Douce Ame Recipe. Take good cow’s milk and warm it in a pot. Take parsley, sage, hyssop, savory, and other good herbs. Chop them add them to the milk and cook them. Take capons, half roasted, cut them into pieces, and add pine nuts and clarified honey. Salt it color it with saffron and serve it forth.
—The Forme of Cury
The History Of Douce Ame
A sweet sauce on a chicken dish from the fourteenth century, Douce Ame was originally the recipe using a capon. According to the thirteenth-century scholar Bartholomaeus Anglicus, “is a cock made as it were female by carving away of his gendering stones.” Specifically, that is a castrated rooster.
Not very common today, capons often found their way into the cookbooks of medieval and Renaissance Europe, though their history goes back further than that. So, the alternative name of this recipe is Capon In Milk And Honey. Without the castration part, capon could be considered chicken in modern language.
Nobody knows who the first person was to neuter a rooster, but one story sets it during a drought in Ancient Rome in 162 BC. Eventually, a set of laws called the Lex Faunia forbade fattening hens. The issue at the time was that the people would perceive this practice as a waste of grain. Instead, it was found that by castrating roosters it would cause them to grow larger. This led to their being called capons, coming from the word capo, meaning “to cut.”
Meals In The Middle Ages
The practice went out of fashion after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but it came back in the Middle Ages and became associated with the wealthy and, in the case of Chaucer, friars. Chaucer often used rich foods to Show the contempt he had for monks and friars, as when the Friar orders a large meal before claiming he doesn’t eat much in “The Summoner’s Tal”:
Have I naught of a capon but the liver, And of your soft bread naught but a sliver, And after that a roasted pig's head But that I need no beast for me were dead. Then had I with you plain sufficience. I am a man of little sustenance.
Shakespeare, too, associates the bird with the wealthy and gluttonous. The character of Falstaff is particularly fond of the dish. Significantly, in the play, As You Like It, the Bard mentions it as a dish to be enjoyed during the fifth stage of life. When one should have amassed some wealth and wisdom:
And then the Justice In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances And so he plays his part.
Douce Ame Ingredients:
- 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1½ kg) chicken (or capon) cut into large pieces (legs and wings kept whole, breast and thigh cut in two or three pieces)
- 3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or melted unsalted butter
- 2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
- 1 cup (235 ml) heavy whipping
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) honey
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh hyssop (see page 13) or mint
- 1 tablespoon dried savory
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- Pinch of saffron
- ⅛ cup (50 g) pine nuts
Douce Ame Recipe:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C.
- Lightly coat the chicken in the olive oil or melted butter, then place the chicken, a few pieces at a time, in a skillet set over medium heat until lightly browned. Repeat until all the chicken is brown, then set aside, keeping any drippings in the pan.
- Altogether, in a small saucepan, combine the milk, cream, honey, parsley, sage, hyssop, savory, salt, and saffron and set over medium heat until simmering. Simmer for 5 minutes watching to make sure it does not boil. Add the pine nuts and the drippings from the pan. Stir and let simmer for 2 more minutes.
- Layer the chicken in an oven-safe dish and pour the milk and honey mixture over it. Cover and set in the oven to cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve the chicken in the sauce.