a brown bowl with a single portion of a cheese risotto, next to a small cup of red wine

Riso Alla Italiana

Piglia una pignata he mettice brodo grasso he magro he fa bulliare; he poi piglia lo riso bene nettato he piu volte lavato cum aqua tepida, he metello dentro he fa bulire menando cum lo cughiaro alcuna volta che non se apichi alla pignata, poi, quando serra cotto, piglia ove he caso gratato, sbatuto ogni cosa insieme, cum uno pocho di pipere; poi fa le scutelle

 Rice the Italian Way

 Put fat broth and lean in a pot, boil it

Get clean rice, rinse it well in tepid water

Put the rice in, and boil it. Stir so it does not stick.
When it is cooked, add eggs and grated cheese, beat it all together, add pepper, and serve in bowls.

(there may be spelling and transcription errors, my computer is having unrest related to the spellings included)

 

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Medieval style cooking makes a whole lot of broth. Poaching most meats, and separately, a lot of veg, makes a lot of liquor, broth, stock, and aspic. It also consumes a lot of broth. Fat broth, lean broth, lenten broth, almond milk made in broth, it does get used.

It’s kind of an enriched risotto. I chose a medium grain rice, as I find short grain rice generally wants more tending than just a “couple of turns of the spoon” to keep it from locking up. The starches behave quite differently between the two types of rice. If you have the time and attention to give a short grain rice, please do try it. It can’t easily go wrong.

The note to rinse the rice was a happy one. Some modern rices are packaged to be starchy, others are chalky. Rinsing clears the grains of dust, and starts it plumping. It also gives me a few moments to more easily find any stones or not-food that may have found its way into the bag. I am always happier to do so.

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My broth was some fat beef broth that resulted from a recent dish, and some chicken broth which was in the freezer. I left the fat on the beef broth, specifically because it called for “fat.” This dish relies on tasty broth. While I used meat broths, a quality vegetable broth would go very well here. I would strongly suggest adding some (maybe 2 Tbs) butter or oil in that case, as the rice benefits from a bit of oil for texture. I also have had excellent luck with a specific vegan bouillon cube, Rapunzel. (not saying other brands are bad, just that this one, I find to be good.)

After cooking the rice fully, I took it off the heat, as my dinner got delayed an hour. When my dinner companion arrived, I beat the egg and cheese together well, then folded them into the rice, and stirred while reheating. Then I got clever and put it in a low oven. This worked perfectly well, and the resulting dish was lush, rich without being over the top. In fact, I was glad to let the rice cool before adding the egg, as it did not clump or scramble in the dish.

 

If you are cooking for immunocompromised people, it may be wise to use pasteurised eggs. The eggs are cooked but cannot be checked for done-ness.

The salt in the cheese was sufficient for our preferences, we added none during cooking or at the table.
This dish is far less fiddly than risotto, and can be made from simple cooked rice into the enriched dish reasonably easily, but it is a small-batch dish, as the seasonings are unlikely to scale up well. It’s classic comfort food.

 

For two as a main, four as a side;

1 ½ cups medium grain rice

2 ½ cups broth, strained

2-3 TBS fat from broth, or mild fat such as chicken or unsalted butter

3 eggs

5 oz parmesan, asiago, or other hard Italian type “storing” cheese, grated or shredded (it will melt)

not from the can, just plain cheese.

¼ up to 1 tsp ground black pepper, to taste

no salt

Using a stockpot that is easy to fully scrape, warm the broth and fat.

Rinse the rice in water til it runs clear. I do this in a bowl with the rice in a strainer, and pick over the rice for purity as I go.

Cook the rice til it is perfect, to your taste. Be prepared to add more liquid, as rice is thirsty and somewhat unpredictable, about 20-25 minutes.

Beat the eggs, then add the cheese and pepper to the egg mixture. Beat well together, til almost fluffy.

Fold the egg mixture into the rice and beat thoroughly together. If you are concerned about the eggs scrambling, remove from heat and allow to cool briefly.

Heat gently til cheese is fully melted. The egg won’t be visible to see that they are cooked.

Taste for salt and pepper, adjust, and serve. It’s lovely with a dense piece of grilled fish, or alongside a seasonal salad.

a whole roasted chicken in a pot, about to be carved

When I was a kid, Mom would splash out on a capon once or twice a year. They are almost impossible to get now, because modern farm practices are not lending to that kind of breeding, but I have had them, and can keep in mind the qualities I seek in a bird

This recipe is so simple and minimal, with so little else going on, that the quality of the meat almost entirely dictates the result of the dish. This being the beginning of farmers’ market season in my area, I have access to meat fine enough to stand up to this recipe.

