I’m working on writing up all the recipes and details from feast last weekend before I forget everything, and I think this dish deserves its own post. This is one of the most well-received dishes I’ve ever served, and that’s saying something. Who doesn’t love shredded chicken on cheese toast soaked in gravy? I mean, really?
From Du Fait de Cuisine by Chyquart
18. And to serve jacobin sops it is necessary that you have your fair capons and, according to the quantity of the feast, one or two hundred well fattened capons, and a great deal of other poultry to serve in default of the said capons; and they should be well and properly roasted. And when the well fattened cattle are to be dismembered take the marrow bones and wash them well and carefully, then put them in to boil in fair and clean cauldrons, and fair mutton therewith; and then afterward arrange that you have a quintal [about 110 pounds] of very good Crampone and Brye cheese and of the finest which can be found, and have the said cheese pared and cleaned well and properly, and then cut it very small. And let the said cook who is ordered to make the said jacobin sops take two or three hundred loaves of fine white bread and slice this bread in fair thin slices and roast them very well and cleanly without burning, and let them be browned, and then put them into fair and clean cornues — and you should have two fair, clean, and white boards to slice your said roasted bread for the jacobin sops; and then you should have your serving dishes of gold and silver and pewter lined up, and allocate your bread among your dishes well and gently and the cheese on top. And take your capons and dismember them, that is take off the wings and legs and take off the rump; and then take the white meat of the said capon and slice it very small, and this white of the capon scatter on top of your jacobin sops; and then afterward take the limbs of the said capons, that is the wings, legs, and rump, and put on top of your jacobin sops in proper order. And take care that your broth of beef marrow and mutton is good and sweet, and strain this broth into a large, fair and clean pot; and you should have a good bunch of herbs of sage, parsley, marjoram, and hyssop, and let them be well cleaned and washed, and put into your broth. And arrange that close to the dressing, where you arrange the said jacobin sops for serving, you have a good fire of charcoal under your pots in which is your broth so that it always boils; and with the said broth cover your said jacobin sops.
1.5 fat chickens per table= 18 chickens
Plenty of FRESH ONLY parsley, marjoram, oregano, sage
8 lb white cheddar
3 lb gruyere
1 lb stale loaf per table= 12 loaves= 8 slices per table
Salt & pepper
Roast all chickens. Strip the flesh and shred. Cut off the wing tips and keep separate. Make a strong stock with the carcasses. Add herbs and plenty of pepper and thicken slightly. Cut each loaf into 8 thick slices, cover with cheese, broil until cheese is melted. Strew with chicken meat. At the very last minute, ladle stock over chicken and sops, then sprinkle with parsley.
These were the original instructions for the dish, which got altered in the moment. I was paranoid about the chicken being served hot, so we put it in the oven, covered, to warm. Then the chicken started drying out. We ended up combining the herbed gravy with the shredded chicken in the warmer. The shredded chicken absorbed all of the damn gravy by the time it was plated, so this dish did not turn out as “wet” as it ought to have been. Nonetheless, this was possibly the most popular dish at the feast. People raved over it. We also got lots returned because it was served too late in the feast and the portions were way too large. This is probably enough to feed 200 people if served late in the feast.
Also, we reserved the wing tips to lay one on top of each piece at High Table as a way to make a more-medieval presentation, but the wing tips were buried and then forgotten about in the last minute rush.
A note about the broth:
Never ever will I buy nasty chemical tasting chicken powder again. Friday night we roasted the chickens, let them cool, and then stripped the carcasses of meat. The carcasses, necks, and skin were put in two large stock pots with plenty of salt, bay leaves and whole peppercorns. We brought them up to boiling and then left them simmering all night and through the morning.
Best. Chicken stock. Ever.
We strained the stock, discarded the solids, and then put it back on the stove to reduce in volume. I wanted very rich stock, the stock is the important flavor element in the pea soup and it makes or breaks the sops. I eyeballed the amount throughout the early afternoon until I had about the amount we needed for both dishes. We set the broth aside to cool and separate, and ladled off most of the fat, but not all! Fat=flavor, and this was fatty stock from the chicken skin. I’ll do it this way every single time from now on, because the pea soup and the sops were delicious.
A note about the cheese:
This recipe specifically calls for “Brye or Crampone” cheese. Ken Albala in Cooking in Europe 1250-1650 states that Crampone cheese is most similar to the modern French Cantal or Salers cheeses. I called every specialty cheese shop in Gainesville trying to order one pound of Cantal or Salers cheese to put on the sops for High Table, but no one could even order it. The next most similar cheese that’s accessible here is Gruyere, but Gruyere is very expensive. I ended up using a Cabot brand sharp white cheddar ($4.43/pound on sale) combined with a small amount of the $11 per pound Gruyere. Using really good strong cheese also means you need less of it for the same amount of flavor. Eventually I will find Cantal or Salers cheese, and then I’ll make Jacobin Sops again for a dinner party or something. Or I’ll just keep it all for me!
Serve more sops!