Golden Chicken

A boneless whole chicken, glazed in gold... this entremet is based on two recipes from Le Viandier du Taillevent, and is an elegant and convenient way to serve a "whole chicken" without the hassle of carving.

What, Where, When:

  • This entremet of a boneless whole chicken, glazed in gold, is based on two recipes from Le Viandier du Taillevent.
  • Taillevent is a French source from 1392 or before.

Original Recipes and Translations:

POULLAILLE FARCIE. Prenez vos poullez et leur couppez le gavion, puis les eschaudez et plumez, et gardez que la peau soit sainne et entière, et ne la reffaictes point en l’eaue, puis
prenez ung tuel de chaume ou autre, et le boutez entre cuir et chair, et l’enflez, puis le fendez entre les espaules et n’y faictes pas trop grant trou, et laissiez tenant à la peau les cuissetes, les ailles et le col atout la teste, et les pietz aussi. 
Et, pour faire la farce, prenez chair de mouton, de veel, de <<93>> porc, du brun des poulletz, et hachiez tout ensemble tout cru; puis les broyez en ung mortier, et des oeulfz tous cruz  avec de bon frommaige de gain, et de bonne pouldre d’espices, et ung bien pou de saffren, et sallez à point, puis emplez vos poullez, et recousez le trou; et du remenant de vostre farce faictes en pommez comme parciaulx de guede, et mettez cuire en boullion de beuf et en eaue boullant, et du saffran grant foison, et qu’ilz ne boullent mie trop fort qu’ilz ne se despiècent; puis enhastez voz poulletz en une broche de fer bien liées, et les pommes aussi. Et, pour les dorer ou couvrir de vert ou de jaune: pour le jaune, prenez grant foison de moyeulx d’oefz et les batez bien, et ung pou de saffren avec, et mettez la doreure en ung plat ou autre vaissel. Et qui veult doreure verte, si braye la verdure avec  les oeufz. Et après ce que vostre poulaille sera cuite et voz pommes, drecieez vostre broche ou vaissel où vostre doreure sera, et gectez tout du long vostre doreure, et remettez au
feu affin que vostre doreure se preigne par deux fois ou partrois; et gardez que vostre doreure n’ait grant feu qu’elle ne arde. (From Manuscrit du Vatican)

Stuffed poultry. Take your hens, cut their neck, scald and pluck them, and be careful that the skin remains undamaged and whole, and do not plump the birds; then take some sort of strap and push it between the skin and the flesh, and blow, the n cut the skin between the shoulders, not making too large a hole, and leave the legs. wings and neck still attached to the skin.
To make the stuffing, take mutton, veal, pork and dark meat of chicken, and chop up all of this raw, and grind it in a mortar, together with a great quantity of raw eggs, cooked chestnuts, a good rich cheese, good spice powder, a little saffron, and salt to taste. Then stuff your chickens and sew up the hole again. With any leftover stuffing make hard balls, using a great deal of saffron, the size of packets of woad, and cook them in beef broth and boiling water gently, so they do not fall apart. Then mount your chickens and the balls on very slender iron spits.To glaze them or cover them with green or yellow for the yellow take a great quantity of egg yolks, beat them well with a little saffron, and set this glazing in a dish of some sort; and should you want a green glazing, grind the greenery with the eggs; after your poultry and your balls of stuffing are cooked, place your spit in the dish with the glazing mixture two or three times and cast your glazing the full length of the spit, then put it bak on the fire so that your glazing will take, and watch that your glazing does not have so hot a fire that it burns.

