Forget steak and foie gras, the main reason I’m not vegetarian is chicken. To live without the deep savoury umami of a decent roast chicken is to live in grayscale. Today I’m turning up the saturation to fill tilt by cooking every part of the bird, both to showcase its versatility and to get the maximum usage out of this noble animal. I’ve thus started with a whole, well looked-after, maize-fed, pastured chicken, and cooked the wings, drumstick, oysters, breast and leg in different, hopefully sympathetic ways. I also crisped up the skin to serve separately as (as every one who knows), knows…. it’s the best bit.
One whole chicken – pastured. Do not buy battery chickens. It’s not supposed to be cheap,
Mixed mushrooms, handful of
Kale, some of (In the end I used the cauliflower leaves instead!)
Tarragon – bunch of
Wine – splash of
Ruby port – glug of
1. Butcher the chicken. Get into the habit of working with whole chickens and you’ll never look back. You save money, eat better tasting produce, contribute to a better ethical treatment of the animal and get to eat more diverse cuts. For this recipe we use one thigh (stuffed), one breast, two wings, two drumsticks and the oysters.. the rest can be kept for another meal. Peel the skin back from over one side of the crown and remove one breast from underneath. Now remove the other with the double-sided skin attached. Wrap the skin around the single breast so it’s now covered on both sides. Season liberally and get into a sous vide bag with oil and tarragon. The wings, drum sticks and oysters can also go into the same bag.
2. Chop some mushrooms and place into a hot pan until quite dry. Season and add some chopped tarragon.
3. Make the ballotine. Place a strip of cling film on your chopping board and place the boned out thigh on top. Season well then place some of the mushroom mixture in the centre. Roll up tightly and tie the ends with butchers twine. This can join the other sous vide bag in the water bath at 60c/140f for at least 2 hours.
4. With the rest of the carcass, place in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook in oil until very brown. Then add some wine and ruby port and reduce. Now cover with water, add some tarragon and reduce right down until dark and unctuous.
5. Cut some florets off the cauliflower and steam in a bamboo steamer until very soft. You can also boil them but they can get waterlogged which makes your puree too runny. When very soft blitz and then pass through a fine sieve. Season to taste, add lots of butter and cream and keep warm in a piping bag.
If wanted, you can also pulse a few extra florets in the food processor until they look like rice, then fry in butter until golden – these are really delicious!
6. Stretch the extra skin out between two sheet pans and place in the oven to crisp up. It will be good in around 20 mins at 180c/356f.
7. Blanch the cauliflower stalks and keep warm. Also blend some tarragon leaves in oil and strain through a coffee filter to get a beautifully aromatic herb oil.
8. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the plastic, dry well. Tie up the ballotine with kitchen string to stop it unravelling, then cook all the wrapped breast and ballotine in butter on a very high heat until brown. The wings and drum sticks can be very quickly deep-fried in oil at 190c/374f until crispy brown. The oysters just keep warm and serve as they are as a textural contrast.
9. Plate.. and marvel at the majesty of the mighty chicken.