The Medieval Culinary Art of Engastration

Yes, engastration.  If this were a medieval version of Hamilton, I think this would be a perfect time for the chorus to break into a song about engastration.  Fortunately for the musical world, I have to teach lessons in less than three hours, and in that time research engastration, and write up the next segment of my Food of the Blue Bells Chronicles (tentatively titled) which focuses on the multi-bird roast, and so have no time to write a parody and film it.  Ah, and the world has lost what could have been a humorous moment.  

Engastration: the art of cooking one animal within another.  This culinary practice goes back at least to ancient Rome and arising again in the modern turducken--a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey--which was briefly popularized by football commentator John Madden.

Going back to Roman times, we know of the 5th Century 'Trojan Boar' of a pig 'made pregnant' with other animals, as the Trojan horse was 'pregnant with men.'  A recipe from roughly the same time speaks of stuffing a cow with a pig, goose, duck, and chicken.  

The Tudors had a Christmas pie which consisted of a pigeon inside a partridge inside a pigeon inside a chicken inside a goose inside a turkey--all baked in a very large pie crust!

The 1747 Art of Cookery leaves us a recipe for a similar pie.  I'm thinking I better try making an apple pie before I embark on such a project!  

Engastration is not uniquely European.  A Bedouin tradition goes big with a camel stuffed with a lamb stuffed with a chicken stuffed with rice and hard-boiled eggs.  And among Greenland's Inuits, there is the Kiviak--a seal stuffed with several hundred auks and fermented (uncooked, in case you're interested) under rocks for three to eighteen months.

Among the more famous engastrations was the rĂ´ti  sans pareil--the roast without equal--made by Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimond de la Reyniere, and documented in his 1807 cookbook, L’almanach des gourmands.  This 20-layer gargantuan gastronomic gala contained, in order: a bustard, turkey, goose, pheasant, chicken, duck, guinea fowl, teal, woodcock, partridge, plover, lapwing, quail, thrush, lark, ortolan bunting, and a garden warbler--which was stuffed with an olive which was stuffed with an anchovy which was stuffed with a single caper.

Between each layer were Lucca chestnuts, force meat, and bread stuffing.  The whole thing was slow cooked for 24 hours in a sealed pot in a stew of vegetables and spices.

Tomorrow: more detail on how to create the bird within a bird.



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