Serving crawfish, from the Kuchenmaistrey

These instructions for serving crawfish decoratively will keep a cook busy for hours.

1.xi. Item make filled crawfish thus. Boil them in water and shell them nicely. And lay the good, large claws and tails aside separately. Take the other small shelled crawfish necks, bellies and claws, chop them very small and break fresh eggs into them, as much as the quantity of the crawfish. Mix them with spices and salt and make them yellow a little. Chop parsley into them, but only the leaves and no stems. Knead it well in (coated with?) raw egg so that stays sticky and holds together. Then take the hofel or back shells and fill them well. Reverse another hofel over that so that one head says hither and the other says yonder, one belly against the other.

If you would then roast them, stick two or three on a skewer. Lay them on a griddle, and do not make it too hot until the filling firms up and becomes properly done (gerecht werd). Thus serve them warm.

If you would fry them in fat until the filling has gained enough, you may also do that until they are properly done. And serve those, too.

And then take the other part of the reserved crawfish, already shelled and prepared cleanly, and place them in a mortar with a little breadcrumbs bolted in or (other) nice things. Pound them well, pass them through a cloth then lay the largest of the tails and claws into that. Season it with spices and salt. Let it boil up and serve it. These are called pounded crawfish. Thereafter it is clever and courteous manner when the broth of the pounded crawfish is already prepared, made yellow, spiced and salted. Then take a white bread loaf and hollow it out inside in the manner of a cover or a bell, not too large or too high. Put (lit: thrust) the shelled claws into them and invert them into a serving bowl. Invert two, three or four such (bread-bowl) covers depending on how many guests there are. Pour the pounded crawfish over them and where it (the bread) is bare, pour it on with a spoon. And arrange the small tails, claws and bellies around them. Press them into the sauce so that it is not bare. Then serve it, and sprinkle it a little with fine, pure butter at the top.

Refilling shells is quite common in medieval cooking, but the inverted bread bowls are an interesting take. It’s not a complex recipe as such, but it will take more tinkering with than I can afford.

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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