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This story references “Honor Avenged” in the Moments in Time collection: http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=3966&cid=26533 . Written for the LOTR Community "Feast" challenge. For Just-Ann-Now for her birthday.
The Sacrifice Accepted
“So, Frodo is the only one of you who doesn’t cook?” asked Prince Faramir.
“I don’t know where you got that idea,” Pippin said, shaking his head. “He’s a Hobbit—of course he cooks! Actually, he’s quite a good cook, when he doesn’t get distracted by translations or a project of some sort. It’s just that Sam doesn’t give him a great deal of chance to cook for himself, seeing himself as the one who provides for his Mr. Frodo, you understand.”
“I see, I think,” Faramir answered. “Does he have a specialty of some sort?”
Pippin nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, he bakes the best roast chicken in the entire Shire! He says that Aunt Esmeralda, Merry’s mother and my father’s younger sister, taught him how to make it, but Aunt Esme insists that he’s made it his own and has nothing to do with how she prepares it any more. All I know is that when I am upset with my family and retreat to Frodo’s house, he makes it for me and I forget everything else in Middle Earth. Nothing seems too hard to face with Frodo’s roast chicken in you!”
Frodo eyed his younger cousin consideringly. “You promised Prince Faramir that I would do a roast chicken for him, did you?”
Somehow his boasts to Faramir seemed perhaps ill advised to Pippin now. “Well, yes, Frodo. But it’s not as if it’s something that you don’t like to do anyway.”
“Yes, I like to make roast chicken, but it isn’t something I tend to do just on the spur of the moment, you know. I like to take my time and do it right! How am I to do so and have it done in time to serve him and Aragorn tonight? It’s noon already!”
Sam eyed his Master consideringly and gave Pippin a look that was both apologetic and exasperated at the same time. “We don’t have a lot of time, and that’s a fact, but we can still do it, Mister Frodo, if’n we work together. Now, I’ll go down to the market and find the best fowl I can find. Should do at least four, don’t you think, Master, to feed all of us? Unless Gimli and Legolas should join us, of course—then we’d need at least six.”
“I’d want eight,” Frodo said, his expression still somewhat dark as he eyed his younger cousin. “And some apple cider vinegar, if they have it here, or something else tart. And garlic—two cloves for each fowl, I suppose. Do they have potatoes here? Or are they available this time of year here in Gondor? I’d want at least five pounds, don’t you think? And you, Peregrin Took, get to peel every one of them! Perhaps some parsley—I saw some good stalks at the greengrocer on the south side of the market last week. And if you can’t find the vinegar, perhaps some of those lemon fruits would do. They are quite tart and would give good flavor, I’d think.”
Sam was committing Frodo’s shopping list to memory as he continued to reel off the foodstuffs he felt would be necessary. When Frodo at last went quiet, Sam nodded. “I have it all in my head, Master,” he said. “We have some potatoes here, at least, so you can have Mister Pippin start with them, I suppose. I’ll find more if’n I have to scour the whole marketplace. And there’s some interesting honey there in the cool room—the bees had been feedin’ on a field of what they call lemon balm, I’m told. We can have it on scones. Don’t have time to make your herb bread to go with it, I fear.”
“But we’ll need bread for the stuffing, and what Mistress Loren baked for us today will be unsuitable, as it is a sweet bread.”
“We’ll find what we can,” Sam advised him. “Come on, Mister Merry—we’ll hurry and get what he needs. And send young Lasgon to tell Lord Strider as we’ll all be engaged till them can join us for dinner, Master.”
In moments Sam and Merry were hurrying off to the lower Circles where the primary marketplaces were in the city. Frodo dispatched the young page assigned to their needs to the Citadel to carry his regrets to the King that he’d not be able to return that afternoon, and Pippin was busy with potatoes, a paring knife, and a basket to catch the peelings as Frodo and Mistress Loren, their housekeeper, began bustling about the guesthouse kitchen to prepare for the arrival of the fowl. “At least,” Frodo muttered, “I know I can trust Sam to choose chickens proper to the meal. Some glazed carrots, I think, to accompany the fowl, and I do need to look at the store of mushrooms we have on hand. I might need to go to the empty house to fetch more from the gardens there….”
