A boneless whole chicken, glazed in gold… this entremet is based on two recipes from Le Viandier du Taillevent. . It was part of my 2007 Atlantian Pentathlon in Persona entry at the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival.
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.
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 back on the fire so that your glazing will take, and watch that your glazing does not have so hot a fire that it burns.
- 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, cake decorator “gold dust”
- First, 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 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 – about 10 minutes.
- Transfer – without the cheesecloth – to a baking dish.
- Bake at 350 until internal temperature reaches 160, remove from oven.
- Wash with egg and return briefly to oven, remove after wash is solidified and chicken is “yellowed”.
- Wrap chicken in gold leaf, touch up any bare spots with “gold dust”.
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.
- 1 5 lb fryer chicken
- 1 oz pine nuts
- ½ lb bacon
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ lb chicken breast meat
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 ½ oz currants (dried)
- Egg wash with optional saffron
- Edible gold leaf and/or gold decorator dust
First, 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 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 - about 10 minutes. Transfer – without the cheesecloth – to a baking dish. Bake at 350 until internal temperature reaches 160, remove from oven. Wash with egg and return briefly to oven, remove after wash is solidified and chicken is “yellowed”. Wrap chicken in gold leaf, touch up any bare spots with “gold dust”.