Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feasts and Festivals: Michaelmas

Michaelmas is the feast of St. Michael, archangel and patron saint of soldiers, horses and St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. As a quarter day, Michaelmas was when rents were paid and when Hiring Fairs were held throughout England. Those looking for work carried an emblem of their vocation (mops for maids, whips for drivers, straw for those who tended cattle and crooks for shepherds) which they would trade with their new employer for a ribbon and a shilling, which they could then spend at the fair.*



Photo of St. Michael's Mount from 1900 (Wikipedia), which is extremely similar to better-known (at least to us Americans) Mont St-Michel in Normandy. 

Goose is the traditional meat for Michaelmas, but Paul couldn't get one for me since goose season doesn't start until the last weekend in October and we don't have any waiting in the freezer. But I really liked the idea of the apple-and-walnut-stuffed roast goose from Cattern Cakes and Lace, so I made an Apple and Walnut Roast Chicken. I didn't make a stuffing, because I don't know how one would fit a decent amount of stuffing in a chicken, but I did stuff the cavity of the chicken with apples, walnuts, onions and herbs, which gives a nice flavor and the apple keeps the chicken moist. The accompanying vegetables get all caramelized and gooey and yummy.

Apple and Walnut Roast Chicken

1 (4lb) chicken
1 oz. walnut halves, roughly chopped

8 sage leaves, cut into a chiffonade
3 bay leaves
1/2 lb Granny Smith (or other cooking) apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and cut into wedges
butter, softened
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Per person:
1/4 lb parsnips
1/4 lb potatoes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375˚ Fahrenheit. Peel and chop the parsnips and potatoes then toss olive oil, salt, pepper, half the apple slices and half the onion wedges in a large roasting pan. Push to the edges of the pan to leave room for the chicken.

Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the walnuts, sage and bay leaves. Add the remaining half of the apple slices and onion wedges. Truss and nestle the chicken (breast-side up) in the roasting pan, surrounded by the potatoes and parsnips. Spread the skin of the chicken with the softened butter and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the middle of an oven 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the juices from the chicken run yellow (not pink) when the thickest part of the thigh is pricked with a knife or skewer. Roast longer if necessary.

Remove the chicken to a carving board and tent with aluminum foil. Let it rest 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, return the vegetables to the oven and turn the heat up to 425˚ Fahrenheit. Roast another 20 minutes.

When the vegetables are ready, carve up the chicken and serve alongside the veggies.

Download printable version
Print at Food52


Cattern Cakes and Lace also recommends serving Hot Baked Wardens, which are pears baked in a spiced red wine. Get my recipe here.

*"Michaelmas" in Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, A Calendar of Feasts (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1987), 103.

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