He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.
Shakespeare, Henry IV Part I
I have a confession to make: This is likely not the most perfectly historically accurate dish I have presented during the 12 Days of Medieval Feasting. For one thing, the fish is supposed to be a pike, a popular fish in the Middle Ages, not a red snapper, but a whole pike was nowhere to be found.
The recipe itself is from Eating Like a King: A History of Royal Recipes, by Michelle Brown. The author says that pyke in erbage was served at the coronation feast of Queen Katherine, wife of Henry V, in 1419. That much I've confirmed - the dish was served, in fact, as a first course along with (among other things) "trought," "crabbys," and "tartys."
What I haven't been able to confirm, however, is that Brown's recipe is what was actually served to Katherine in 1419. I've found other medieval recipes for pyke that share quite a few ingredients with this one, and I found a later Elizabethan recipe which stuffs the fish with oysters, also a feature of this version. I suspect that the author has pulled together various recipes from different sources, and also perhaps added touches of her own.
By the time I figured all this out, I had already bought the ingredients. If I had known, I likely would have chosen a more certifiably historically accurate dish, but nonetheless, I'm very glad I made this. It was incredibly moist and flavorful, and the sauce - anchovy, butter, and red wine - tasted positively modern, even - dare I say - a bit French.
I must admit that for me, working with a whole fish - scales left on, no less - definitely felt medieval. If you've followed my blog at all, you'll know that most of my dishes are vegetarian, and so working with a creature who still had a head was unnerving, to say the least. Let's just say I resisted the urge to name him.
Snapper Stuffed with Oysters & Herbs
adapted from Eating Like a King by Michele Brown
For the snapper & sauce:
1 whole snapper, gutted, scales on*, about 1.5 lbs
5-6 ounces of Bordeaux
1 anchovy, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp butter
For the Stuffing:
6 sweet oysters, such as Virginia Choptank
1 tbsp butter, for frying
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh marjoram
*Next time, despite what the recipe advises, I would have the scales removed. I suppose they're left on to help keep the skin from drying out, but I'd rather just cover the thing in foil for a little longer than have to wrestle with fish scales.
I hope you enjoy your stuffed fish - just don't look him the eye. I'll never make that mistake again. I'll see you tomorrow for Day 11 with a really special holiday dessert!