Ancient Roman Roast Chicken


Today we prepare Pullum Frontonianum from the cookbook attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, the widest source of ancient Roman recipes. The chicken, first parboiled and then roasted, a common technique in ancient cooking, is prepared with olive oil, garum, and fresh aromatic herbs, then coated with defritum, spelled also defrutum: reduced must used as a sweetener.
A recipe easy to prepare and delicious, with typical ingredients of the cuisine of Ancient Rome. You can pair it with fava beans, taro, or barley polenta.
Below, you will find a note about the ingredients and the original recipe with the translation into English. Enjoy!

1 chicken
extra virgin olive oil
fresh herbs (savory, cilantro, dill, young leeks)
long pepper

Roast Chicken - Ancient Roman Recipe.jpg

Parboil the chicken for 15 minutes, then remove it from the water and put it in a pan, pouring olive oil and garum. Prepare a bundle with the fresh herbs tying them and insert it in the chicken. Cook the roast in the oven for about one hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the defritum pounding the grapes in the mortar and extracting the juice, then reduce it by a third on the fire.
When the chicken is ready, remove the bundle of herbs, pour the defritum and dust with ground pepper.

Roast Chicken - Ancient Roman Recipe 3.jpg

Note about the ingredients
Garum was a fermented fish sauce widely used in the ancient Mediterranean. It was made with fish and salt, sometimes with spices and aromatic herbs. Today there are few producers of garum. You can substitute it with a South-East Asian fish sauce, prepared in the same way as some kinds of garum, or use salt instead.
Apicius frequently uses young leek as we use green onions today. If you don’t find it, you can substitute it with a quarter of a regular leek.
We chose long pepper, but the author doesn’t specify what kind of pepper we have to use for this recipe. We know from Pliny’s Naturalis Historia that ancient Romans used all the three types of pepper, white, black, and long. The cost of the long pepper was around four times black pepper’s cost and two times white pepper’s. For this recipe, you can choose to use black or white pepper instead.

Roast Chicken - Ancient Roman Recipe 2

Original recipe
Pullum Frontonianum: pullum praedura, condies liquamine, oleo mixto, cui mittis fasciculum anethi, porri, satureiae et coriandri viridis, et coques. Ubi coctus fuerit, levabis eum, in lance defrito perunges, piper aspargis et inferes.

Frontonianum chicken: parboil the chicken and season with garum and oil. Insert a bundle of dill, leek, savory, and cilantro, then cook it. When it is ready, remove the bundle, put in a plate covering with defritum, dust with pepper, and serve.

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