Eierkuchen after de Rontzier

Another of the “small dishes” that are so interesting are what de Rontzier calls Eyerkuchen. In modern German, that word described a flat, flappy pancake, but what he is talking about looks more like a frittata or Spanish tortilla:

Of Eyerkuchen

1 You beat eggs with parmesan cheese, put it on top of an Eyerkuchen, make fire above and below and let it bake all through etc.

2 Put cheese of sweet milk into a Kuchen that has been baked a little beforehand, stir slices of white bread with eggs, lay this on top of the cheese, and make a fire above and below etc.

3 You bake an Eyerkuchen with violet flowers (Keilkenblumen, read Veilkenblumen).

4 Item with raisins, and strew it with sugar and salt etc.

5 You bet eggs with cream and bake it with small raisins. Then you mix (bricht) egg yolks with wine vinegar, sugar, small raisins, and saffron, pour it over the Kuchen and let it bake through etc.

6 You prepare a sauce (brueh) to go over an Eyerkuchen with vinegar, wine, egg yolk, pepper, and salt.

7 You fry streaky bacon in a pan, break eggs over it and strew it with salt when it is done.

8 You fry lean bacon with onions and apples, break eggs over it, and let it bake through.

9 You fry bacon with slices of white bread and large raisins, break eggs into it and bake it through together etc.

Salmon Kuchen

1 You fry salmon in butter a little, break eggs over it, and let it cook until well done. Strew it with salt and ginger when you wish to serve it.

2 You fry bacon and lay in dry salmon cut into strips (strimen), one next to the other. Beat eggs with salt and pepper and pour them over this.

3 You fry dry salmon in butter, beat eggs with parsley, pour them over, strew it with salt and mace etc.

Eyerkuchen of smoked herring (Buecklingen)

1 Clean the Buecklinge, fry them in butter, break eggs over them etc.

2 You fry onions in butter and fry the Bueckling with this until it is done. Break eggs over it, and when it is done, season the Kuchen with wine vinegar and pepper etc.

3 Fry Buecklinge in butter, pour eggs beaten with parsley and rosemary over them etc.

6 (should be 4) Fry Bueckling in butter with gooseberries (Stichbirn), break eggs over it and cook it until it is done.

(p. 534 ff)

The recipes are, as ever with de Rontzier, short and sketchy, but we can figure out a general gist. The principle of an Eyerkuchen is either to fry something in a pan, then add eggs and let the whole thing turn into a solid mass, or to pour eggs into the pan first and add other ingredients as they solidify. A shadow of this survives in the controversy of whether apple slices for Apfelpfannkuchen should be fried in butter and then covered in batter, or gently placed in the cooking pancake’s soft top. The instruction to cook it all the way through indicates that Eyerkuchen were quite thick, and the mention of making fire above and below indicates they were prepared in a cooking vessel akin to the Tortenpfanne used to prepare pies and pastries, something more like a Dutch oven with a lid to hold coals than a modern frying pan.

The egg mixes that are poured over cooked Eyerkuchen and turned into a kind of outer coating (recipes 1 and 5) are interesting, and suggest cooks got creative with the method. They look like a more sophisticated variant of building up layers of pancake by adding batter and flipping. The egg batter, too, is seasoned with herbs or enriched with cream, and no doubt stretched with milk and/or flour where the resources were less ample than at a princely court.

I gave this recipe a try, first with apples, onions, and bacon, then with herring and onions. Lacking a good way of applying heat from above and below, I resorted to flipping it, but I am convined it would look better and come out neater baked in an actual Dutch oven or Tortenpfanne. The taste was fine, but of courrse the whole thing was ridiculously rich, using four entire eggs and a whole herring for a medium-sized pan. It goes well with bread and butter (and with ketchup, if you are willing to break boundaries).

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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