The Cockenthrice 

Copyright (2023) from A History of the World in 10 Dinners: 2,000 Years, 100 Recipes (Rizzoli)

Serves 8 to 12  I once nervously entered a sewing shop and, after looking over a number of products, finally asked the salesperson a series of awkward questions regarding large needles and very strong but natural cotton thread. Finally, and quite sweetly, she asked me, “What exactly are you trying to sew?”

        I didn’t know exactly how to put it. 

        A cockenthrice is a mythical animal, composed of half a pig and half a chicken—sewn together. There are further variants involving which half goes in front and whether to paint it green or gold, but you get the point. References to and recipes for this admittedly insane concoction range from a 1380 manuscript to several Tudor cookbooks, and it was a favorite dish of Henry VIII. To me, along with a peacock clothed in its own feathers, it is the acme of Tudor cooking-as-theater. I have always believed that it is important to have “aspirational recipes”—dishes that are your next cooking goal or horizon, whether a perfect French omelet or a sculpture in sugar. My first goal was a humble apple pie, and for a long time, certainly from the first conversation with Victoria about Edible History, the cockenthrice represented my horrifying dream. The sizes of the pig and chicken should roughly match, at least around the midline circumference. Think of them as needing to have the same belt size. The only other limitation may be the size of your oven.

1 suckling pig

Kosher salt

1 turkey or chicken, preferably
with feet on

2 cups Cinnamon Sauce
(recipe follows)

(for each 10 ounces of pork):

2 tablespoons beef suet or unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup pitted prunes

1 cup pitted dates

¾ cup raisins or currants

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 to
2 oranges)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed
lemon Juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet wine
or sherry

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar 

Salt the pig liberally and refrigerate overnight. You can also brine the turkey if you like. 

The next morning, starting a few inches below the rib cage, cut through the skin and flesh of the pig up to the spine on both sides. Use a cleaver or a cleaver and mallet to separate the spine. Butcher all the meat off the lower half of the pig. It doesn’t have to be pretty!