Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Icelandic Chicken

This recipe satisfies both my historical recipe and "another country" goals.  I got it from a website run by Cariadoc, AKA David Friedman, whose recipe "A Tarte of Strawberries" I made and posted on May 15, 2012. The tarte recipe, by the way, is my most-viewed blog post to date.  I had the pleasure of meeting Cariadoc at the Society of Creative Anachronism's West Coast Culinary Symposium last month and was amazed to find out he has been researching and redacting historical recipes for over 40 years.


Icelandic Chicken is from An Old Icelandic Medical Miscelleny, edited by Henning Larson, and published in Oslo, 1931.  


A brief description gives us, "This important Icelandic medical document, containing a curious mixture of superstition and medieval medical knowledge, has been edited from a fifteenth century manuscript found in Dublin."


Cariadoc's web page has a translation and his redaction.  I followed it somewhat, with the exception that I made half the amount of dough and used four boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of two halves of a chicken.  I thought that was more manageable for myself and my dinner guest.




Icelandic p. 218/D1 (GOOD)

One shall cut a young chicken in two and wrap about it whole leaves of salvia, and cut up in it bacon and add salt to suit the taste. Then cover that with dough and bake like bread in the oven.

5 c flour
1/2 lb bacon
3 T dried sage (or sufficient fresh sage leaves to cover)
about 1 3/4 c water
3 lb chicken, cut in half

Make a stiff dough by kneading together flour and water. Roll it out. Cover the dough with sage leaves and the sage leaves with strips of bacon. Wrap each half chicken in the dough, sealing it. You now have two packages which contain, starting at the outside, dough, sage, bacon, chicken. Put them in the oven and bake like bread (325deg. for 2 hours). We find the bacon adds salt enough.

The part of the bread at the bottom is particularly good, because of the bacon fat and chicken fat. You may want to turn the loaves once or twice, or baste the top with the drippings.

My Notes
The two-and-a-half cups of flour mixed well with the 7 ounces of water and formed a stiff and slightly sticky dough.  I rolled it out to somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches thick, then cut it into four pieces to match the four chicken thighs.  Next I put the sage leaves around each piece.  I guessed at how much to do because the instructions said, "to cover", but I didn't want the sage flavor to be too strong.  What I did was fine and I could have added more without worry, I think.

I wish I had shaped each dough piece into a rectangle before putting on the sage leaves.  That would have made it easier to wrap the thighs when ready.

Next I added 1 1/2 strips of bacon to each portion and placed a thigh on the widest part of the dough.

With some stretching and creative patching, I encased each thigh in the dough.

Ready for the oven!
I baked them at the specified 325 degrees F for one hour and thought the dough needed a bit more time.  At this point juices were leaking out of the packets and the whole thing had the lovely scent of cooked bacon.  I gave it another 30 minutes (for a total of 1 hour, 30 minutes) and declared it ready.

You can see they didn't get very brown but I hoped the chicken was cooked all the way through.  It was and so was the bacon, although I wasn't sure at first because I am used to eating bacon that has been fried and this had a different texture.

The Verdict

Success!  We both liked it although I was not as fond of the dough casing as my guest was.  I mostly pulled the meat out of the dough and ate it that way.  My guest ate each bite of meat with the crust around it and enjoyed it.   

The flavor was meaty, slightly salty from the bacon, with a light sage flavor.  I would have been happy to add more sage or perhaps some other spices for variety.  The top of the crust was crisp and tender but the bottom was tougher and hard to cut through.  Next time I would attempt to keep the thickness even throughout and perhaps cook the packets on a rack so they didn't sit in their juices, which I think made the crust tough.

I had the leftovers a few nights later and thought it was even better reheated.  It seems like the crust had a chance to soften and that the flavors blended better.  I ate more of the crust this time around.


  1. Although I found the recipe in an Icelandic medical miscellany, it pretty clearly is not an Icelandic recipe. That collection is one of several daughter manuscripts of a lost original. The daughter manuscripts are all northern European, but the scholar who studied them concluded that the original was southern European, presumably brought north by someone and copied.

  2. Thank you, David! I wasn't sure from the ingredients but I went with it because of the source. What makes it "not Icelandic"?

  3. What makes it "not Icelandic" is the existence of other daughter manuscripts of the same missing original in other countries. Also, my memory of the analysis of the manuscripts is that some ingredients would not have been available in northern Europe.

    1. I appreciate you getting back to my question. Thanks for the information!