For several years I have shown a film clip from a Colonial Williamsburg DVD called "A Day in the Life" and the plot revolves around the making of a dish called Apple Tansey. As a class, we have wondered what that is, and the Colonial Williamsburg site provides us with the 18th century version of the recipe from The Complete Housewife:
"To make an Apple Tansey,
Take three pippins, slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with butter; then beat four eggs, with six spoonfuls of cream, a little rosewater, nutmeg, and sugar; stir them together, and pour it over the apples; let it fry a little, and turn it with a pye-plate. Garnish with lemon and sugar strew'd over it."
I have always wondered what the big deal is, since the slave owners think it is impossible for the slave Dennis, who is a young boy, to have made the dish, and his mother, the cook, could not have made it since she has broken her leg.
So I tried it. And it is very hard to make this dish come out looking good! (It tasted fine.)
I used the instructions on blog post called "What the Virginians Ate" because there were clear phots. But I did not try the cooking under the broiler, since cooks in the 18th century would not have had one. But now I see why the blog author does so.
I did not have heavy cream, so I used half and half (and left out the rose water, which I did not have either). Since the failure I have looked at some other versions which recommend separating the eggs, whipping the egg whites, and then folding them back together, which I think would help.
Next time I will whip the egg whites, use fewer apples, and maybe try a different pan. But the plot makes more sense, it was a bigger mystery that someone who had never done it before could produce this dish well. But Dennis had watched his mother carefully, and he knew what is should look like. That certainly would have helped. But I don't know if it woudl have been enough.