After examining the stores of mushrooms the Hobbits had been harvesting within the city, Frodo shook his head. “Not nearly enough!” he sighed, and went to fetch his cloak. Taking a short knife and a gathering basket, he, too left the house, returning just prior to the arrival of Merry and Sam with the basket filled with mushrooms and with a goodly amount of freshly culled rosemary wrapped in his clean handkerchief. Pippin had just finished peeling those potatoes in the house’s stores, and Frodo fixed him with a gimlet stare. “Done there?” he asked. “Then fetch down the mortar and pestle—I want you to grind some of this rosemary and then some peppercorns. Get on with you, Pippin!”
The young Took sighed and did as he was told. He had, after all, been the one who’d done the promising for the evening’s delights.
Sam and Merry hurried in with heavy baskets, followed by a lad from the poulterer’s shop with the desired chickens, all freshly butchered, cleaned, and plucked. “And are you preparing to entertain the whole street?” the youth asked as he carefully laid the chickens on the long, low worktable. “This is a goodly number of fowl you’ve purchased this day.”
“No, just for us and a few friends,” Frodo said distractedly, examining the eight fowl. He prodded one carcass. “This one seems to have perhaps been at least a bit scrawny, but the others appear to have been sound enough.”
“I am sorry, Master,” the young Man responded. “It is rather late in the day, and these were among the last we had on hand. My master sent this to try to make up for it,” and he set out a fat pigeon alongside the chickens.
“Hmmph,” murmured Pippin in Merry’s ear. “Not that we will get any share of that one, what with the way Frodo loves squab.”
“Well, if anyone deserves it, Frodo does,” Merry whispered back as Frodo glanced their way. “And is that fresh rosemary? How delightful! All we could find in the marketplace was dry. Here, Frodo—none of the bread such as you usually use was available, but this looks promising. It was made with a sour dough, and tastes delightful. And this garlic from Ithilien is excellent! Shall I add the chicken necks to the stock Mistress Loren has simmering there? It should give a marvelous flavor.”
The new King and his Steward and the Warden for the Keys arrived just after sundown, all of them looking rather tired. The Lord King Elessar’s head lifted as Merry admitted them, and he sniffed appreciatively. “Well,” he said to Lord Húrin, who was a first-time guest in the Hobbits’ temporary home, “it appears that we will be truly royally feasted this evening. And is that fresh rosemary I smell? Excellent!”
They were soon in the kitchen themselves, and a bemused Húrin found himself tossing a salad while Faramir helped Samwise set the table and Aragorn stood alongside Frodo helping to set the chickens on platters as each was removed from the oven. “It smells heavenly, my friend,” he said as he placed the eighth fowl on its bed of lettuce leaves.
Frodo, meanwhile, was preparing a smaller plate that was half shielded by his torso, and merely nodded. “We have filled them with a rosemary and mushroom stuffing, so they should be quite moist in spite of their size,” he said. “Are the potatoes all properly mashed, Peregrin?” he asked, raising his head to call to his cousin, who’d been busy in a corner of the room since their arrival.
“Just finished,” Pippin assured him. “The butter is excellent, by the way, and the fresh parsley adds well to the flavor. Let’s get it all on the table before any of it cools too much!”
In minutes the table was ready, and four Hobbits, three Men, a Wizard, Mistress Loren and young Lasgon, and a newly arrived Dwarf and Elf were all standing by their chairs, facing West, before taking their seats at the table. Both the servants were now accustomed to sometimes being invited to eat with those who dwelt here, and neither felt abashed to find themselves sitting down to table with the new King of the Reunited Realm, much less the two lords who’d accompanied him this evening. “I suppose you’ve been busy all day with the delegation from Rhûn,” Frodo said as he indicated they should remove the covers over the platters of fowl that lay before them. “You all three deserve a meal of good, homely fare tonight.” And he laid a smaller covered dish before Aragorn. “They sent an addition to the fowl to make up for one of the chickens being decidedly smaller than the others,” he said. “And I thought you would appreciate it.”
