Gefilte Chicken

I apologise for missing out another day. I appear to have caught a rather unpleasant virus. For today, here is an interesting recipe from the Innsbruck MS:

74 If you would make a filled chicken, remove its skin so that it stays whole. Take roastable (pratigs) venison and bacon with it and chop it small while it is raw. Add spices and return it to the skin. Put it into a pot and let it boil, and then serve it in a good sauce (prulein) or dry it on a griddle etc.

Chicken minus skin – this is easier than it looks if you are willing to leave in the wings and legbones.

This may strike us as strange, but it was definitely not an unusual idea. I found (and tried) a similar recipe in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch a few years ago:

30 Item if you would make roasted chickens without bones, scald them well to measure and make (pluck) them clean. Clear them out (loosen the skin?) all around before you take them out. Cut them open a little above the wings or higher (?ofte up). Take out the insides (ingheweide – usually entrails) altogether there so that the skin stays undamaged. Then take the meat and the liver and the stomach and cook them until done. Take out the bones and chop it finely (thohope wol thomate clene lit: a lot and small in its proper measure). Add eggs and spices and bacon and raisins. Fill it back into the skin. Parboil it in water so that it hardens. Make as many of these chickens, as you need. You may boil or roast them. When they are done, serve them.

Boneless chicken, sliced open. Admittedly it looks more like roast bullfrog, but it was a first attempt.

First of all, this recipe tells us the idea was more general than a single recipe. Here, the meat is filled out with bacon and egg and the entrails are parboiled separately while the Innsbruck MS adds venison and the whole is cooked in the skin only (which no doubt required a great deal of skill and attention). Secondly, there is a bit more guidance in technical aspects. Unfortunately, the text is less than clear, but I suspect the intent of the possibly garbled sentence is to cut off the wing joints. Getting the wings out of the skin may well be impossible and is certainly more difficult than I would attempt. Much of the rest of the skin is surprisingly easy to loosen and remove.

It is rather difficult to have these chicken skins keep their shape (though that may be different if they are not delivered with the entire stomach cavity opened up, as modern chickens bought at market invariably are). I can only imagine that serving them whole and slicing them like a sausage must have made an impression on guests. That at least seems to be the intended effect in a boneless chicken, as the Mittwlniederdeutsches Kochbuch calls it.

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

The Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch (Middle Low German Cookbook) aka Wiswe MS or Wolfenbüttel MS is the earliest of the very few Low German recipe sources we have. The collection of 103 recipes was written in the late 15th or very early 16th century and edited by Hans Wiswe, a German scholar, in 1956. Very little is known about its context, but it shares some recipes in parallel with the Harpestreng tradition.

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