Chicken with Verjuice, Saffron, Medieval Spices, and Mint

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By James Peterson

Published 1991

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Verjuice (see Verjuice) was popular in medieval cooking as a source of acidity and is used more and more in modern cooking. The saffron, of course, is typically medieval, while the mint and sugar are typical of the Renaissance. This dish is quite sour, also typically medieval, but you can attenuate it by adding cream.


chicken, quartered 1 1
salt and pepper to taste to taste
spice mixture 1 tsp 5 ml
butter oz 45 g
verjuice 1 cup 250 ml
glace de viande (optional) 3 tbsp 45 ml
saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp (15 ml) water 1 pinch 1 pinch
grated fresh ginger 1 tbsp 15 ml
sugar 1 tsp 5 ml
fresh mint, chopped at the last minute 2 tbsp 30 ml
heavy cream (optional) ½ cup 125 ml


  1. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and the spice mixture. Brown the chicken on both sides in the butter, remove the chicken from the pan, and discard the fat.
  2. Put the chicken back in the pan with the verjuice, glace de viande, if using, the saffron with its soaking liquid, ginger, and sugar and simmer gently, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.
  3. Whisk the mint into the sauce. Add the cream, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the braising liquid over the chicken in heated soup plates.


When trying to emulate medieval dishes, it’s easy to see their resemblance to Moroccan cuisine. Moroccan cooks use spices, herbs, and garnitures, but in moderation (it’s always been assumed that medieval cooks used strong ingredients in excess, an unproven summation). They include ingredients like cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cloves, saffron, cilantro, slivered almonds, raisins, preserved lemon, and pomegranate seeds. Tagines, which are stews cooked in a traditional cone-shaped vessel, are typically served with harissa sauce, which contains more spices (coriander, cumin), reconstituted dried chiles, cilantro, tomatoes, and olive oil.

While the techniques used to make Moroccan food differ from those of the West, the flavor combinations are good imspirations and can be incorporated into any number of dishes, especially those containing chicken. Fricassées and sautés can both be used as the base upon which flavors are built.