DOREURES. Entremetz pour ung jour de feste ou pour ung convy de prince aux trois jours masles de la sepmaine comme dimenche, mardi et le jeudi. Pour farsiz et pommeaulx: convient, pour les pommeaulx, de la chair de porc crue, il ne peult challoir quelle, dont les poulles soient farcies; et convient, après que la poulaille est tué, rompre ung pou de peau de la teste, et avoir ung tuyau de plume et souffler dedans tant qu’elle soit bien plaine de vent, et puis les eschauder, et, après, les fendre par dessoubz le ventre, et les escorchier et mettre les charcois d’un costé.
Et convient, pour faire la farce pour farcir la poullaille, du blanc, du lart hachié avec la chair, et fault des oeufz, de bonne poudre fine, du pignolet et du roisin de Corinde et en farsir la peau de la poulaille et ne l’emplir pas trop qu’elle ne crieve, puis la recoudre; et convient la boullir en une paelle sur le feu, et ne le fault guaire laisser cuire, et puis les brochez en broches gresles, et, quant les pommeaulx seront bien faictz, les convient mettre cuire avec ladicte poulaille, et les tirer quant ilz seront durciz, et avoir les broches des pommeaulx plus gresles de la moittié ou plus que celles de la poullaille.
Et après, fault avoir de la paste batue en oeufz tellement qu’elle se puisse tenir sur la paelle, et, quant la poullaille et les pommeaulx seront presque cuitz, les oster et mettre sur sa paste, et prendre de la paste à une cuillier nette, en remuant tousjours, et mettre par dessus sa poulaille et ses pommeaulx tant qu’ilz en soient dorez, et les faire par ii ou par iii foiz tant qu’ilz en soient bien couvertz, et fault prendre du feul d’or ou d’argent et les enveloper, et fault avoir ung petit d’aubun d’oeuf et les arrouser affin que le fueil tiengne mieulx. (From Manuscrit du Vatican)

Glazings. An entremets for a feast day or for a princely banquet on the three meat-days of the week, namely, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. For stuffings and meatballs: you need, for the balls, raw pork – the cut of pork does not matter – with which the hens are to be stuffed. After the poultry is killed, you should make a break in the skin by the head and blow through a hollow feather until the skin is inflated, then scaled the poultry and cut them under the belly and skin them; put the carcasses to one side.
To make the stuffing for the poultry you should have white meat, bacon chopped up with the meat, eggs, good fine spice powder, pine nut paste and currants, and stuff the skin of the poultry with it, without overfilling and bursting it, then sew it up again; this should be boiled in a pan on the fire and should be allowed barely to cook, then mount them on slender spits. And when the meatballs are well made they should be set to cook with the poultry, and take them out when they have hardened; for the balls, get spits that are half as thick or less as those for the poultry.
After that, you should have an egg batter such that it will stay blended in the pan. When the poultry and the meatballs are almost cooked, remove them and put them in the batter; take the batter in a clean spoon, constantly stirring, and put it over the poultry and the meatballs until they are glazed with it; and do it twice or three times so that they are well coated with it. Then you need to take gold leaf or silver leaf and wrap them in it; you need to dampen them with a little egg white for the leaf to stick better.

Discussion:

While Le Recueil de Riom contains two recipes for entremets or subtleties – one for a stuffed, glazed and gilded mutton shoulder and one for a goat’s head – neither were as appealing as the ones found in Taillevent for restuffed “chicken”.  I first ran across these dishes while preparing a 14th century Burgundian feast – the appeal of the dish to an SCA cook was that one could have the presentation of a “whole” chicken, that could then be sliced by the diners – “no carving required.” Both of these recipes describe very similar dishes, so I decided to use portions of each to create a new dish.

