Monday, 19 February 2007
I mentioned in a previous post that I am appearing on the current series of MasterChef Goes Large. One of the tasks that you are expected to do is to invent a dish of your own and reproduce it on the show under the glaring lights, interfering cameras and of course the judge's constant questioning. Great fun albeit slightly pressurised compared to doing it in your own kitchen! The following dish is one of the many that I invented previous to appearing on the show. We were advised that it was best to be armed with a whole variety of dishes.
Aside from a good old roast, I don't often cook with chicken. I prefer game birds for flavour and texture. However, if you can get creative with the leg of a chicken it can bring all kinds of delicious options to your usual idea of a chicken dish. If you are not scared of getting messy with a piece of meat, please go down to your friendly local butchers (if any still exist in your area) and ask for a bit of time with him. Ask him to show you how to fillet a full bird. As well as giving you an amazing skill, it will save you money in the long term. You will never buy pieces of a bird again once you know what to do with a complete one. Ask him to show you how to take off the leg, remove the bone and leave you with a superb piece of meat that begs to be stuffed. You will never forget how to do it. If you don't have a butcher to befriend, get your head in a book and learn.
Spring is just around the corner, but the stuffing used in this recipe sings of the Autumn. Wild mushrooms and thyme, chicken liver and hazelnuts, it looks amazing and tastes sensational. Each bite has a satisfactory 'crunch' and a massive delivery of flavour. It really does bring a humble chicken leg to life and adds a different dimension to the bird.
The technique used for this is a little tricky but if you enjoy a challenge, please try it. The technique of making a 'ballotine' has several guises. Mine involved keeping on the skin of the chicken, stuffing it and then tightly wrapping it in foil before simmering for 20 minutes. The cooking process will form a neat sausage which you can either pan roast off to crisp up the skin or simply remove the skin and slice into neat rounds. Serve it with traditional vegetables and a rich red wine and port sauce if you can be bothered. The sweetness and body of the port will compliment the savoury of the stuffing perfectly.
Chicken stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Liver and Hazelnuts
To serve 2
For the stuffing
75g/ 2½oz Wild Mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
28g/1oz hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 chicken liver, finely chopped
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 good quality pork sausage, skin removed
For the chicken
2 Free range chicken legs, boned with skin on
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6
2. To make the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan and gently sweat the mushroom, hazelnuts and thyme for 5 minutes. In a bowl, mix the cooked mushrooms, thyme and hazelnuts with the liver, parsley, sausage meat and seasoning combining thoroughly. Set aside.
3. To make the stuffed chicken ballotine, on 2 large squares of foil, drizzle with olive oil and seasoning and lay the boned chicken legs skin side down. Half the stuffing and roll into a sausage shape that fits into the centre of the chicken. Roll into a sausage shape ensuring that the ends overlap. Fold over the foil so the edges meet and seal completely. Begin to roll the chicken firmly in the foil then when finished, twist the ends of the foil up tightly so it resembles a Christmas cracker, it is important to ensure it is water tight.
4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and simmer the chicken for 20 minutes.
5. Remove the foil from the chicken, take off the skin and slice into neat rounds.