Of herbs and stewed chicken

For a while Sam sat musing, and tending the fire till the water boiled. The daylight grew and the air became warm; the dew faded off turf and leaf. Soon the rabbits cut up lay simmering in their pans with the bunched herbs. Almost Sam fell asleep as the time went by. He let them stew for close on an hour, testing them now and again with his fork, and tasting the broth.

The most famous meal in The Lord of the Rings is also one of the simplest: Sam’s homely stewed rabbit made in the wilds of Ithilien. The recipe is quite clear, no guesswork needed here. Sam stewed the rabbits in simmering water with bunches of fresh sage, thyme, and bay leaves for about an hour.

This dinner has been delayed partly because of busy family time, but also because I have been hoping to get rabbit. Our regular grocery store usually carries it, but they haven’t had any rabbit in stock for the past few months. In the end I decided that rather than keep delaying, I had to make a substitution, so I cooked a fresh, local chicken instead of a rabbit, but otherwise it is Sam Gamgee’s recipe to the letter.

Sometimes the simplest is the best

I cleaned and dressed the chicken while starting a few inches of water simmering in a pot with bunches of thyme and sage and a handful of bay leaves. (Extreme nitpick: I also added salt. It isn’t explicitly mentioned in Sam’s rabbit stewing, but his box of salt is mentioned among his cooking equipment just as he sets to cooking the rabbits, so I think it’s a safe assumption.) When the water started to bubble, I laid the chicken on top and kept it at a low simmer for an hour.

The result was delicious: soft, tender chicken in warm, flavorful broth. I also cooked some crispbreads to stand in for the Hobbits’ Elvish waybread. Although Sam and Frodo had nothing else to eat, we took some fresh vegetables to complement the soup and bread. E. did a lovely and simple place setting that nicely evoked stopping for a comforting meal in a shady grove in the wilds.

Previous Lord of the Rings dinners:

January: A long-expected party

February: Farewell to Hobbiton / March: Supper at the Prancing Pony

April: A rangers’ dinner in the wild

May: At Elrond’s table

June: A Dwarven dinner

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