Chicken Offal by de Rontzier – Renaissance Party I

This Sunday, I had a few friends visit me in my new apartment to chat and try out some recipes with me. One of these was from Franz de Rontzier whose cookbook preserves a large number of what he terms “small dishes” (kleine Essen).

Of chicken livers and stomachs as well as wings and feet

1 You cool them and season them with wine, sugar, and plums (? schwetzken), and if you wish to serve them, you strew them with sugar etc.

2 Item you fry the stomachs and livers in butter, season them with mustard and pepper, and strew them with salt and pepper when you wish to serve them etc.

3 Item you fry them in butter and season them with mustard, sugar, and mace etc.

4 Item you fry them in butter together with garlic and strew them with salt and pepper.

5 Item you fry them together with apples, onions, and small raisins and strew them with salt when you wish to serve them.

6 You bring them to the fire with wine and water once they have been boiled and season them with figs, saffron, butter and ginger etc.

7 Item you cut up figs together with the livers and stomachs, place them in a silver (dish) with red wine and season them with cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and a little butter etc.

8 Item you mix it with Burfeldischerüben (a type of root vegetable) that have previously been cooked in chicken broth, season them with butter and pepper, and let it boil together quickly etc.

9 Item you take chicken broth to the fire, beat eggs with parsley, and add it together with butter, but you must not stir it. When it comes close to the boiling point (für den sud kompt), set it a little away from the fire so that it does not stand too hot and strew it with salt when you wish to serve it etc.

10 Item you take it to the fire with wine and broth, prepare it with butter, grated bread, large raisins, and cut rosemary etc.

11 Item you chop the stomachs and livers together with large raisins, place it in a vessel or silver bowl, add wine and butter, and let it boil with that etc.

12 Item you chop the stomachs and livers with hard-boiled eggs, fry them in butter, and season it with pepper, mace, wine vinegar and sugar etc.

( p. 153 f)

These are examples of the unfussy, quick dishes that were the bread-and-butter stuff of kitchen work. In a small household, this could come to the table the day before a roast chicken while in a court kitchen, it might be prepared for variety or served to those lower down the social pecking order. A good cook wasted nothing and knew how to turn any part of the animal into tasty morsels.

To try this, I bought chicken livers and hearts (stomachs were sold out) at the local halal butcher and followed recipes 3 and 4. The first turned out quite satisfactory, the meat first fried in butter, then seasoned with a generous amount of made mustard, mace, and plenty of sugar. The second, with chopped garlic and butter, was tasty enough, but dried out on the surface once it was taken off the stove which looked unpleasant. We had both with bread and butter, and I can see the appeal.

Franz de Rontzier, head cook to the bishop of Halberstadt and duke of Braunschweig, published his encyclopaedic Kunstbuch von mancherley Essen in 1598. He clearly looks to Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch as the new gold standard, but fails to match it in engaging style or depth. He is thus overshadowed by the twin peaks of Marx Rumpolt and Anna Wecker. What makes his work interesting is the way in which he systematically lists versions of a class of dishes, illustrating the breadth or a court cook’s repertoire. He is also more modernly fashionable than Rumpolt. Looking to France rather than Italy and Spain for inspiration, and some of the dishes he first describes may be genuine innovations.

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