Ancient Roman Chicken a la Fronto
I love cooking Ancient Roman Food
I often dream of living in Ancient Rome. As a wealthy matron of course, not as an ordinary citizen or an over-worked slave, but living in luxury as one of the elite.
In the absence of a time machine, I instead stage dinner parties with food based on Ancient Roman recipes and encourage my friends to wear fancy dress as they dine on my cheesecake, fig-stuffed pork and my savoury chicken. All cooked first century style.
This is my version of Pullum Frontonianum which translates to Chicken a la Fronto, so named for a Roman author of a lost treatise on agriculture. He won't mind at all that I've put my own take on it.
The Pioneer Mediterranean Diet
There's nothing difficult about cooking Ancient Roman food, the hard part is deciphering a recipe which lists ingredients without measurements and makes no mention of cooking times. The part I enjoy is understanding what the ingredients actually are,and most of the time finding a substitute for them.
The ancient Romans cooked very much like Italian cooks do today or to be more precise, like Sicilian.cooks. If you can imagine a contemporary Italian meal without tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, corn polenta or pasta. Sound bleak? It wasn't.
Try this chicken a la fronto
The original recipe
From Apicius Pullum Frontonianum : Pullum praedura, condies liquamen, oleo mixto, cui mittis fasciculum aneti, porri, satureiae et coriandri viridis et coques, Ubii coctius fuerit, levabis eum, in lance defrito perungues, piper aspargis..
Brown chicken, season with garum and oil, add dill, leeks, savory, fresh coriander and cook. Remove when cooked, coat with defrutum on a serving plate, sprinkle pepper.
All Recipes from Apicius
Garum and Defrutum
For Garum I used Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa 's suggestion of reducing a litre of grape juice to one tenth, stirring in 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste and a pinch of dried oregano. This, and other recipes, are in her book A Taste of Ancient Rome.
You could use fish sauce straight from the bottle, or diluted.
For Defrutum, I reduced 2 cups of red wine (a cheap cabernet shiraz ) to one third.
The nitty gritty
Chicken pieces as the Ancient Romans served them
Chopped to finger-food size and treated with herby, lightly salted seasoning and rich wine flavour.
Baked in the oven for less than an hour.
- I kilo chicken pieces
- 4 small tender leeks
- 1 small bunch each of fresh dill - savory - and coriander
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. garum
- 2 Tbs. defrutum
- pepper to taste
- Bundle together and tie up the leeks and the herbs securely into a bouquet
- Brown the chicken pieces on their own - with no oil or seasoning. Transfer to a baking dish
- Add the leek and herb bouquet to the dish. Mix the garum with the olive oil and pour over.
- Bake in a low oven for 45 minutes or until pieces are cooked.
- Remove from oven, place on a serving dish and pour the defrutum over.
- Add pepper to taste.
Fronto ready to eat
How about you?
Have you ever tried to cook an ancient recipe?
All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be an ancient chicken to leave yours