraid that no one in our local grocery knew what I
was asking about and attempts to find plants to grow it were unsuccessful. I have taken Crucific pease to be a
specific type of pea and have used a common sweet pea in its place.
The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewel, Thomas Dawson, 1529, had 10 recipes for salads all with oil and
vinegar dressings. Most period salads were dressed in this fashion, so the dressings I have chosen are basic
oil and vinegar dressing with herbs or spices added to them.
The first dressing is Herbes de Provence Dressing is a combination of "traditionally" French herbs including
lavender, added to vinegar and oil and I must confess that I just made this one up. The second dressing
is a family recipe given to me by my Grandmother, which I changed to include honey instead of sugar.
I love the flavor and it was requested by feasters who have dined with us before.