meat, williamsburg cookbook

Williamsburg veal partridges

Some days are just full of questions. Like, why aren’t there more movies like Back to the Future? Why do my students all wear feather extensions in their hair? If I walk around a lot while I teach, does that count as the day’s exercise? Why is my dwarf hamster still afraid of everything that moves? And when were toothpicks invented?

I promise there’s a reason for that last one.
Last week I made veal partridges, a dish which is a mystery in itself. Why call it “partridges” when the only meat involved is veal? I think it has something to do with the way the dish looks once assembled:
See, you roll up thin strips of veal and stuffing, then secure the rolls with toothpicks inserted crosswise. The resulting meat looks a little like partridges (or any bird) that have been trussed for roasting. Personally, I thought they looked more like pigs in a blanket, but I had a pretty good feeling those hadn’t been invented yet in colonial America.
I also had a pretty good feeling that toothpicks hadn’t been invented yet in colonial America.
{you probably couldn’t buy toothpicks in a store}
Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the answer to that question. Turns out that people have probably been using toothpicks since they first got food stuck in their teeth. However, these early toothpicks were found or whittled from bigger pieces of wood, and it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that toothpicks were first mass-produced the way we know them today. (For more on the “glorious” toothpick, check out this article.)
So, jury’s out on how historically accurate these veal partridges are. They may have been secured with little spikes of wood, but it’s more likely that a cook would tie them in bundles with a piece of string. Still, they’re quite tasty, which is really all that matters at the end of the day, right?
Williamsburg Veal Partridges
(adapted from The Williamsburg Book of Cookery)
half an onion, chopped
3 tbsp butter, divided
one piece of bread, diced or shredded into crumbs
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1 tbsp milk
5-6 thin slices of veal
1/4 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a pan and brown the chopped onion for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble the stuffing: mix the bread crumbs, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add the onion and mix well, then moisten with the milk.
Lay out the veal strips and spread them with the stuffing. Carefully roll up the veal and stuffing to make rolls, and secure with two toothpicks stuck crosswise. Roll each veal bundle in flour.
Melt the other 2 tbsp butter in the pan and cook the veal rolls in the butter until browned. Place the rolls in a baking dish, along with any unused stuffing, and pour the fat over the veal. Cover the baking dish and bake for 40 minutes. Serve with brown rice.
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6 thoughts on “Williamsburg veal partridges”

  1. Those look delicious! But the toothpicking sounds like a lot of work…

    And also, to address some of your other questions: I think walking around the classroom counts as exercise. You have a dwarf hamster? And what is with those feather hair extensions?

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  2. The dwarf hamster! Her name is Vera, and I've had her for a little over a year. She is adorable and 3 inches long and scared of everything that moves (including her bedding). She also enjoys running on her wheel. A lot. She's great fun, though!

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  3. Yeah, I'm not sure about the feather extensions either. Apparently they're a trend this year, but who knows why?

    And I'm glad you agree on the exercise thing. Sometimes I feel just talking a lot in class should count, too.

    Yes, I have a hamster! More in the reply to Lyuda's post.

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