Chicken Pancake Pies

Two recipes in the Mondseer Kochbuch demonstrate an interesting mode of serving chicken and the fact that recipe titles in German collections are basically random.

A platt of just eggs for a different experiment – it works

46 How you can prepare toasted bread to go over a chicken

You should roast a chicken. And toast a slice of semel bread, and fry the bread in fat. Cut pieces as though for a bread porridge (prot muos). Cut the chicken up (zuo leg) small and roast six pears and make a condiment sauce of wine and honey, and take anise with it. Prepare a pancake (platt) of five eggs: Break them into the pan, lay in each (piece of chicken and pear?) separately and fold over the pancake. Invert a bowl over it and then flip over the pan. Cut a hole in the top and pour in the condiment sauce, and do not pour it on the pancake. These are called chickens of the Rheingau (Hünner von Ringkau).

47 How to prepare a condiment sauce to go over chickens, poor knights (fried egg bread) and apples cooked in a pan

You should roast a chicken filled with bacon, and fry the ‘poor knights’ in fat, not too dry. Peel sour apples and cut them into broad slices so the seeds drop out. Fry them a little in fat. Then prepare a large pancake (plat) of eggs that covers the entire pan and add spices. Put the first shield (schilt) in very little condiment (probably misreading schilt for schiht) and prepare a condiment sauce of honey and wine, and do not spice it too much (zuo heis). Fold the pancake together above, invert a bowl over it and flip over the pan. Cut an opening (venster) above and pour in condiment sauce over it and serve it. These are called chickens of cake (Hünner von Kuochen) (they are ‘Greek’ in the Buoch von Guoter Spise).

Again, these recipes have parallels in the Buoch von Guoter Spise (#50 and 51, respectively) which are there titled “of roasted food” and “a dish”. Comparing them helps us make sense of the errors that crept into the versions here: The “first shield” mentioned in #47 is actually the first layer, and the cryptic instruction to put it in little condiment is resolved as we find the earlier source describing a layering of first apples, then fried bread, and finally chicken, with a small amount of spices between each. The title of the recipe, too, seems to have been garbled as it is there called hüenre von kriechen, Greek chicken. The first recipe is closer to the Buoch and a comparison does not help us figure out what is meant by “each separately”, but very likely the intent here, too, is to layer the ingredients.

A very interesting point in both these recipes is that the food is served in a kinde of pie constructed from pancakes (or just fried egg). There is a roughly analogous pie shell made from egg swirled to coat a heated mortar in the 1598 coobook by Anna Wecker, but this is technically quite different: You prepare a Blatt, in this case clearly a soft pancake, stack the food on it, fold over the edges to enclose it, then invert it into a bowl so the unbroken centre faces up. I suspect with a little practice you can get a very smooth, round top with the filling hidden entirely. A small opening is then cut into it and sauce poured in but, as we are instructed, not over it. Cutting into this globe would reveal a delicious interior of chicken pieces, fruit, and spicy honey sauce. I tried the technique once, many years ago, but did not quite dare to replicate it fully, lining a round bowl with the pancake before layering the filling and inverting it onto a serving bowl after. It was very attractive indeed, and will probably be even better if it comes straight from the pan, still hot. This is definitely something to try again.

The Mondseer Kochbuch is a recipe collection bound with a set of manuscript texts on grammar, dietetics, wine, and theology. There is a note inside that part of the book was completed in 1439 and, in a different place, that it was gifted to the abbot of the monastery at Mondsee (Austria). It is not certain whether the manuscript already included the recipes at that point, but it is likely. The entire codex was bound in leather in the second half of the fifteenth century, so at this point the recipe collection must have been part of it. The book was held at the monastery until it passed into the Vienna court library, now the national library of Austria, where it is now Cod 4995.

The collection shows clear parallels with the Buoch von guoter Spise. Many of its recipes are complex and call for expensive ingredients, and some give unusually precise quantities and measurements. It is edited in Doris Aichholzer’s “Wildu machen ayn guet essen…” Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Edition, Übersetzung, Quellenkommentar, Peter Lang, Berne et al. 1999

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