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Catherine De'Medici

Firenze, 1519 - Blois, 1589

Life and History

Catherine De'Medici

The great granddaughter of Lorenzo il Magnifico, and wife of Henry II of France, Catherine was one of the most important women of the Renaissance. She is remembered for her great ability to manage the kingdom during its religious battles and plots against the palace, both before and after the death of her husband. Thanks to Catherine, France remained a united nation, allowing her to pass on the throne to her children.

Catherine was married, for political reasons, at the age of 14. Her arrival in France was a major disappointment to the French. They expected her handsome French husband to marry an attractive, well-bred girl, not a foreigner from a common family. To make matters worse, Catherine was not able to conceive a son for almost 10 years, which made her stay in France uncertain and unhappy.

The sovereign queen did not loose hope and accepted all medical advice given to her by the Court’s doctors. It remains unknown if the advice she received actually lead to her conception. Some believe it may have been due to her diet. The young Florentine brought a handful of reliable chefs with her when she moved. The chefs were encouraged to serve the royal couple a special diet to improve fertility. In the end, Catherine had nine children.

Catherine brought many Tuscan customs with her to France. She decorated her tables elegantly with flowers, small sugar sculptures and forks, (which had long been used in Florence, but were almost never found on French tables.) She introduced olive oil, Chianti wines and white beans to the French culinary lexicon, and suggested that savory and sweet flavors be separated. Thanks to her perseverance and common sense, Catherine became a much-loved queen and left her mark on a country that stills owes a lot to her today.

The recipe


Tuscan Cibreo

Cibreo is a typical Florentine recipe that is closely connected to a French dish called finanzière, which comes from the Piemontese recipe for finanziera.

Ingredients (serves 4) 
  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 leaves sage
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ lemon
  • broth
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Gently fry the onion in the oil and butter without letting it brown. Remove the gall bladder from the livers and chop them roughly together with the beans, add to the onion along with a leaf or two of sage and season with salt and pepper.

Cook on a moderate heat for around 10 minutes, moistening with a few drops of broth. Beat the egg yolks with the lemon juice. Remove the pot from the heat and add the egg yolks and lemon juice mixture. Allow to rest for a few minutes then serve the stew on slices of homemade, Tuscan bread, lightly toasted.

Gastronomic Library
M. RINALDI, La storia è servita: vizi e virtù nel piatto dei grandi della storia, Milano, Golosia & C., 1996.