Wednesday Will: Othello’s Venetian Roasted Bird


….for easter and Will’s birthday – on sale now at amazon:

“She’s even setting on water to scald such Chickens as you…” Timon of Athens, 2.2

After being adopted by a conservative Italian military family, the Cynthia’s, Othello, the first black chef to achieve a certain level of fame in Europe, finished his culinary training in Venice. Shakespeare noted his talent during a tour of the continent and immediately offered the charismatic Moor a position. “Roasted Bird” is prepared just after Othello and Desdemona – Othello’s lovely, jealous, young Venetian bride – arrive in London. As with most of Othello’s recipes it has an undeniably poetic element and a rich, “pearl flavor” even though the dish is fundamentally another example of the Moor’s insistently traditional philosophy of cooking.

The Ingredients of the Recipe:

Pepper and salt
An unsuspecting bird
A creepy guy with a cool name
Herbs to taste

The Chefs of the Dish:

Othello – a chef at The Globe
Desdemona – his jealous younger wife
Iago – a typical Roman politician
Cassio – a good-lookin’ young friend of Desdemona

Act I, sc. 1

Enter Othello in to the Globe’s kitchen, talking on his cell phone

Othello: Desdemona, honey, how could you even think that?  Look, I really am at the restaurant and there really is a recipe I have to do. If you don’t believe me I’ll leave the phone on and you can listen in… No, really, I want to. This won’t take long. (sets his cell phone on the counter, still on) That’s my beautiful young wife, Desi. We got hitched last month and she’s still a little jealous. I mean, she shouldn’t be but man, her creepy friend Iago is always spreading rumors… he pretends to wear his heart on his sleeve but…some guys are just envious. Ok, the recipe:

Roasting birds is actually the easiest
Cooking campaign to wage. Simply slide the
Herbs into the slain, cleaned cavity
After well-seasoning and buttering both
In and out, I prefer to leave the stuffing
Beside, as it tends to dry the soft flesh,
Then well tie down the strumpet. One slice of
Prosciutto on its lovely breast, to keep
It moist, cover its dainty feet, and then
Place it firm into the hottest oven.
Reduce the heat after a time, continue
Then its slow baking, but not too well-done,
Otherwise you’ll fatally foul its
Pearl flavor richer than any t-bone.
Once roasted, yes, they do make a great scene
Of pride, pomp and circumstance on glorious
Plates! With a deep red wine do round the dish.

They go well with almost anything, sausage and chestnut stuffing, sweet sauces like cranberry, of course mashed potatoes, sweet or Idaho or even some fruit mostarda. And I’m sure you all know how to make the gravy out of the droppings. As easy as, well, drawing a sword. (from the cell phone resting on the counter the sound of a doorbell. Othello steps over and picks up the phone) Hey honey, I’m already finished. Was that the doorbell I just heard? …Who is it? Cassio? What’s he doing there? …Oh, a ‘Wii’ party. With Emily, right? …Later? Ok. Bye honey. I’ll be home in an hour or so after I clean up. Kiss-kiss. (Kisses Desdemona over the phone and hangs up. Pause) Cassio? A ‘Wii’ party? Hey, wait a minute… (runs out. Exit Othello. Exit recipe)

link – roasting a bird from The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex, 1696
link: a thought on Shakespeare and food:  –

Ian McKellen as Iago (“Put money in thy purse”): The real recipe:


For the bird:
2 Cornish hens
2 slices of prosciutto
Salt & pepper
…and Thyme
½ a lemon
1 scallion
1 bay leaf
serves 2-4
Chop the herbs and flavor the butter with them, then butter and season the hens all over, even beneath the skin on the breast and leg, then slide into each ¼ a lemon, sage leaves, branches of parsley and-or if you like the flavor, add some rosemary, not too much, or thyme, ginger, curry, ecc.. Tie the birds. Place in a baking dish and shove them in a hot oven, highest temperature, for about 10 minutes, then turn down the heat, baste with butter or the juices in the pan, and place the prosciutto slices over each breast (optional.) Continue cooking at 160° Celsius for 20-30 minutes or so depending on the size of the birds, checking from time to time to make sure the hens aren’t overcooking. But don’t open the oven – the secret not so secret for Cornish hens is to leave them alone. Alternatively, cook for about 35-40 minutes at a steady 220 celsius. Once finished, set aside to rest a few minutes as you make the gravy with the droppings using butter, if necessary, chopped scallion and one bay leaf. (Also alternatively, you can make a ‘fondo’ sauce by chopping off the neck, wing tips and using them and the heart, a bit of carrot, a lightly crushed juniper berry, one clove, a bit of tomato, onion, celery and ginger root to make a broth, strain then dense on low heat. Don’t salt or fats to the very end, if at all.) Strain the resulting gravy and serve with the stuffing and bird. Remove the lemon and herbs inside the hens before serving. Serve with a well-structured Pinot Noir.
For the stuffing:
1 carrot
1 celery stick
½ an apple
1 shallot
Salt & pepper
One handful of chestnuts boiled in milk
One handful of roasted chestnuts
1 lean pork sausage
1-2 cups of chicken broth, (see Henry Vth)
1 average sized loaf of bread
Gently boil some of the chestnuts in milk after peeling until they’re soft. Remove, and then strain the liquid. Roast the rest or buy them roasted in season. Break all the cooked chestnuts into pieces and place in a large bowl along with the bread, now ripped into small pieces as well. In a teaspoon of evo, fry the broken sausage meat, then add the chopped shallot, then the carrot and celery, then the sliced apple, and finally the finely chopped sage. Season to taste. Add the mix to the bowl, along with some of the chestnut milk and stock. Place in a baking pan, loosely cover and bake for 45 minutes, checking from time to time that it isn’t drying out, along with the bird or birds.

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