Recipe Source: Scappi, Bartolomeo. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi. Terrence Scully, trans. First published 1570. This edition published by University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2008 p. 362
Bartolomeo Scappi was one of the world's first celebrity chefs, or at least one of the earliest celebrity chefs of whom we have any record. There are a few earlier gentlemen, largely in the Middle East, but he can still be numbered among the earliest. He was the personal chef to a number of cardinals in Rome, and to two Popes. It doesn't matter what your view on the Catholic Church is during this period, there is simply no larger stage. Papal anything trumped non-papal whatever, and the papal chef was this guy.
Such exalted figures as Popes and cardinals usually came from fairly aristocratic backgrounds. While one does occasionally hear of a truly humble Prince of the Church from those days they tended not to last; these men were heads of state as well as religious figures and were expected to conduct themselves as such, for good or for ill. They entertained ambassadors and royalty. It is reasonable to expect that the book that their personal chef left us would be full of complicated recipes, calculated to delight the jaded palates of men who had been used to the finest of foods for a very long time. Those recipes do indeed exist in Scappi's Opera, but that is not all that we have from him. Some of the recipes he left us are very simple indeed, recipes that might have been available in some of the humblest homes in Rome.
Most of these are the recipes you'll see me using. For one thing, the Lenten dishes are usually the simplest, and they're also the ones that are guaranteed not to involve pork. For another, my artistic talents do not lend themselves to re-creating an entire peacock from the insides out, complete with feathers, in such a way that it appears alive on the table, and practicing such an art is prohibitively expensive. The greater Boston area is a little short on peacock farms, organic or otherwise.
This dish is incredibly, beautifully simple. It is one that my daughter and husband adored. I made it ahead of time and re-heated it the day I planned to serve it. Unfortunately I was struck by a horrible plague that weekend. I cannot tell you how it tasted. It could have been sublime. It could have been foul. I will never know. At least, I will never know until someone decides to throw an Italian-themed event and invites me to be the cook. (Yes, Carolingia, this is a subtle hint, although I'm open to travel to other places in the East or in the eastern part of Aethelmearc.)
Onions in Lent (serves 6; approx. $0.50/ea)
6 onions, peeled but left whole
About 1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
- Large saucepan
- Roasting pan
- Preheat your oven to 325︒.
- Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Add the onions and boil until mostly tender.
- Drain and let cool.
- Transfer the onions to a roasting pan. Add olive oil to the roasting pan so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the onions.
- Roast until the onions are fragrant, just browning and very tender.
- Dust with cinnamon sugar and serve hot. I removed them from the oil before serving but there is no indication that this is necessary.