Bar Food


It is, if you’re in a bar (tavern) in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Of course, during the American colonial era, from which Williamsburg draws its inspiration, most taverns supplied visitors not only with libations, but also with meals and a bed to spend the night.  It was a combination of the modern-day bar, restaurant and inn.

Guests of the Shields Tavern very well may have sampled something similar to the Chicken with Virginia Apple Dressing  pictured above.  Served, perhaps, alongside a tankard of the tavern’s house ale, the meal would fortify visitors before they turned in for the night.  The meal would be warmly satisfying, as would the ale, allowing guests to drift to a contented, comfortable sleep as a storm blustered outside.  At least that’s the idea.

The Colonial Williamsburg Cookbook captures such a moment as it presents the recipe for today’s entry.  Not only does it supply a notion of what visitors to the Shields Tavern may have enjoyed 250 years ago, but the preparation celebrates the bounty available to local cooks.

First, a stuffing is prepared with bread and a little butter, sweetened with local honey and apples.  The latter two ingredients keep the stuffing light and interact pleasingly with the chicken’s clean, almost sweet, notes.

A filet of the bird is flattened, wrapped around the stuffing, and is lightly breaded.  The entire piece is pan-seared briefly, which gives it a golden-brown tone and seals in the stuffing.  This allows the chicken to baste the stuffing as the bird finishes cooking in the oven.

It may be food served in a bar, but it rises above much of what makes up that category today.  The dish both fills the stomach and satisfies the soul.  For those curious about such things, it’s edible history.

*****

Shields Tavern Chicken with Virginia Apple Stuffing

For the stuffing:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup raisins (*1)
  • 4 cups fresh bread crumbs (*2)
  • 1 cup canned apples, drained and chopped (*3)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan, boil the water.  Stir in the honey, butter and raisins.  Immediately turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit, uncovered, for at least ten minutes.  The raisins eventually will puff

Mix the bread crumbs, apples and nutmeg into the cooled mixture.

NOTES:

1 – Which I hate, and thus I substituted dried cranberries.  Cranberries are an obvious choice, as the berry compliments both the apples and, ultimately, the chicken.

2 – It was easiest to get these by toasting about eight pieces of whole-wheat bread, then by tearing/crumbling it into small pieces.

3 – Canned apples?  In a colonial dish?  It was just as easy, and much more “authentic” to dice an apple, then to season it lightly with cinnamon, sugar and a few grinds of nutmeg.  The apple taste was more pronounced this way, too.

For the chicken:

  • 8 6-ounce chicken breast halves, boned and skinned
  • seasoned salt (*4)
  • Virginia Apple Dressing, as described above
  • egg wash (one egg mixed with 1/3 cup milk)
  • bread crumbs
  • butter
  • flour

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees

Sprinkle the chicken with season salt on both sides, then pound it with a tenderizer until the breasts are flattened and are of uniform thickness.

Place some of the dressing in a line along the center of each breast, then roll the meat around it.

Roll each breast in flour, then dip it in the egg wash.  Finally, roll each breast in the bread crumbs.

Saute each breast in skillet in which butter has been melted.  Place each breast “seam” side down at first, to seal the opening.  Rotate the breasts two or three times after this, so that they are uniformly golden-brown.  All in all, this stage should take about five minutes.

Put on a rack in the oven to finish cooking, about 40 minutes.

NOTES:

4 – As the Chesapeake Bay isn’t far from Williamsburg, I used Old Bay.  The small amount used did give the chicken a nice taste.

15 thoughts on “Bar Food

  1. Post insta-love!
    Yes to Bar food! 🙂
    I love Boston’s taverns.One of my fav is Green Dragon where the first conspiracies if the american revolution took place. The one right next to it claim to the the oldest in the US but I recently learned it’s not true??? The oldest is in Newport, RI??? So I’m getting ticket to see that drama unfold 🙂

    This Chicken looks just heavenly. I really like how the combination of breaded chicken with Apple Dressing sounds!
    And yes to tavern’s house ales!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh, major tavern envy!

      I remember seeing the Dragon the last time I was in Boston visiting friends. Didn’t stop in, though I did mange a visit to Bull & Finch, used for the exterior shots in “Cheers.” I know, I know, such a tourist-y thing to do!

      The expedition did yield something useful, though, because the restaurant upstairs, The Hampshire House, had a recipe for one this blog’s first entries, Pumpkin Soup. Even then, cooking rose above my tourism-addled mind.

      Oh, and the day I attempted the chicken and stuffing was gloomy with a cold drizzle. In other words, perfect weather for comfort food and a comforting ale. Do you think it means God reads my blog?

      Um….no.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, OK. Another clue falls into place!

        Anyway, while your time machine is in the shop, I suppose an Irish pub will do. When the machine’s back, though, set the dial for “Tidewater Virginia, pre-Revolution.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. WASP, as initials for a religion, or European ancestry, or the insect? Did you know that the three most painful insect bites in the world are: Executioner Wasp, Tarantula Hawk, and Bullet Ant?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Two of the three, as in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. In other words, I’m a Lutheran/Episcopalian, largely of British ancestry.

        Speaking of two of the three, I had heard dire tales of the Bullet Ant, though I was unfamiliar with the other two. Sounds to be a wicked duo. I’ll take your word for their intensity, and will be thankful my knowledge is strictly a vicarious one.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, nice. I’m a Protestant, too, as long as it’s strictly a Bible-believing church without added books, or so-called prophets who made up their own religions. I tend to be a Baptist, and Lutheran, and Non-Denominational Christian, Bible-Believer.

        I’m largely of Eastern European ancestry.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Your devotion is admirable, Tamara, and your writing proclaims it joyfully. Well done!

        My tastes are more “mainline,” in keeping with my overall cultural preferences.

        Now that you mention it, someone on our office’s Technical team is Protestant and of Eastern European ancestry. In contrast with most of my other friends and colleagues of Eastern European descent, who either are Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

        Liked by 1 person

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