  • In the first step, the skinning of the chicken, I have never been able to use the “straw” procedure successfully. I suspect it may have something to do with the processing/refrigeration/etc of modern chickens. The wings are retained on the skin because it is impossible to restuff that portion of the skin to again resemble a chicken wing, without the bony structure. Even without the straw, some chickens are easier to strip than others – this one had a very delicate skin, it may have been younger than the ones I usually get. (That’s what I get for going to Whole Foods…)
  • I used a food processor to chop the meats for the sake of speed – the restuffing process is lengthy enough to make me nervous regarding food temperature/safety. Also, it’s a lot of chopping, and getting everything very finely chopped improves the texture of the final dish.
  • Ingredients for the filling varied between the two recipes – I mainly used “Glazings” for my recipe, except that I used the entire chicken carcass, white and dark meat, in the filling. Waste not, want not.
  • The bacon is smoked in applewood; I don’t know how likely this is in period but it is tasty.
  • The “fine spice powder” is more likely to be a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, etc. However, when I first redacted this recipe, I was working on a feast which already had a chicken-and-cinnamon dish (a Cameline Brouet). So, in order to preserve a balance of flavors and not bore my diners, I looked at other spices used on chicken in the same cookbook. There is a recipe for Cuminade of Chicken in Taillevent, which is chicken served in a sauce flavored only with cumin and ginger – I found the combination to be intriguing, especially in combination with the sweetness of the currents and the smokiness of the bacon. This is probably a modern attitude; certainly medieval menus repeat flavor combinations constantly.
  • Reshaping of the chicken was made more difficult by the easily torn skin. The legs did not retain their shape this time.
  • Taillevent doesn’t specify cheesecloth in the “boiling” phase, nor does he specify what to boil the chicken in. I used plain, salted water, though broth is equally likely. The cheesecloth is there merely as a handle to get the chicken in and out of the water.
  • The boiling phase is not entirely necessary when using a modern oven; I have successfully redacted this recipe while skipping this phase, which was mostly there to solidify the chicken enough to put it on the spit. However, skipping the boiling phase does change the texture of the final dish.
  • The modern thermometer is used, again, to ensure food safety.
  • The gold leaf and “decorator gold” are both fully edible – the former is 24K and the latter is used by professional cake decorators. The “decorator gold” was used to fill in gaps where I ran out of gold leaf; it is also a nice alternative when doing this dish for a feast.

Other Notes:

The addition of all the additional meats can make this dish somewhat cost-prohibitive when serving a SCA feast; I have successfully used no meat other than the original chicken carcass, simply adding breadcrumbs, eggs, spices and either raisins or currants to make this dish. To make up for the lack of bulk from removing the bones, a hardboiled egg can be placed in the center of the chicken and the stuffing formed around it. This adds another layer to the “joke” of a boneless chicken, and answers the question of which came first. The chickens can be gilded completely with the “decorator gold”: $5 worth of the “Lustre Dust” powder is more than enough for an entire feast hall (20 or more) worth of chickens.

Golden Chicken

Stuffed, boneless “whole” chicken spiced with cumin and ginger. Gilding optional.

Ingredients

  • 1 5 lb “fryer” chicken

  • 1 oz pine nuts

  • ½ lb bacon

  • ½ lb ground pork

  • 1 chicken breast

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin

  • 1 ½ oz currents (dried)

  • Egg wash with saffron

  • Gold leaf and/or cake decorator “gold dust”

Directions

  • Remove the skin from the chicken, removing the wing joints at the shoulder and leaving attached to the skin.
  • Remove chicken meat from bones and chop into rough pieces, along with additional meats.
  • Grind pine nuts in food processor, add other meats and spices. Pulse until “meatloaf-like” consistency is reached.
  • Stir in beaten eggs and currents.
  • Stuff mixture back into skin, forming “roast chicken” shape.
  • Wrap in cheesecloth, lower carefully into salted, boiling water.
  • Poach until solidified, then transfer – without the cheesecloth – to a baking dish.
  • Bake at 350 until internal temperature reaches 160, remove from oven. Wash with saffron/egg and return briefly to oven, remove after wash is solidified and chicken is “yellowed”.
  • Wrap chicken in gold leaf or paint with gold dust, if gilding, touch up any bare spots with “gold dust”.

Sources:

Lambert, Carole. Le recueil de Riom et la maniere de henter soutillement: un livre de cuisine et un réceptaire sur les greffes du XVe siècle. Ceres, 1989.
“Taillevent, Viandier (Manuscrit du Vatican).” Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, https://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb05/germanistik/absprache/sprachverwendung/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm. Accessed 12 Mar. 2020.

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