Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor was a great number of things. Indisputably he was the Steward of Gondor before the return of the king. Further, he was strong and sensible enough to see the folly in staring too long into the plantir recognizing the evil on the other end … a quality that even Saruman the White lacked.
However, there were probably other, worse, things that one might say about Denethor. Batshit crazy comes to mind as does “kind of a dick,” “unappreciative jerkface” and “badly in need of a haircut.”
Still, of all the things you can say about Denethor one thing can never be denied: Denethor loved him a good chicken and he knew, despite his high station in life, that there was only one way to eat it…on a plate with some grapes and cherry tomatoes, with your hands caveman style, drinking red wine, listening to a hobbit sing a sad song after sending your last remaining child to an almost certain death which will be really, really gruesome.
I feel like chicken tonight
This scene is so emotional and so powerful that only a very, very solid chicken dish could make me see past how sad it is and think, “Man, I am hungry.” Sure enough, since the very first time I saw this movie, and I have seen it at least 100 times, this scene has made me want to gorge myself on chicken and cherry tomatoes.
If you have not seen this scene you should watch it right away. Here is a link: The Feast of Denathor
A (Very) Brief History
Anyone who knows me knows that if I start explaining anything about either food or Lord of the Rings, the result might actually be longer than the book itself. Also, somehow, I would get around to mentioning how stupid a name like “Mt. Doom” is for the central location of a trilogy in which the author actually created entire languages (plural) for, that Gandalf not sending Frodo to destroy the rings with the eagles in the first place infuriates me, that Gandalf didn’t get Elrond to reforge the shards of Narsil right after the counsel so Aragorn could summon the army of the undead, that Gandalf blaming Pippin in the mines of Moria for making the noise that gets them noticed is asinine, that Gandalf has pretty lame wizard powers…you see where this is going. So I will try to be as brief as possible and deliver just the facts.
During the Siege of Gondor, a mix of mourning for his son Boromir, a feeling of despondency due to the impending fall of Gondor under his Stewardship and Sauron probably using his power of making people crazier than a bag full of kittens (c.f. King of Rohan), Denethor guilts his younger son, Faramir, into a total suicide mission to regain Osgiliath after it had been overrun by orcs. Faramir, feeling sad because his Dad didn’t really love him (plot spoiler…underneath all that being crazier than a shit house rat he did) decides to stoically charge to his death and, not surprisingly his entire army gets the shit killed out of them.
While his son is out riding to the brutal death that he callously sent him to, Denethor has himself a nice lunch.
Pippin has pledged himself to Denethor’s service to make up for Boromir dying while saving his life. Because of his small stature he finds that Boromir’s childhood Gondorian uniform fits him very well. I am not sure where he found it, but it was cleaned and pressed.
So Denethor, sitting in the Hall of Kings, has Pippen, dressed in Boromir’s childhood clothing, sing him a sad song while he eats a chicken, tomatoes and grapes and washes it down with wine and craziness.
The scene is mortifyingly sad, yet the chicken looks so good that I felt a recipe was in order. This is a simple dish and easy to make, yet preparation is key. Also, instead of an enormous chicken, I have used Cornish game hens.
I do not know anything about traditional Gondorian cooking, nor do I have sons to send off to their death, so this is just my estimation. I hope you enjoy it.
PS: It actually does taste better if you watch the youtube video of the scene while eating it.
Chicken a la Denethor
2 Cornish Game Hens
Half Stick of Butter
4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Fresh Crushed Black Pepper
1 Large Vidalia onion
Bonus side dish
2 large red potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
Remove chickens from wrapping. Remove and save innards fro cavity. Dry chicken, inside and out with paper towels. Place on cutting board.
Cover chickens with a good bit of kosher salt and let sit for at least 30 minutes on the counter exposed to the air. This will dry the skin allowing it to crisp up very nicely. (Up to 3 hours. The longer the better, mine sat 1 hour.)
While the chicken is air-drying with the kosher salt, slice the Vidalia onion into large half-inch thick disks. Place the two largest into a heavy skillet. (Cast Iron would be best, but any heavy ovenproof skillet will do).
Slice remaining onion into sticks and quarter a lemon.
Step 5 (optional side dish of POE-TAY-TOES)
Slice potatoes into roughly one-inch pieces. Place in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt, some fresh cracked black pepper and dried herbs. I used Parsley and Thyme. Mix well to coat.
Mix softened butter and olive oil blending well.
Preheat oven to 500.
A note on the “low and slow” convention: It is bullshit. You do not want to cook things low and slow. Low temperature means longer cook times equals dry meat. Also, low will never allow you to get that diamond hardness on your skin. Cook high and fast. Low and slow is for BBQ.
Brush excess salt off the chicken. Ground some pepper to taste. Lather it up good with the butter olive oil mixture. Stuff cavity filled with onion and lemon split evenly. Place in pan on top of two large slices of onion so the skin never comes in contact with the pan.
Step 9 (optional)
Add potatoes in open spaces in pan.
Place pan inside now preheated oven for 1 hour. Do not, under any circumstances, look inside.
Remove from oven and plate with cherry tomatoes and grapes (and, if you made them, the POE-TAY-TOES).
A feast for a King….or at least a Steward.
Reminder: This will in fact taste better if watching the scene of Denethor eating (clip above). However, if all the killing is too gruesome for you, you should at least be listening to the song Pippen sings while eating and under no circumstances are you to use any utensils other than your hands. Pippin sings Edge of Night
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