Bone-in chicken meatballs

Medieval German recipe collections often include instructions for a kind of chicken meatball on the bone. The recipes vary widely, which may suggest this was a diverse class of dishes or that this was in fact done rarely and thus poorly understood. This is the entry in the Inntalkochbuch.

<<14>> Von rohen hünern

Of raw chickens

Take the meat from the bones, chop it, but keep the bones. Take hot broth and take 2 eggs and the meat and shape patties out of it around the bones and put them into the broth. If you have bacon (speck) or beef or meat of castrated ram (castrauneins), (add that and) and chop that with parsley or sage.

It’s an interesting idea – wrapping chicken bones in ground meat and cooking the result. It is not entirely clear whether the meat is pre-cooked at any stage, though the title suggests it is not. I tried out a similar recipe from the Kuchenmaistrey in March, but here the meat is clearly cooked before going into the mortar.

2 .i. Item who wishes to make a good dish of chickens, he should take them when they are right and properly boiled- Cut them into four parts. Take the meat (dz bretig) and chop it and pound it well in a mortar. Take the head, neck, and all innards and chop it and pound it together. Take eggs, parsley and stir in a spoonful of white flour and pour that in to it (the chicken?) with water or wine coloured yellow with saffron. When all of this is well pounded, take it out (of the mortar) and take the other limbs (bones) of the chicken and wrap them with the pounded mass (gestossen deig) all around, each piece like a patty (geleich als kuchen). Wet your hands with wine, smooth it all around and lay it into the old chicken broth (i.e. the original cooking liquid) in a wide pot so that the broth covers it (dar vber gee). Let it also boil thus. And know that the old, fat chickens are good for this. When it has boiled, season the broth with saffron and spices and salt, strew finely chopped parsley on it and serve it.

If you would have this better, add figs and raisins to the chopped meat (geheck) so they are barely noticeable (i.e. chopped very finely), and however small the limbs (bones), each one should still be wrapped and laid in separately. Such a chopped mass (geheck) without flour can also be made as a filling for chickens.

This may also be the explanation behind the somewhat enigmatic recipe in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch:

18 If you would make a good horseman (? not a translation, original spelling), collect many bones of cooked chickens, of wild and domesticated ones. Also take other cooked meat as much as you need. Pound that in a mortar quite small and pass it through a colander. Take wine and pass it through a cloth. Take eggs and spices (read crude for erude). Add it and let it boil its measure. Salt it lightly. This it is a good horseman.

A second recipe for something similar follows later, but this time the meatball mixture is battered and fried:

63 Item you shall take chickens and parboil (broyen) them as one does, and cut them apart and cut the meat off the bones. And slice (tosplit) it small and make the bones clean. And wrap (bewynt) them in the meat of the chicken. And put on it powder of cinnamon. And wrap (bewint) them in a dough of beaten eggs and wheat flour. And let them fry in fat.

Clearly this is something German cookbook writers gave a lot of thought. The version I tried was made with parboiled chicken meat, mashed and spiced, bound with egg, and only boiled in broth.

Chicken meatball on the bone and without the bone

The mixture was quite soft and did not stick together well, but once I managed to get it into the simmering broth, it firmed up surprisingly well. I had made three batches with consecutively greater addition of flour, but this would not have been necessary and was not good for the flavour.

Simmer only!
Flour – flourer – the flourest (batch one was best)

As regards the taste, there was certainly room for improvement. With the broth used for a bread-bound pepper sauce, it was quite edible, but everyone agreed that battering and frying it would have improved it immensely. Interestingly, the flavour profile was not at all savoury or umami, and I could absolutely see adding raisins and serving it with a sweet sauce to complement rather than contrast it.

Certainly a recipe that could use more experimentation.

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