The eyes of all his three Hobbit companions widened in surprise as the King raised the cover to reveal a delicately baked squab. “Imagine that!” Sam whispered to Merry. Aragorn removed it to his own plate and carefully cut off a bite, and savored it, his eyes closed in appreciation. “Never seen him do that afore, I haven’t.”
“Ah, but it melts in one’s mouth!” Aragorn murmured. “My friend, when Bilbo named you a master chef in your own right, he was undervaluing your skills!”
“As long as he doesn’t get distracted while he’s cooking,” Pippin sniffed. “Now, pass those potatoes! I worked long and hard on them, and I intend to enjoy my fair share!”
And all laughed as the potatoes were handed down the board to where the young Took sat.
The meal was as plentiful and in many ways far more satisfying than many banquets and feasts the Men had enjoyed. There was a richness to the fare that the Men found themselves appreciating, for it was indeed good homely food, expertly prepared, filling and comforting at the same time, cooked and well seasoned as only a Hobbit could prepare it.
Gandalf attended the three lords as they returned to the Citadel once they took their reluctant leave of the Hobbits. “I don’t know if you realize just how highly Frodo honored you, Arathorn’s son,” he advised the Man as they walked under the bare limbs of the old White Tree that stood still by the fountain. “But I’ve heard of Frodo preparing squab very rarely indeed. For him to surrender it to you—that’s unprecedented as I understand it. He just doesn’t tend to share squab with others, you realize.”
“And considering how he reacted the one time I ate his extra share of mushrooms just after we left Bree,” Aragorn mused, “I suspect this is his way of acknowledging that perhaps I’m not quite the rogue he once considered me.”
So saying, he related the tale of evergreen needles inserted into his shoes and clothing to the amusement of his companions as they returned to the Citadel and the responsibilities they shared in the running of the realm.
And back in the guesthouse Frodo was clearing away that plate from the table, glad that his sacrifice had been so well received, even if Aragorn never appreciated just how hard it had been for him to place that squab before his friend instead of eating it himself.
I don’t tend to use recipes when baking chicken, just seasoning the whole roaster with whatever I have on hand and feel like using at the moment. Sometimes I will drizzle some honey over the chicken before I bake it, and sometimes I will splash it with some wine. Personally I don’t care for sherry or much cooked with it, but I’ve been known to add a bit of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon—not often, I’ll admit, but now and then. But I usually use rosemary and lemon juice when preparing the chicken when I bake it, so this recipe seems good for preparing the fowl, should you wish to add some honey as well.
You can use these recipes as the basis for your own rosemary chicken, whether you bake only chicken breasts or whole chickens; and the stuffing sounds divine, particularly if you were to use a good Italian bread or sourdough—supposing you LIKE stuffing, that is. I’ve used a similar recipe once in stuffing my chicken and received a nice response, although as one who doesn’t particularly like bread stuffing I was unimpressed myself. But when it comes to stuffing I will bow to the expertise of those who like it!
Honey has different flavors and even different colors depending on the flowers the bees were able to access while building their honeycombs. Some health food and natural foods stores have different honeys available, each of which will add its own character to the meal.
Garlic Rosemary Chicken Breasts
Garlic Rosemary Stuffing
Serves 8| Hands-On Time: 1hr 00m | Total Time: 2hr 00m
· 3 tablespoons olive oil
· 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, quartered
· 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish and foil
· 1 large loaf Italian bread (about 1 pound), cut into 3⁄4-inch pieces (about 16 cups)
· 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
· kosher salt and black pepper
· 3/4 cup dry sherry
· 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
· 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
By Kristen Evans Dittami, November 2010
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