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You'll Never Guess ...


One day, while looking through "The British Housewife; or, the Cook, Housekeeper's, and Gardiner's Companion" by Mrs. Martha Bradley (1756), I came upon a dessert recipe invitingly titled "velvet cream." But its first words were, "Clean a couple of Fowls' Gizzards perfectly well, slash them with a Knife, and set them in Readiness."

There followed a confusing business of heating cream with sugar, pouring a few spoonfuls of it over a cupful of gizzards, letting it cool, setting the cup of gizzards over warm embers awhile and then mixing this with the rest of the cream. After repeating this three or four times, you finally cooked the cream for a quarter of an hour.

I absolutely had to give it a try. But the cup business made no sense, so I just simmered the gizzards in cream and then strained them out. After a couple of hours in the refrigerator, the cream developed what Mrs. Bradley called a "Softness." In fact, it was like a luscious pudding. It turns out that gizzards contain high-quality gelatin.

You'd have to work hard to detect any gizzard flavor in velvet cream (it would be different if you were putting in chicken livers). Still, Mrs. Bradley's coffee-flavored variant is more to modern taste. Everybody I've tried it on has gobbled it up, though I find it's best not to tell them what they're eating first. If you want to make it, follow the directions exactly.


Coffee Velvet Cream

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour, plus 3 hours chilling

2 pints whipping cream

7 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup ground coffee

4 chicken gizzards

Whisk together the cream, sugar and coffee in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and stir 1 minute. Strain through a fine sieve.

Wash the saucepan and return the cream to it. Mince the gizzards and add. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium and cook at a rousing simmer so that small bubbles regularly break over the entire surface, not just at the edges, 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. You don't want this to boil heartily. Strain and pour into serving cups. When cool, refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 321 calories; 29 mg sodium; 102 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 17 grams saturated fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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