Two-Step Chicken


Pulled and Grilled Chicken, one of the culinary specialties served in the 1920s and 1930s at Polesden Lacey, the country house of British hostess Mrs Ronald Greville.

Maggie Greville (1863-1942) was a nasty piece of work. The famous chatelaine of the glorious English country house Polesden Lacey had several strikes against her as she started her ascent up the social ladder. She was short, plump, and brunette in an era that idolized stately golden-blonde pulchritude, and she was a bastard, the recognized but illegitimate only child of a Scottish beer millionaire William McEwan, whose celebrated ale, McEwan’s, is still made today. As a consequence of these drawbacks, she grew up rich and defensive, with a tart tongue to match and a fearsome intellect. Her words could be so wounding that one of her contemporaries said, “Maggie Greville! I would sooner have an open sewer in my drawing room.” Chips Channon, the gossipy Member of Parliament, looked upon this feared society figure and political insider with wonder, writing, “There is no one on earth quite so skilfully malicious.” Even her friend Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, called her “amusingly unkind.” Cecil Beaton called her “a galumphing, greedy old toad” while Harold Nicholson dubbed her “a fat slug filled with venom.”

That being said, the mondaine Mrs Ronald Greville, wife of one of Edward VII’s best friends, was a superb hostess, greeting the high and mighty in the sumptuous rooms of Polesden Lacey, which had been decorated in high-Edwardian Francophile style by the architects of the Paris Ritz. Very often what was served on milady’s Sèvres porcelain, while she herself was swathed in a necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, was a slightly complicated but tremendously pleasing chicken dish, Pulled and Grilled Chicken.

How complicated? Though it really isn’t that difficult to produce, let’s just say I won’t be making this every week by any means. But its combination of devilled dark meat and velouté-sauced white meat was delectable and surprising.

Mrs. Greville’s pulled and grilled chicken, plated on old Wedgwood, and served with tomatoes and a medley of pearl onions and green peas.

PULLED AND GRILLED CHICKEN

SOURCE: Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food (Hodder & Stoughton, 1991) and adapted from the original recipe published in English Country House Cooking by Fortune Stanley (Reader’s Union, 1974)

SERVES 4 PERSONS

INGREDIENTS

4-pound chicken

Velouté Sauce

1 ounce butter

2 tablespoons flour

7 fluid ounces chicken stock

3 fluid ounces single cream

Sea salt and white pepper

Devil Mixture

3 tablespoons chutney, not too sweet

2 teaspoons English mustard [we made it by following the directions on a canister of Coleman’s double super-fine mustard powder]

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

For Coating the Dark Meat

1-1/2 ounces dry white breadcrumbs

1/4 ounce butter

DIRECTIONS

Boil or roast the chicken as usual. Remove the white meat from the breast and wings, place it in a mixing bowl, and pull the meat into coarse shreds, using two forks; set aside. Carve the legs into four neat joints and set aside. [Set oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit for future use.]

Make the velouté sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a sauce pan. using some of the chicken stock if you have boiled the chicken. (If you choose to roast it, make a little stock in advance from the neck, wing tips, et cetera. You only need 7 fluid ounces.) Place the pan on the stove, over a low heat and stir frequently. Keep the sauce warm while you devil the brown meat.

Make the devil mixture: mix the chutney with the two mustards and the Worcestershire sauce. Make small slits in the outside of the brown-meat joints, through the skin, and rub all over with the devil mixture, then coat with crumbs. Dot with tiny bits of butter and [roast in preheated oven] until golden brown, turning to colour evenly.

To serve, stir the pulled meat into the velouté sauce and reheat [gently until relatively hot; use your judgement on this]. Pour into the center of a shallow dish and lay the grilled joints around the edge.

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8 comments on “Two-Step Chicken

  1. I adore the Fortune Stanley cookbook. Love to read about your cooking. In your other blog you wrote about your stove — do show it to us one day.

  2. home before dark says:

    Sounds like it’s worth a try. All things considered, I am surprised you didn’t cook a tart in this woman’s dubious honor. Seconds about the stove. Is it a Chambers? My great aunt had one. Big and heavy with enough chrome, my great uncle called it Caddy. The ovens were wonderful.

    • Yes, it is a Chambers! I have never had any affection for a household appliance, but I do for the Chambers and our Dyson vacuum cleaner. I plan a kitchen post in the near future to show you what dismal surroundings our food is prepared!

  3. Bruce says:

    Who doesn’t adore the horrible Mrs. Greville? She was apparently a bitter enemy of her fellow London hostess, Emerald Cunard and is supposed to have repeatedly said “Poor little Maude (Emerald’s given name), she’s really not as dreadful as everyone says she is, and I keep telling Queen Mary so.”

    Her country home Polsden Lacey is a National Trust property and open to the public. I haven’t seen it but it’s “on the list”

    • I long to see Polesden Lacey; it’s a lovely building, though I understand when the rooms were taken over by the National Trust, the cozy aspects (ie modern upholstery, et cetera) were sold at auction to make the interiors more period in style and more museum-like. This according to Peter Coats’s “Of Kings and Cabbages.”

  4. Sian Evans says:

    Actually, I think you have been mis-informed. Mrs Greville was always short and plump, only becoming thin in the very last few months of her life, aged 79, as she was dying in the Dorchester Hotel (September 1942). She rarely wore cosmetics, and certainly didn’t dye her hair, which was dark when she was young, allowing it to go grey naturally. She was never red-headed, either naturally or by artifice. It is fair to say that she could be waspish, but she was not the vicious harridan suggested here. She was very popular among her contemporaries and Queen Elizabeth, who you quoted here, also called her a ‘dear old thing’ and remarked that she was ‘so kind’.

    • The Aesthete says:

      I have corrected the information about Mrs Greville’s appearance. However, since numerous people who knew her loathed her, and on record in letters, diaries, and the like. Based on that I think it fair to say Mrs Greville was indeed “a nasty piece of work” in the minds of most people, the queen’s comments notwithstanding.

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