We used to have this treat when I was a kid. My father would get all involved with the making and had himself a ball. This wonderful dish was originally cooked in a chafing-dish. You know, the thing that Topper Harley didn’t know about in Hot Shots. What is it? Well, a chafing-dish is a pan held above a heat source on a stand to gently warm the food. Originally from the Old French chauffer. Means to warm. Yes, it’s the same root as the guy who drives your car. The first steam cars had to be warmed up before they could be driven (or so it’s theorized). The early chafing-dishes used a charcoal brazier as the heat source. Most of the modern ones use a Sterno can. These became big-time popular in England around the 16th Century. Ever wonder how they got hot breakfasts up to people in those cold manor houses? They didn’t, they used these gadgets to cook right in the bedroom. Chafing-dishes have been used in the good ole USA since the beginning. There are a zillion recipes for this gizmo. Get yourself one (or use your electric skillet) and start searching for recipes. Your taste buds will like. Fondue’s were originally in chafing-dishes. The fondue pot is just a modified form.
If I remember right, the old chafing-dish we had was copper and made by Gorham. I wouldn’t put money on my memory and my sister has the thing now.
Anyway, this dish was usually prepared at the table in a chafing-dish. Either by the head of the table or by a good, proper butler. I’m afraid that Bunters are a bit beyond my pocketbook, even if they made them anymore. Bunter? Lord Peter Wimsey’s butler/friend/companion in the Dorothy Sayers mysteries. A chafing-dish plays a role in Strong Poison, the first of the Harriet Vane appearances. If you like well-written, literate mysteries, these are for you.
Here’s my take on this summertime delight:
1 pound fresh spinach
½ cup rough chopped green onion (white and green parts)
fresh ground pepper
4 to 6 slices good thick bacon, diced up in medium chunks
2 tablespoons good wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
rounded ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 chopped hard boiled egg
Clean the spinach and tear it up (make sure it’s dry), tossing the stems away. Mix the spinach and the green onion in a bowl and add a few grinds of pepper. Stick it in the refrigerator until you are ready for it. You can do this at the table with a chafing-dish or an electric skillet if you are dining formally. Or just knock it out in the kitchen for informal ‘just folks’. Slow fry the bacon at a low temp. When the bacon is crisp, add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Slowly add in the spinach and keep it moving until it is just slightly wilted. Sprinkle with the egg and serve immediately.
You’ve got to be careful here, there is a lot of spinach, so the pan is going to get full. The spinach will cook down to nothing if you are not very careful and quick. Therefore I use an alternate method. Leave the spinach in the same bowl, mix all the stuff in the pan, then just drizzle the hot grease and goodies mixture over the spinach, add the egg, toss, and serve. The spinach won’t wilt quite as much, but I like it better this way. Try both methods and see which one you like.
For the purist, this is related to the Medieval Black Porray. Simple, just leave out everything except spinach and bacon. Authentic, but not near as good.