I don’t like rice.
I’ll eat it, but I won’t go out of my way for it. It just isn’t my thing.
One of the recipes that seems to find its way into more cookbooks than any other is blancmange. Rice. This does not inspire excitement.
However, it’s as economical as it is pervasive, using broth, almonds, rice, and leftover chicken picked off of the bones, or when made especially for a particular diner, only a little of the breast of a capon.
As much as I don’t love rice, it would be disingenious to avoid making this dish.
I had lots of reference sources available. Some call for verjus, others for pikefish, and a large variety of spices.
I used this iteration from Curye on Inglisch.
38 Blank maunger. Take capouns and seeth them, thenne take hem vp; take almaundes blaunched, grynd hem &alay hem vp with the same broth. Cast the mylk in a pot. Waisshe rys and do thereto, and lat it seeth; thane take the brawn of the capouns, teese it small and do therto. Take white grece, sugur and salt, and cast therinne. Lat it seeth; thenne messe it forth and florissh ot with aneys in confyt, red other whyt, and with almaundes fryed in oyle, and serue it forth. (p106)
- Take capons and seethe them-poach a chicken and make some broth.
- Make almond milk using that broth.
- Simmer rice in the chicken-almond milk
- Add shredded chicken. Specifically “teased”, not diced.
- Add “white grece”
- sugar and salt, and let it seethe.
- Serve with a garnish of anise comfits and toasted almonds.
- 16 ounces raw almonds, soaked overnight, peeled.
- 1 quart of chicken broth, warmed
- ¼ c chicken fat from the broth
- 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
- 1 cup rice, soaked
- ½ TBS salt
- 1 TBS sugar
basin to soak almonds
processor for almond milk
strainer for almond milk
pot to cook in (or rice cooker)
Set aside a dozen almonds for garnish.
Place the rest of the almonds in a processor or blender. Whiz til they are meal.
Add chicken broth, whiz to commingle well.
Strain and press solids, set them aside for a future dish.
- Start by putting a couple of teaspoons of chicken fat into the cooking pot, and toast the almonds. Set them aside. Don’t wipe out the pot.
- Place rice in the same pot, add almond milk. Watch the pot closely, as almond milk does not behave quite like water, and will cook out at a different rate. If your almond milk is depleted before your rice is done, supplement with broth, or if you are out of that as well, use water.
- When the rice is done (or if you are clever, when the rice cooker dings) fold in the chicken and spices, and add chicken fat a tablespoon at a time until you are pleased with the mouthfeel and texture. Don’t skip the chicken fat step.
- Place in a bowl or on a plate, garnish with toasted almonds, and serve. If you wish to use anise comfits, decorate with them as well.
Every time I make a chicken, I save the bones to make broth. I put the prior broth in a pot, warm it up, and add the bones. It gets richer, denser, and more flavorful every time. This dish would have been pretty insipid without the intensity of the broth, as it was the primary source of flavor.
I have read a lot of conflicting opinions on what rice was most likely used historically. I chose to use Arborio which I had on hand.
Skinning a pound of almonds took two hours. It’s fussy.
I put the almond and chicken mixture into a pot to warm together, because the processor could not hold enough liquid to make the almond milk. It worked out pretty well, as straining the almond milk is potentially messy.
I added my salt and sugar directly to the chicken meat in order to ensure the seasonings being evenly distributed. There’s more of a risk of over or under seasoning using this method.
The pot I used is not the best one for a dish like this. The squared off bottom corners invited sticking and burning, so I wound up stirring constantly. This worked out in my favor, as it wound up being accidental risotto.
Honestly, it was a good dish. I did not enjoy it, but only because I am still not partial to rice.
I was asked to serve it again, and I will. If haste is an issue, I may use both commercial almond milk and strong broth to create the depth of flavor, which would make this a 30 minute dish. It was a success.
If you wish to explore the very wide world of Medieval blancmanges, check out this link to the Medieval Cookery site; it’s a list of several. You are certain to find a type there that will work for you.
Hieatt, C. B. (1985). Curye on Inglysch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century, including the “Forme of cury. London ; New York ; Toronto: Oxford university press