Serving
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Chicken with Almonds
Imperial Roman
  -   Pullum Numidicum
Serves
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
4 main  
***
1-1/4 hr  
Yes

Stunningly delicious and intensely flavorful, this Roman curry will give you a whole new perspective on cooking and dining in the Empire. I have adhered to the original recipe to the extent feasible - well, almost - see the notes below.



2
1
1/8
-------
1/3
1/2
1/2
1-1/2
1/2
2
2-1/2
1/8
2
1
1
1/2
1
-------
ar
1
2
ar
#
t
t
---
t
t
T
oz
t
T
oz
t
t
t
c
t
t
---

t
T
Chicken meat (1)
Peppercorns
Asafoetida (2)
-- Sauce
Peppercorns
Cumin seed (10)
Coriander seed
Almonds, raw
Rue, fresh (3)
Lovage, fresh (4)
Figs, dried (5)
Laser root (6)
Wine Vinegar
Honey
Chicken Stock
Salt
Olive Oil
-----------------
Oil for frying (7)
Potato Starch (8)
Water
Pepper
PREP
  1. Cut CHICKEN into large bite-size pieces or as appropriate. See Note-1.
  2. Grind together Peppercorns and Asafoetida to a fine powder. Sprinkle over the Chicken and tumble until evenly coated. Set aside.
  3. Grind together Peppercorns, Cumin and Coriander.
  4. Dry roast ALMONDS until just golden. Cool thoroughly and grind them to powder. This is not easy - see Note-9.
  5. Chop RUE and LOVAGE fine.
  6. Chop FIGS fine. Chop LASER ROOT fine (see Note-6).
  7. Mix ALL Sauce Items.
RUN
  1. Heat Oil and fry Chicken until it is lightly browned. Keep the oil temperature moderate so chicken is cooked through by time it's browned - or - roast it in an oven preheated to 400°F/200°C. See Note-7. Drain (if fried), arrange in the serving dish and keep warm.
  2. Bring Sauce mix to boiling and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Thicken with Potato Starch mix. Pour sauce over chicken pieces - or - you could do as in India and stir the chicken into the sauce and simmer a few minutes to warm before serving.
  3. Sprinkle a little Pepper over and serve.
NOTES:
  1. Chicken:   The weight given is skinless / boneless. I prefer the more flavorful thigh meat - after all, Roman chickens would be free range with more flavor than factory chickens. For 2 pounds you will need to start with 3-3/4 pounds of thighs. If you want you can use thighs bone-in by chopping them in half crosswise with a sharp Chinese cleaver knife. Guinea Hen would be even more authentic but that's a bit hard to find even in Los Angeles.
  2. Asafoetida:   Actually this should be Laser (Silphium) but that's extinct and this is as close as we can get. I use ayurvedic grade pure powdered asafoetida (hing), not Indian market "hing powder" which is cut to 1/3 with rice flour. Alternately crush pure resin nuggets (available in a few Indian markets) into powder. For details see our Asafoetida page.
  3. Rue:   This herb is out of style, so the only way to have it is to grow it yourself. Rue is a widely used decorative so many nurseries have it. A little goes a long way. Some suggest using a little fresh rosemary as a substitute. A little of that goes a long way too.
  4. Lovage:   This herb is out of style, so the only way to have it is to grow it yourself. The alternative is to use celery leaves (leaves only) which are quite similar, just a little less aromatically complex.
  5. Figs:   One translation I have says "dates" and the one I consider closer to original says "fig dates". I'm presuming this means "dried figs" since they make much more sense with chicken, and Rome is fig territory, not date territory. Best way to "chop" them is to flatten them and slice as thin as you can in one direction, then gather the slices and slice crosswise as thin as you can.
  6. Laser Root:   This plant is extinct so you can't grow it or get it at any price. Some suggest using a little ginger root or fennel seed, but I'm pretty sure my solution will get you a lot closer to the true flavor (See Laser Stem / Root / Juice). About 1/2 teaspoon or to taste.
  7. Frying / Roasting:   Apicius appears to say "fry", as is done in India for similar recipes. Deep fry in a kadhai (similar to a wok but deeper), wok or deep skillet and thoroughly drain on paper towels before adding to the sauce. Alternately the chicken can be oven roasted on an oiled foil or baking sheet (Rome had suitable ovens, India generally does not).
  8. Potato Starch:   OK, this is totally unauthentic. I suppose the Romans might have used taro starch but more likely they fried wheat flour in oil to make a blonde roux. You can do that if you like, using 1/2 T flour, skip the 2 T of water and fry it in the 1 t of Olive Oil. The potato starch will give a cleaner flavor.
  9. Almonds:   Almonds aren't easy to grind due to the oil. Pounding them in a mortar and pestle is an exercise in futility. They are best ground with stones that slide over each other, so if you have a real metate and metlapil (Aztec blender) or sil and batta (Hindu version) use those, otherwise mix the almonds with the ground cumin mix (to absorb some of the oil) and run in a mini-prep processor or blender, scraping down the sides as needed until it balls up and won't grind any more.
  10. Cumin / Coriander:   In India, cumin and coriander are routinely used together at a ratio of 1 to 3 for flavor balance. There's no reason believe the Romans didn't use a similar ratio.
  11. Reconstruction of recipes from Imperial Rome is an inexact process. The recipes we have, most written down by Apicius (whoever he was) are intended for cooks highly experienced in Roman practice and give almost no quantities or details. We have to proceed by doing what makes sense and what tastes good. I think this recipe succeeds quite well on both counts. I took the liberty of adding a little rue and lovage to the original recipe from Apicius, as any Roman cook might.
  12. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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