Choose a bird that fits your soup pot. Always keep in mind the vessels you must use to prepare your food in. Get the nicest possible bird. Any will be good, but having had exceptional, I would like you to enjoy it as much as we did.

Blanching the chicken causes the skin to become terribly fragile. It rips at the merest glance.

I lifted my chicken out of the poach by inserting a long spatula in each end. It is very important to drain as you lift, it can be dangerous and messy if the water inside the bird spills.

Having used many types of fat for larding over the years, our best results were from thinly sliced unsalted leaf fat. Chicken fat has too low a melt point, salted fat alters the flavor and texture of the skin and meat.Neapolitan Roast Chicken (2)

  To make a Fine Roast of capons, cockerels, goat kid, and any other meat. First, if it is a large joint of meat, put it to boil unless it is young veal; if it is capon or any other meat that is worth setting to roast, make it clean, then plunge it into boiling water and take it out immediately and put it into cold water -that is done to make it better; then lard it with good lardo and mount it on the spit, cooking it slowly; then, when it is almost done, get a grated piece of bread and mix it with salt and coat the meat. In this way you will have it cooked fine.

1 large roasting chicken, well cleaned.

1 pot of water, simmering (with head room for the mass of the chicken)

3-4 oz thinly sliced leaf fat or sliced chilled chicken fat

3 oz breadcrumbs (home made)

salt

other seasonings you might like.

Blanch the chicken. It really does matter. If you have never done it before, please take the effort to try it once. It was done for humoural reasons (making a “hot dry” bird “cool moist” before roasting  “hot dry”)

Place the chicken in the roasting vessel, reserve the poaching water.

Lay the fat overtop of the skin. Maybe tuck a couple of pieces under the skin. I did, and I am glad, but be careful.

Place the unsalted chicken in the oven and roast til it is very nearly done.

Season the breadcrumbs while the chicken roasts. Use at least salt,

When you can smell it, pull the chicken out and sprinkle it liberally with the breadcrumbs.

Pop it back into the oven for the last 10-15 minutes, then when you pull it for the last time, allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Carve and serve, placing the carcass in the poaching pot to make a lovely broth for future use.

I hope your dinner is as lovely as mine.

Piglia tre pani he levali la crosta he gratali molto bene he metteli supra una tavola, he metteli atorno una libra he meza de bona farina; he mete cum lo dito pane quatro ho cingue oca he batile bene cum lo cultello risguardando sempre lo pane cum la dita farina; he quando te parirache sia minuto como (f* 8r) anesi confetti, pone ogni cosa in uno sedazo he cacia fora la farina; poi falli secare alo sole ho alo focho; et quando li vorai cocere, coceli in brodo de carne, he fallo ghialdo cum saffrono; he falle bullire adasio per spacio de meza hora; et mette de sopra le menestre caso he specie.

Take the crusts of three loaves of bread. grate them, set this on a table and lay out a pound of and a half of fine flour around it; and put five eggs in with the ground bread and beat that well with a knife, always being careful (to coat) the breadcrumbs well with the flour; and when you have lumps that look to you to be the size of candies aniseed, put everything into a sieve and discard the (excess) flour; then dry them in the sun or by the fire. When you want to cook them, use meat broth made yellow with saffron; boil them gently for half an hour, serve them up garnished with cheese and spices.

 

The book commentary says “think ditallini.” I disagree. I think “couscous.”

This is about the easiest recipe I have made to date, but it relies on a couple of factors.  Use of a food processor is extremely helpful for ease of production.

I saved the crusts from several loaves, and staled them in a low oven while it was cooling from making some other dishes.  I crushed them and processed them, then ran them through a coarse strainer to make sure they were of a size.

 

bread crusts stacked and placed on baking sheets to dry

making breadcrumbs

The first time I made this, I worked from the proportions in the book. Knowing I had 5 eggs of indeterminate size and a pound and a half (not modern pounds! only 12 oz lb, so 18 oz in modern parlance) of flour, I started with a half pound of bread crumbs. There was a lot of tweaking, as I made this dish on dry days and more humid days, and each time the proportions changed.   Be prepared to add more eggs or flour, but do not add more breadcrumbs, as the addition will become gummy and harder to recover.

