Renaissance-style Fried Chicken
This is a historical recipe.
The Renaissance wasn't only a time of experimentation and ostentation in art and humanism, but also in cuisine. It was the age where the first "celebrity chefs" appeared, among them Bartolomeo Scappi. This 16th century Lombard cook came to fame after he published his Opera dell'arte del cucinare, a cookbook containing 1,000 recipes as well as describing cooking equipment and techniques. This recipe is an adaptation for one of the recipes in his book.
My husband was quite pleased with it, but I felt the spicing was too subtle and it mostly tasted of the apple cider vinegar I used when I ran out of white wine vinegar. He could detect the cinnamon, while I could not. If I was going to make it again I'd double the spices.
The cooking method - parboiling the chicken, marinating it and only then frying it - was new to me and interesting. It did not make for a crispy skin, but perhaps the oil wasn't hot enough for that or I didn't dry the chicken well enough. Still, the skin wasn't as soggy as it could otherwise be.
Here is the original recipe and its translation
Make the chicken more than half cooked with water and salt, then cut into four quarters and put it for eight hours in a mixture made of white wine, vinegar, mosto cotto, pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and thyme grounds and a crushed garlic clove. Take it from the said marinade and flour it and fry it in liquified lard and when it is done serve it how with a sauce on top made of the same marinade. One can also after one has pulled it out of the marinate finish it on the grill without flouring it, and also the capon can be put thus cut from the spine raw, and let it rest (in the marinade) two days and then parboil it and cut it in pieces and fry with lard (kidney/internal fat rendered) or lardo melted (seasoned backfat) the said capon should always be in season that is the young from the month of august through to christmas and the old for the whole year.
Renaissance-style Fried Chicken
- 1-2 lbs chicken parts
- 2 cups grape juice
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 cup white wine or apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- all-purpose flour for coating
- lard, vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add chicken parts. Simmer breasts for about 10 minutes and legs for 20 minutes. Remove chicken from broth.
Meanwhile, pour the grape juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup.
In a large bowl mix together the wine, vinegars, reduced grape juice, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. Add the chicken pieces, coat well, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Remove from the fridge. Remove chicken from the marinade and pat dry.
Place flour in a large plate and mix in salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken in the flour.
Heat 1" of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken skin-side down. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn and keep frying until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Adapted from Bartolomeo Scappi's recipe in his 1570's Opera dell'arte del cucinare, with adaptations inspired by Karima Moyer-Nocchi and Crystal King
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