On a completely unrelated note, I went to a local farm to grab some milk yesterday. It struck me as quite a fun place, and it was nice (and cheaper) to cut out the middle man, and buy all my milk, cream and eggs directly from the farmers themselves. It's not something I'll be able to do everyday, but I will be making a concerted effort to pop by once a week, if only to remind myself that there are some benefits to living outside London... Anyway, the upshot of this, is that there are a lots of farm, egg, and chicken related photos in this post, so I've tried to keep the recipe down to its bare bones for sake of brevity. So here it is:
|The feather was there already- I didn't add it for aestheitics.|
Butter Stuffed Chicken
Not as indulgent as it sounds, but then you know my thoughts on butter. If you don't, see here.
What You Need:
- 2kg high welfare chicken
- 1 leek, trimmed. Or, if there are still some around, perhaps some baby leeks.
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 4-5 decent sized cloves of garlic
- New potatoes, scrubbed and halved
- A couple of shallots, finely chopped
- A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
- A handful of parsley
- A sizeable knob of room-temperature butter (similar in proportions to a child's fist- that's the most apt description I can think of right this minute) for the chicken, and as much as you think you'll need to coat the potatoes.
- Watercress and peashoots
- A few stems of fresh tarragon
- A small glass of white wine
- Olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
1. Remove your chicken from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it. This allows the meat to reach a level temperature throughout, and means it will cook more evenly- just remember to keep it away from the cat. Preheat your oven to 240 degrees, or as hot as it will go.
2. Bash your garlic cloves (peeled) with the zest of two of your lemons and a hefty pinch of salt until it's a coarse paste. Add your finely chopped parsley, and beat furiously into your room temperature butter.
3. Remove all string from your bird, and score on the underside (see photo) so you can create 'pockets' between the skin and the flesh across the thighs, and on the topside underneath both breasts. Make these pockets carefully, ensuring you don't rip the skin if you can. If you do, it's no real biggie. It just means you'll lose the butter as it melts in the oven. Stuff with your butter mixture, smearing any excess across a couple of well placed gashes you might want to add on non-stuffed parts of the chicken.
|Gashes on the underside of the bird...|
4. Slice one of your zested lemons in half, and place inside the cavity of the birds with your tarragon. I've chosen this particular herb because it's fresh, clean, and faintly aniseed-y, so works beautifully when the sun's out. But you can stuff anything you like in here- bay, thyme, and onions all work equally well. Quarter your remaining lemon, and scatter across the bottom of a (very) snug-fitting oven tray.
5. Slice your leek lengthways, creating long ribbons about half an inch thick. Don't forget, the white part is the tastiest. Layer these around the lemons in your oven tray, and place your chicken on top. Drizzle the skin with olive oil and indecent amounts of salt and pepper.
7. Cook for a further hour and fifteen minutes, putting the kettle on for the potatoes after an hour. Get the water boiling, and pour into a pan with a handful (yes- and handful, NOT a pinch) of table salt. Boil your new potatoes until tender, and drain. Leave to steam dry in a sieve or a bowl somewhere while you return the pan to a low flame with a knob of butter, your shallots and your mint leaves. Soften and infuse gently, before adding your potatoes to coat thoroughly.
9. Rest the bird for ten minutes or so, uncovered. If you cover it, the steam will soften the skin. If you rest it for much longer, it won't stay warm. Now for the carving: place your chicken on a board, and gently tug the legs away from the body. Carve along this fleshy part, and place onto an attractive serving platter of some sort. Now cut along the breastbone, one side or the other. Gently carve the breast away from the body- it should be moist and tender, not tough and dry.
10. Dig your fingers in to strip the carcass of the rest of the meat. Fight over who gets the oysters (the slippery, most tender pieces at the back of the bird, above the thigh), and then sulk when you lose the wishbone-pulling. Pile onto your platter with heaps of watercress and peashoots, dressed with a little freshly-squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve with your gravy-esque juice, and don't judge anyone who adds a dollop of Hellmans. Where there's a New Potato in sight, it simply has to be done.
Don't forget to keep hold of your carcass- chuck it into a pan of simmering water for a couple of hours with some herbs, a couple of carrots and an onion, and hey presto- stock. Freeze it into an ice cube tray, and pop it out as and when you need it.
The chicken sandwiches are on me,