After several batches, the following numbers are pretty reliable in a medium processor, and result in both a quantity that comfortably fits an oven and that feeds 4 people an ample portion.

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1 c (150g) home made breadcrumbs (I do not suggest commercial, they have quite an ingredient list)

3 eggs, about 150g  to coat, a fourth in reserve for in case.

1/2 c (100g) farina, fine semolina, or other very fine low gluten flour, as needed.

To serve the dish, I needed

about a half gallon of nice broth, or a quart of stock. This is most of the flavor in the dish, so if it tastes good the dish will as well.

Saffron if you like it (I like it!)

4 oz ricotta, farmers cheese, queso fresco, or other creamy new cheese

1 tablespoon Spices as you prefer. I chose black pepper, canela, and clove.

 

Place the breadcrumbs in the processor, and add the eggs. Whir until you have  a homogeneous paste. It should look gritty, like concrete, rather than soupy.

Add flour until the mass separates into tiny pellets. If they seem too small or incompletely coated, add more egg then more flour until you feel you have a pleasantsize and presentation of pasta. Remember that too large a pellet will be difficult to dry, and uneven in an elegant serving.

Spread out evenly on baking sheets and place in the bright dry sun, or alternately, place in a low oven for several hours, There will be quite a bit of shrinkage. I choose to turn the pasta several times, to avoid clumping and aid drying.

coarse pellets laid out on two pans to dry in the oven

thin layers dry faster

You can now store the pasta in a cool dry container, such as a mason jar in the fridge. or a zip bag in the freezer.

 

In order to prepare the dish for service, put about a half cup of broth per person into a pot, and add the optional saffron.

When the broth is warm, add a quarter cup of pasta per person to the pot, and watch carefully, Add more broth as needed, as the pasta absorbs. I prefer the dish dry, but you may prefer it with more liquid. I prefer not to stir overmuch, just enough to prevent clumping.  I find it works much better to add pasta to broth, rather than the other way.

hot broth in a pot, the pasta is being poured in slowly while stirring to prevent clumping

gently adding the pasta do the broth

If there is too much broth, you might allow it to simmer down, but if there is not enough broth and you are running low, water will not ruin the dish.

To serve, place in a warmed bowl, top with a dollop of milky cheese, and sprinkle with spices. Alternately, this would be a lovely bed for a roast or braised dish.

There is a fair amount of room to adapt this dish, whether by using an herb or vegetable broth, or making it more brothy or more fluffy by changing the broth proportions. The only things that cannot be adjusted are that it is unabashedly an egg and wheat dish.

I got lucky! I managed to get a beautiful shoulder of mutton locally. This is a rare treat.

While mutton has a reputation for strong flavor and aroma, I find this to be misleading. The meat has a distinctive flavor, yes, as opposed to the bland meats of the supermarket, but the flavor is in fact a component of the dish, rather than an obstacle to be overcome. We don’t need to season as assertively if the foods we are working with bring plenty to the table.

I love mutton.

.  I had a shoulder, not a thigh. Thigh is the same cut as leg of lamb, minus the shank. Leg has more meat and simpler carving, and less intramuscular fat. Surface fat is where stronger flavors tend to lie, so peel off any fat that has yellowing to it, no matter what cut you may have. Shoulder is a bit of a bear, as it has all kinds of bones and things going through it, it’s the tough end of a tough animal. It takes some care to carve, but with a little patience pays off quite nicely. A major modern advantage is that a shoulder fits pots more easily. Please don’t get one of those boneless legs of lamb in a net, they are not going to offer enough in the way of flavor to be worth the cost.

Beef or veal fat is suggested as the cooking grease because sheep fat sets at a low temperature, causing objectionable texture. It’s important to peel off that surface fat. Hand it to a soapmaker if you are uncomfortable discarding it.

This translation is from http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html

Item MUTTON PIE in a POT. Take a thigh (of mutton), and grease or marrow of beef or veal chopped small and onions chopped small, and set to boil and cook in a well-covered pot in a small amount of meat stock or other liquid, then put to boil in it spices, and a little vinegar to sharpen it, and arrange it in a dish.

Item, if you want to salt mutton in hot weather, moisten beforehand, and sprinkle with coarse ground salt.

 

1 leg (or shoulder) of mutton (goat, lamb, venison), about 4 lbs including bone.

