I am cooking out of Neapolitan so much lately that I am uncomfortable posting the English translation, which I did not write. Please refer to www.medievalcookery.com for the English for this dish.
The book, which is out of print, is worth seeking out if possible, it has a lot more information.
Advance warning. This dish is about the sauce. My iteration of this sauce is not successful, but it is informative. I present this dish as the first in a probable series, following an unfamiliar cooking paradigm through iterations until I believe I find my way to a successful, plausible result.
This experiment is flawed. Do not consider it a viable dish in this form, please.
Here we have a braised meat dish, supplemented with fat, served with a sauce thickened with eggs and livers, then spiced.
The author calls for goat, I have venison. It’s similar in size, and in lean-ness, as well as, in this case, gaminess. I believe this to be an adequate substitution.
This is a forequarter on-bone, and challenging to cut up. Because I have a vessel of adequate size, and the time to dedicate to the braise, I am comfortable cooking it mostly whole.
My fat is home cured salt-fat. If you wish to know more about salt fat, I highly recommend the Jas Townsend and Son video “Preparing Salt Pork – 18th Century Cooking Series S1E5.”
Though this company’s videos are based on 18th C usage, it is relevant.
The sauce relies on a concept that is quite common in Medieval cookery, but not one I had run into modernly. I’m still trying to make culinary sense of it, and expect to revisit this idea many times until I am content with my results. It calls for a combination of egg yolks, livers, and bread crumbs for thickening.
Modernly, sauces and soups thickened with egg call for a raw yolk to be tempered by adding warm liquid gently and slowly, then adding the warmed mixture back to the pot. Several other recipes in this book specify cooked yolks, as do recipes in many other contemporary books. When I have used this technique in the past, I have been dismayed with the graininess that seems to be a reliable result.
Though I am fond of liver, and am comfortable cooking and eating it in many iterations, thickening with liver is a bit of a stretch. In cooking for groups, I have avoided potentially unwelcome foodstuffs, but for home, it’s about faith to the intent of a dish. I have to figure this out.
A few comments in different books from similar time frames imply that the livers to be used should be cooked. Handling is also much easier with it cooked, so I parcooked my chicken livers for 10 minutes in the oven while braising the venison.
I am familiar with the concept of thickening with blood, though the idea does not appeal to me. Apparently, thickening with raw liver is not unlike thickening with blood, raw livers are ground up and added with a careful hand. Next time, I will work with raw, for comparison. (see note at the end)
Thickening with breadcrumbs is fairly straightforward, though not as simple as using flour or starch.
I find that a long, low temperature simmer is best for breadcrumbs to do their jobs well, and often the texture ends up lumpy no matter what one does. Sieving is good, to a point.
It seems that each of these agents needs similar, but distinct handling, and each is distinctly temperamental.
The liver flavor dissipated, the egg flavor blended, the stock flavor faded, and I wish I had had more of the herbs. All we could taste was the fat.
My spices were chosen based on the flavors I expected from the meat, and from among those which had specific mention within the book. I used cloves, cinnamon, grains of paradise, and a modicum of sugar to balance the bitterness in the liver. I won’t mess with these proportions til we have the sauce fixed.
1.5 tsp Grains of Paradise
1 tsp whole Cloves
½ tsp Cinnamon (Canel)
½ tsp Sugar
Crushed together in the mortar and pestle.
There was excess. The clove may be a bit much for beef, but for such earthy game, it was appropriate.
1 quarter of goat, or equivalent. About 4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces if possible.
(I used a quarter deer, whole.)
½ gallon water
½ lbs salt-fat
½ cup verjus, or substitution.
1 Tbs salt
Bake in an oven at 300* for 3 hours with a lid on, turn all the meat at 90 minutes
I started with 6 hard eggs, which gave me 80(ish) grams of yolks, and keyed my measurements from there.
80 g hard egg yolk
80 g par-cooked liver
80 g raw onion
2 g salt
1 g fresh mint
5 g fresh flat-leaf parsley
40 g dry bread crumbs
pulse til aggregated
When doing something unknown, and without backing reference materials, I start with equal amounts, if possible, of the main players, so I can get a sense of what to increase or reduce. This is harder when one isn’t certain even of the form the ingredient should be presented in.
All items were pulsed to cohesion in the processor. It isn’t the same result as pounding, but it is expedient.
I wound up with a dry pate. If I had sauted the onion in advance and adjusted the seasoning, this would be a familiar dish all on its own.
When the meat had cooked through, I removed some broth to a smaller pot, and added my egg yolk mixture, bringing it to a simmer.
3 c broth
6 Tbs above mixture
simmer, whisk if needed.
I was unwilling to use too much, making the flavor too pronounced.
The sauce did not thicken notably. We only used about a half cup of the resulting sauce at dinner.
It did set up a little, and thickened over the next half hour, then broke and became thin.
I served about 8 ox of meat with 2 oz of the sauce, garnished with my spices.
The added fat was a problem for our palates. Even with the verjus and spices, it left us feeling a bit greasy, and uninterested in second helpings.
This recipe will be revisited til I get something I believe is plausible.
Note on cooking chicken livers
In using chicken livers, if you have never done so before, selection and picking over is a huge part of success. Look for any shade of yellow or green, and discard those portions. Cutting off segments is fine, if only a small part is affected. Remove blood spots, and lay the meat flat in the pan.
I hate the cleanup, so I first line my pan with foil, then a disc of parchment, so the meat can cook well but my cleanup will be minimal and least stressful.
To par cook them, I put the pan in the oven while the main pot is braising, for about 15 minutes, then allow them to cool. I do not season them for this simple cooking, though a little salt would go well. Broiling works well, a toaster oven is a good choice for this step.