ROBERT FESTIN'S RECIPES
Midshipman Keith's "Chicken Stew Pie"
Correctly called "paté à la rapure"—grated pie—this dish was first tasted by George Rochester when he and Midshipman Keith were visiting another ship at Shark Island.
"As far as he could tell, both the bottom crust and the top were made of mashed potato, while the middle layer was packed with succulent pieces of chicken. Evidently the whole concoction had been soaked in the gravy that the chicken had been stewed in, and then baked in the oven until the potato was as redolent with flavor as the meat. George's rich and social grandparents had kept the most famous table in Boston, but he'd never in all his life tasted anything half as delectable as this."
Robert would have killed a dozen chickens, partly because of the number of men to feed, and partly because shipboard fowl were small and stringy, but one modern chicken would feed six.
Break this into pieces, cover with cold salt water, bring to a boil, and stew gently until tender. Keep stock boiling, but scoop out chicken and set it to one side until it is cool enough to handle. Grate four or five pounds of peeled potatoes over a bowl of cold water, drain, and squeeze as dry as possible in a cloth. Place grated potato in a saucepan, cover with the hot stock, stir until mixed, simmer for ten minutes. Grease a baking dish thoroughly, place half the potato into it, and spread until it makes a thick layer over the bottom. Bone the warm chicken, cut up the meat, and spread over the potato. Cover with the rest of the potato, and sprinkle some minced onion and finely shredded salt pork over the top. Bake at 350º for half an hour or until the top is golden brown.
I wrote "mashed," because grating and squeezing the potatoes was such a chore that I tried boiling them in the chicken gravy, and then mashing them with a fork. However, the disappointing result was no substitute for the real thing, which has a very distinctive texture, and I have always grated the potatoes since.
Wiki's Steamed Squares.
I don't know what this dish is called, but it became a favorite snack on board the Swallow. Robert took about 8 cups of flour, added salt and saleratus (modern baking powder is a good substitute), a pound of shortening (probably cold fat skimmed from the stock the last time he boiled chicken), and mixed these together, cutting the fat into the flour. This was rolled into a thick rectangle, half of which was put into a baking dish, and spread with shreds of cooked, boned chicken. The rest of the pastry was laid over the chicken, and then the whole soaked in chicken gravy before being baked in the oven. Once cooked, it was cut into small squares, which were steamed over a pot of boiling water until puffed up.
Fish & Ship's Biscuit
A ship's biscuit, or "hard bread," is a round, thick, flour-and-water cracker about 8 inches in diameter, baked in the ship's victualing yard to the consistency of wood. A staple on board, it was so often infected with weevils that men tapped one on the edge of the table to knock out the vermin before taking the first bite.
It was common to crumble crackers and bake them with onions and salt meat into a pie called "lobscouse," but Festin was a lot more imaginative, grasping the opportunity to make this dish after the men caught a few fish from over the side of the ship.
After setting broken bread to soak in water, he poached the fish until cooked, scooped it out, and then skinned, boned, and flaked it. The bread was brought to a boil in the water it had been soaked in, and then drained. The fish was mixed into this biscuit, and the combination piled into a pan. As a finishing touch shredded salt pork was fried in fat until crisp, and then both fat and pork were poured over the pie, which was quickly baked until the top was golden.