I have to say that I am a big fan of chicken. But when you get a really good quality chicken there is simply nothing to compare. We spend quite a bit of time in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. And Wenty has a brilliant butcher Megalong Beef, named after the Megalong Valley. But they don’t just do beef. They source the most extraordinary open range chickens. They are grown naturally, mature to full size without artificial chemicals and taste like nothing else. So it seemed fitting this year that for Christmas day lunch we should have this brilliant bird on our table.
Roasting a chicken is fairly straight forward but one thing I have noticed is that the better quality the bird the more it adapts to external flavours and the best way to bring extra flavour has got to be stuffing. The most important tip here is around the bread crumbs. I am not talking about those boxed dry things that you could probably plug a hole in the wall with I am talking about makeing your own and it couldn’t be simpler.
Take some old white bread, again real bread, not the stuff in the bag at the supermarket. A few days old is ideal. It should be just starting to feel stale. Cut the crusts off and then roughly chop it with a knife. The pieces should be around half a centimetre in size. You can use a food processor if you wish but my rustic herbed stuffing will benefit from some decent sized bread pieces soaked in the flavours, You can also dry them on a baking sheet in a very low oven and seal in a container. So on to the stuffing.
Recipe: Herbed Chicken Stuffing
- 25 g butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks (top 2/3rds), finely chopped
- 1¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as thyme, sage, parsley and tarragon)
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Gently heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and cook the onion and celery for 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, herbs, beaten egg and salt and pepper, and mix well to bind the mixture together. Allow the stuffing to cool completely before use. You can do this early in the morning and refrigerate in a sealed container.
When using the stuffing do not pack it into the bird. Use around half in the chickens cavity along with a few lemon quarters. Put the rest into a buttered baking dish and bake in the over with the chicken for the last 30 minutes. This lets you serve a great piece of stuffing without ripping the chicken apart.
If you want a little more flavour pour some good quality chicken stock over the stuffing in the baking dish and bake a little longer, this will give you a monster boot of chicken flavour.
Cooking time (duration): 10
Number of servings (yield): 6
Meal type: dinner
Another blustery day in the Blue Mountains, well Blackheath to be specific. We wandered past the pub this morning and I started thinking about a really tasty chicken dish I first ate at a pub years ago. It was pretty good but it definitely needed some work to lift it up. Inspired I decided to recreate it my way. It has its roots in Italian cuisine and it its fairly strong on the garlic front but it really is a sensational dish. Especially if you have a little bit of decent white wine left in a bottle from last night. The real star of this dish is the mushrooms so do make an effort to find good quality fresh Swiss Browns. Take a look at the stalks if they are hard and woody forget them. Find the mushies with the soft fresh stalks. And don’t even think about making this with anything other that real butter. If you don’t want to use real butter then make something else.
Recipe: Chicken with Creamy Mushroom and Garlic Sauce
- Two single chicken breasts, sliced horizontally to make two flat pieces each
- 150g of swiss brown mushrooms, dice half of them and finely slice the other half
- One shallot peeled and finely sliced
- Two large garlic cloves cut in half and finely sliced
- 150ml of white wine at room temperature
- 150ml of thick cream at room temperature
- Eight small new potatoes
- A large handful of parsley chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- Gently simmer the potatoes in water and as little salt while you make the rest of the dish. I normally cook them for about 10 minutes on a gentle boil then turn off the heat and leave them in the water to stay warm
- Put about two tablespoons of butter and a splash of olive oil into a hot pan and toss in the mushrooms. Saute quickly on high heat till they brown and return them to a small bowl
- In a little more butter and oil fry the chicken pieces until gently brown on each side and then remove to a plate and keep warm
- Now with a little more oil toss into the pan the garlic and onion and fry gently, you dont want them to brown but simply cook until soft
- Now toss in the white wine and deglaze the pan, reduce the wine by half
- Toss the mushrooms back into the wine mixture and stir well
- Now add the cream and as soon as it returns to a simmer place the chicken pieces back into the mixture and simmer gently
- Reduce the cream mixture by half and turn the chicken pieces over during the process
- Now place the cooked chicken pieces on to plates with 4 new potatoes each
- Stir the chopped parsley into the sauce in the pan and turn off the heat
- Spoon the sauce mixture over the chicken, season with ground pepper and serve immediately
This dis is great with a crusty bread roll to soak up the remaining sauce.
If you want a little more punch in this one try adding finely ground lemon zest at the same time as the wine.
Cooking time (duration): 25
Number of servings (yield): 2
Meal type: lunch
Culinary tradition: Italian
This is the first post in Things I Cook. Pretty much this is me just experimenting, taking flavours I like and knocking them together into a dish. I suspect that what may horrify some of my friends is that this is the sort of thing I do on Tuesday night. I was walking home from the office today thinking to myself I really want to use that artisan chorizo I got at the growers market in something different. So chicken, potato, chorizo, they go together but what about kicking it up a bit.
The result ended up being poussin (baby chickens) stuffed with chorizo, thyme and fresh breadcrumbs on a bed of baked potato crisps and porcini risotto. It was a little bit ridiculous for Tuesday night dinner, but it worked. I need to tidy it up a little bit then I will post the recipe, once I fix the balance.