“The dishes for the first course included… some small iron frames shaped like bridges supporting dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seed.” – Petronius, Trimalchio’s Feast
Upper class ancient Roman kitchens were outfitted with special pottery homes, glirarium, for dormice (small rodents a bit bigger than a field mouse). They had little ledges and air holes to keep the critters happy. True to Roman life, this practice was both practical and luxurious: The dormice were fed kitchen scraps until properly fattened up, and then they made a lovely snack at the next banquet!
Sometimes they were stuffed with pork, but I prefer this honey & poppyseed delicacy.
Our “dormice” are sweet and crispy, with a slight crunch coming from the poppy seeds. In short, they’re delicious, and I dare say Flavia would be pleased. Much more than that, they’re seriously simple to make, allowing you to add a taste of ancient Rome to your dinner/party/classroom without the hassle of chopping herbs and grinding hard-to-find spices.
- Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Poppy Seeds
- Rinse the chicken and cut off all the nasty bits. Leave the skin on if you want the ‘mice’ to be nice and crispy! Once rinsed, pat the chicken dry.
- Set the chicken onto an oiled/greased baking tray, and rub some of the olive oil into the skin. Season with salt and pepper and place into the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 375 F / 190 C.
- Just before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, gently heat some honey in a small pan, and sprinkle some poppy seeds out onto a plate. I find that the heat of the stove is usually enough – just set the pan on an (inactive) burner.
- Roll the cooked chicken around in the honey and then the poppy seeds. The hotter the chicken is, the thinner the honey coating will be. If you want a thicker, more decadent experience, when all the pieces have been coated, pour the remaining honey and poppy seeds over the top of the plated chicken.