Take an old boiling fowl… part 1

I’m looking again at Philip Harben’s little 1946 book, Cooking Quickly, and his post-war, rationed ingredients, section on ‘cold food’. Cold food, and the following recipe, comes under a sub-heading, ‘Meat Shapes’, which sounds rather strange and not exactly tempting; he explains that meat shapes can also be, pies, moulds, patés, terrines and galantine… and I’m sharing what he has to say about chicken galantine:

Take an old boiling fowl – it does not matter how old it is – and one it out in such a way as to leave the bird whole, with the skin in tact. Most hen-wives are expert at this job; but to those who have never done it before it sounds like a conjuring trick. It really is simple. having removed neck, crop, wingtips and leg tendons, make an incision right down the middle of the back, using a small, razor-sharp knife (I use a surgeon’s scalpel, it is very convenient). Then raising the flesh on either side of this cut, you work the knife under it, keeping the blade close to the bone, until you come to the wing joints which you sever. Keep on working the knife under the flesh close to the bone, turning the the bird gradually inside out as you go, stripping and removing leg and wing bones and all other small bones. When you have finished you will find the bird inside out, whole and boneless.
From the breast meat cut some long thin strips – but take care  to do this without breaking the skin. Cut the liver of the bird into small pieces; cut also a few long strips of bacon (streaky bacon will do). Lay all these pieces in a shallow dish and leave them for a few hours or overnight in a marinating liquor. This liquor should consist ideally of two parts of oil to one part of vinegar, together with bay leaf, parsley and chopped garlic. But at the time of writing no oil is procurable so it must be omitted.

I’m not exactly sure what a hen-wife is – a woman who breeds and butchers hens? Maybe! Also, who these days would think of using a surgeon’s scalpel – recipe for disaster I would guess for most of us! Mr Harben says how simple it, is, it doesn’t look very simple to me – and my experience of doing it has shown me it’s actually quite difficult!



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