2-3 baseball sized onions, cut to a fine dice

1/4 lb suit, optional

a quart of good stock or broth

1 TBSP salt

1 tsp grains of paradise

1/4 stick cinnamon, or a quarter teaspoon

heads off about a dozen cloves, or about a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves

1/4 c red wine vinegar

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Choose a pot with a well fitting lid, that the meat will fit snugly. A slow cooker is an excellent option for this dish.

Place the meat, onions, and stock in the pot. Add suet if you feel you ought to add some fat to the dish. This will help temper the mutton flavor.  (I did not add fat)

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Seethe on a low flame with the lid on for approximately two hours, then add the spices to the pot. Add about half of the vinegar at this time as well.

Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes. The meat ought to be rather tender and fully cooked to the falling-off the bone stage.
Remove the meat, reserving the cooking liquid. Taste for balance, add more vinegar and reboil, if needed.

If the sauce is too greasy, you might use a gravy separator, float a towel on top to absorb, or carefully drag an ice cube across the surface to quickly set the fat, making it easier to remove.

Allow to cool, slice, serve. with the sauce made of cooking liquid.

 

I chose my spices based on what blends are common in the book, what would taste nice together, and what I believe would play nicely with the flavors inherent in the onions and meat. You may choose your spices differently. For instance, the dish Yellow Mutton calls for saffron, ginger and verjus, while another note says that if venison is basted, it may be served with cameline, which implies to me that a poached dish should specifically not be served with cameline. Other notes in the manuscript say that in summer use saffron, but in winter use pepper.  I feel my choices to be internally consistent, and successful.

I cannot grind my cloves as finely as commercially available. I would use commercially ground cloves, or perhaps stick whole cloves into one section of onion in order to more easily remove them later.

The onions as I presented them were not chopped finely enough. I suggest making them about the size of modern gambling dice.

While this has little to do with our modern understanding of pie, lacking crust and being a very simple pot stew, it is not roasted before seething, nor after. The meat is intended to be cooked once, so it must be cooked fully.

 

 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html 

XIII. FOR TO MAKE BLANCHE BREWET DE ALYNGYN.

Nym kedys [1] and chekenys and hew hem in morsellys and seth hem in almand mylk or in kyne mylke grynd gyngyner galingale and cast therto and boyle it and serve it forthe.

Cut kid meat and chickens, and hew them into morsels, and seethe them in almond milk or in cattle milk.

Grind ginger and galangale, and cast thereto, and boil it and serve it forthwith.
We had an interesting gift recently. Someone very generously gave us some old laying chickens.. These birds were somewhere over three years old. I have fed them and collected their eggs. They were well cared for, and they earned their keep.

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I also had a lovely goat neck from a local farm.  This sounded like a perfect assemblage.

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Old chickens are not what we are accustomed to in the way of texture.. They have incredible chicken flavor, but there is nothing approaching tenderness about them.

Goat necks, no matter the age, are also challenging. They are hard to bone, have little meat, and are also quite the opposite of tender.

The only way I could reasonably deal with these items was to cook them whole, then bone them, then make the dish.

 

I poached the chicken and the neck together, in almond milk with galangale and ginger, for about an hour on a low temperature, with the lid on.

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After poaching, I allowed the pot to cool and put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. I wanted to carve the meat with care, and to waste none of it.

The chicken meat was very easy to remove from the bones, it lifted off cleanly, almost like a toy model.

The goat neck required some technique to carve neatly, but offered no fuss. The main thing to keep in mind that there are four sections of meat. If the knife follows the bone closely, there are two main tendons which must be seen to. If the meat is home butchered, make certain that things are visually tidy, as not all hunters are comfortable packaging neck roasts.

Once the meat was off of the bone, I cubed it into approximately 1″ cubes,

I placed all of the meat in a sautee pan with about two cups of almond milk. I added no salt, because of my concerns over the meat toughening further. I was parsimonious with ginger, as it is not good to one of my regular diners. About a half a teaspoon of galangale was used,

It took approximately 10 minutes for the almond milk to cook completely down, and the meat to heat fully through. I thought to add more almond milk, but tasting proved that there was no real need to do so.

We were both surprised by how tender the chicken was, The intense chicken flavor combined with the earthiness of the goat blended with the almond milk, and the galangale seemed to counteract any gamy flavors beautifully while allowing the richness to shine through.

It is a simple dish, in fact it reminded me a lot of the Tender Chickpeas recipe from a couple of years ago, which can be found at http://carbonadoes.com/2012/11/10/sent-sovi-chickpeas/

 

1 old hen or stewing chicken

1 neck of kid, lamb, or venison, about 3 lbs, bone on, whole or cut up.

