Boiled Chickens with Horseradish

From the Kuenstlichs und Nuetzlichs Kochbuch:

Horseradish courtesy of wikimedia commons

31 To Boil Hens

Take a clay pot that is new, and when it boils, throw in a good handful of salt. Place the hens in the pot with ginger roots (Imberzehen) and peppercorns, and also a little mace. See that when it boils, it is to boil gently. When they have boiled a little, about halfway, strain off the broth and wash the hens with warm water with a cloth that is small. Hang (henck) them back in the pot, strain the broth through the cloth and pour it back with the hens. Skim the fat off the top and let it boil gently, thus it will gain a nice broth. Then you have it.

If someone wishes to have horseradish (kren), take the boiled hen and take horseradish. Cut it lengthwise, nicely thin, and lay it in the broth you have drawn off. Take a good quantity of horseradish and let it boil up two or three times. When you wish to serve it, lay the horseradish on the chickens, but not too much. Thus the broth will taste good.

This recipe is unremarkable, basically just boiled chickens, but it nicely illustrates the kind of care and thought that went into even plain preparations and very likely often goes unmentioned. Chickens gently simmered in a spicy broth flavoured with ginger, pepper, and horseradish sounds like an appealing idea. Contemporary recipes from other sources point out that boiled chickens could be served over toasted bread sops and garnished with grated cheese, both of which should work well here. For further serving suggestions, see my Landsknecht Cookbook.

The short Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite its brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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