One fish cooked three ways from the Kuchenmaistrey

A piece of culinary sleight of hand with a long history

1.v Item if you would make three dishes of one fish so that the fish nonetheless appears to stay whole. Cut a pike or another fish (that is) already ready for cooking into three or four parts. Lay the first part on a griddle and roast it. Boil the second part with wine and with spices. The third is cooked in sauce (gesulczt). The fourth (part), the tail, is fried. The fish should then be put (back) together, each piece next to the other as though it was whole. First the head, then the middle part. Then the tail, right next to each other as though they were whole, and well strewn with chopped parsley and well arranged. With this, you should serve good sauces or vinegar in many small bowls This way, one guest eats differently from another and it is wondrous (seltzam).

This is the Kuchenmaistrey’s take on a recipe with antecedents that go as far back as the 10th-century recipe collection of ibn Sayyar al-Warraq (chapter 33, recipe 5). The more common (and far more challenging) method is to leave the fish whole. Chopping it up before cooking and then putting it back together makes the process considerably easier.

My current project are recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490. This was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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