This week we present the gratonata di polli, a simple chicken stew from Anonimo Toscano, a cookbook written in the 14th century which mainly includes translations (with additions and variants) from the Liber de Coquina, an older source written in Latin.
This dish does not appear in the Latin manuscript and is part of a series of recipes that, curiously, the author directly recommends to his readers, not to the noble family they serve.
It is unclear who are the ideal readers of the anonymous author, whether other cooks or common people. Probably, they are cooks, since for many recipes the basic methods are given for granted, being part of a long tradition whose knowledge was shared at his times.
In addition, most recipes end with the direction to serve the dish, clearly, to the cook’s liege. In one case, moreover, the plate is meant to be served to the comune famiglia, the servants, another clue about the fact that the author is writing for professional cooks serving a noble family.
The recipe we are preparing today, as well as a chicken broth we made in the past, is meant for the reader, since it ends with the formula e mangia: “and eat” (differently from most recipes that read instead da’ mangiare or da’ a mangiare: “give it to eat.”).
Actually, as in the case of the chicken soup mentioned before, this plate is nothing particularly complex or refined: it is a simple stew with chicken, cured pork fatback, onion, and spices, with the final addition of eggs diluted in verjuice, a quite common ingredient in the Middle Ages.
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4 egg yolks
100 gr cured pork fatback
spices (saffron, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves)
Mince the onion and cured pork fatback, then cut the chicken into pieces. Melt the cured pork fatback in the pan, then add the chicken and onion. Let it wither, then add a bit of water stirring frequently.
Soak the saffron in warm water and grind the other spices, then add the spices and a bit of verjuice to the stew, cooking it for about 40 minutes. The cooking time changes depending on the size of the chicken.
When the chicken is almost cooked through, beat the egg yolks with a bit of verjuice, then add them to the stew and cook for about one minute. Remove from the fire and serve the stew.
Note about the ingredients
The author specifies that for each chicken, we need four egg yolks.
If you want to use another cooking fat, for example olive oil, remember to add salt to the stew, which we did not use since cured pork fatback is already salted.
There are no directions about which kinds of spices to use, except for saffron. We chose black pepper, nutmeg, and cloves, but you can use grains of paradise, cinnamon, or ginger, according to your taste, all very common in the Middle Ages.
If you do not have verjuice, substitute it with another acidic liquid, as suggested in the medieval sources, such as a bit of lemon or orange juice, or vinegar, recommended by the physicians in winter instead of verjuice.
De la gratonata di polli. Polli smembrati, friggili con lardo e con cipolle; e mentre si friggono mettivi un poco d’acqua, sì che si cocano bene nella pentola, e volgili spesso eziandio con la mescola: mettivi su spezie, zaffarano e succhio d’uva agresta, e fa’ bullire; e per ciascuno pollo togli quattro tuorla d’ova e distempera coll’agresto, e fa’ bullire crudo, e sbatti insieme nel catino, e insieme coll’arte de’ polli fa’ onni cosa bullire; e bullito levalo dal fuoco, e mangia.
To make chicken gratonata. Cut the chickens into pieces, fry them with cured pork fatback and onions. When they cook, pour a bit of water to cook them well in the pan, stirring frequently with the spoon. Add spices, saffron, and verjuice, making them boil. Use four egg yolks for each chicken, beating them with the verjuice, and beat them well in the pot, making all the ingredients boil. Once it is cooked, remove it from the fire and eat.
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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum – first part (11th century)
10th-century Goat Roast – A Langobard at the Court of the Byzantine Emperor
Romania – A Recipe Between Arabic and Italian Tradition – Medieval Chicken with Pomegranates
Medieval Pizza – The Origin of Pizza
Roast Chicken with Salsa Camellina
Afrutum or Spumeum – 6th-century Byzantine recipe
A Medieval Breakfast – Wine, Carbonata, and Millet Bread
Salviata – Eggs and Sage
Tria di Vermicelli
Frittelle Ubaldine – Pancakes with Flowers and Herbs
Drunken Pork – Early Medieval Pork Stew
Medieval Monk’s Stuffed-Egg Soup
Lentils and Mustard Greens
Chicken soup – Brodo Granato
Beans and Bacon – Black-Eyed Peas
Prawn Pie – Pastello de Gambari
Foxtail Millet Polenta and Spit-Roasted Goose
Quail Stew with Coconut
Red Mullet Soup
Spit Roast Beef with Arugula Seeds
Roast Lamb with Green Sauce
Sweet and Sour Sardines
Trouts with Green Sauce
Quails with Sumac
Chicken with Fennel Flowers