1/2 gallon almond milk (if poaching and cooling), 2 c reserved for second cooking

1 tsp galangale

1/2 tsp ginger

A whole chicken will need 45 minutes to seethe, while a cut up chicken the same size could potentially cook in as little as 20 minutes.

place the chicken and the neck in a pot they fit somewhat snugly. Dust with spices, pour almond milk over.

Place pot on burner, seethe on low flame with a lid on. Take care to turn the meat a couple of times so it cooks evenly and does not stick.

Take care not to allow the meat to take color.

When the almond milk separates and the fat rises, check for doneness.

When done, turn off the heat and allow the meat to cool until it is comfortable to handle with your hands.

Remove the meat from the bones, cube somewhat coarsely. Be careful of shards, if you bought a cut up neck. They are tricky.

You can serve it now, warmed and in its broth, if it is sufficiently tender and to your liking.

If you feel the meat needs more time to become tender, place the cubed meat with the fresh almond milk and a fresh scattering of spices.

(Reserve the prior almond milk for a bukkenade or a blancmange. I used it for another bruet.)

Simmer the pot until the almond milk is mostly evaporated, but the meat is not completely dry. I chose to serve with a coarse bread, and a nice earthy root vegetable.

 

http://www.auxmaillesgodefroy.com/forme_of_cury

Robin, Vogelzang. The Book of Sent Sovi: Medieval recipes from Catalonia. Tamesis Books, 2008. 191. Print.

 

a poached chicken breast and white pottage in a brown bowl.

finally, my brown bowls look good!

For the next several months, I will be focusing on Sent Sovi, not only because I like it, but because I am working on a group project which it complements reasonably well.

Being that one of the most mentioned dishes across times and places historically was Blancmange, “white food,” I decided to bite the bullet and make this well known sick-person’s dish. It’s long been a shorthand for us that “white food” is food lacking in flavor or depth. While this is a very mild dish, it is not bland.

The translation of Sent Sovi I have has an appendix with supplementary recipes, one of which is Menjar Blanc, “White Dish.” The appendix is listed as “Missing recipes from the Sent Sovi tradition included in the Llibre d’aparellar de menjar.”

It is a fairly long set of explanations for the dish and a variant. The first version looked like fun to start with, and turned out a surprisingly pleasant dish.

We were both surprised by how much we liked this dish. It was more than a mere porridge, about the texture of fresh made polenta.

 

It was not sweet, nor was it salty, it was very very chickeny. We ate all of the chicken, saved the extra pottage, and agreed to add more chicken to it for lunch the next day.

stirring the hot pot so no lumps result

boiling newtonian fluid.

Recipe: Menjar Blanc

Summary: a White Dish

Ingredients

  • 3-4 chicken breasts (one per person, usually)
  • 1 cup soaked, skinned almonds
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4-1/2 c rice flour
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 oven-worthy pot with a good lid

Instructions

  1. Set the oven to 350*
  2. Flatten the chicken breasts gently, try not to break them.
  3. a chicken breast sandwiched between two paper towels, on a cutting board, with a flattening mallet coming down to flatten them.

    using layers of cloth or paper cuts down on cleanup considerably, and also protects against tearing the meat.

  4. Blender the almonds with the broth, pour all of the result into the pot.
  5. Add the chicken to the pot.
  6. Simmer gently.
  7. When the bubbles begin to rise, make a slurry of one cup almond broth taken from the pot and the rice flour,
  8. add the slurry back to the pot.
  9. Raise the heat until a proper boil starts, then put the lid on and place the dish in the oven.
  10. About 15 minutes in, add sugar and salt, stir the contents, move the pieces of chicken about.
  11. Every ten minutes or so, stir. The dish will thicken when the rice flour is fully cooked, which is reasonably in tune with the chicken’s timing.
  12. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes, or turn on the broiler, and allow the surface and edges to brown. The instructions are adamant about the browning being essential to the quality of the flavor.
  13. Serve.

Ratings

+uses broth from poaching prior chicken

+ skinless, boneless breasts are perfect.

+ mild, but fulfilling, easy to balance with other dishes.

+ can bake other things in the oven at the same time (350* is a standard baking temp)

– almond milk is time consuming to make, slipping the skins takes forever.

– needs both stove and oven time (unless I work out a shortcut)

– needs stirring and attention, particularly for browning at the end

Preparation time:

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 3

My rating 4 stars:  ★★★★☆ 1 review(s)