One of the most versatile and comforting things is a good roast chicken dinner. No matter the season, it’ll fit the brief. Roasted in winter with root vegetables, spuds and gravy or grilled in summer with seasonal salad and cool dressing. Even now, with increased prices, chicken is a relatively cheap meat. When you buy cheap meat there’s a cost to be paid – from animal welfare to the taste. When you buy a pasture raised chicken, it won’t be the cheapest but it’s infinitely better in the flavor department.
Seaview Farm outside Portrush is one of the farms in Northern Ireland that produce chicken in this old fashioned way. The birds roam free and feed naturally. The flesh is yellow, not by being fed corn or other color stimulant, but from the chlorophyll in the grass. If you’re of a certain age, the smell of a chicken reared this way, roasting in the oven will transport you back to when it really tasted of something. It comes at a price but because of the intensity of flavor a little goes a long way. My philosophy is – one chicken, three meals. The first stage is removing the crown with the breasts and treating it as a separate entity. Secondly I remove the legs for another meal and finally make a stock with the carcass.
Fresh borlotti beans are a thing of real beauty. Pretty pink mottled pods when opened show similarly colored beans. The first time I cooked them I expected them to retain the colors and was disappointed when the finished bean was a sludgy gray color. They were delicious but reminded me of some shallow people I’ve met in my lifetime – all gloss on the outside but ultimately dull. For this recipe I’ve suggested the more user friendly, available and perfectly acceptable option of a tin of borlotti beans. For the recipe here the chicken crown is roasted. The sliced breast is served on toasted sourdough that has been anointed with the cooking juices and served with roasted tomatoes, borlotti beans and basil. The bread with the cooking liquor is full scale delicious never mind the other additions.
We often overlook leg meat as a lesser cut but it has real depth to it. Ballotining them is a good way of making the most of them – the leg boned out, stuffed and roasted. Here I’ve stuffed them with some herbed sausage and served with a corn cream and grilled corn. Corn is at its best now in the shops and is a classic combination with chicken. There’s a bit of work in the recipe but well worth it and a good way of making a little chicken go a long way. I’ve included a recipe for good chicken stock for the corn cream that will make more than you need. Rather than freeze liters of the stock, boil it down to reduce and freeze. When you make stock from a great chicken it becomes almost like jelly it’s so rich. The soup and sauces you make from it will be like no other.
Roast chicken breast bruschetta with borlotti beans, tomatoes and basil
1 chicken crown (2 breasts on the bone)
50ml olive oil or good local rapeseed oil
2 onions, peeled and halved
2 cloves garlic
50ml white wine or water
4 slices sourdough bread
1 tin borlotti beans, drained
250g cherry tomatoes
½ teaspoon sugar
1 bunch basil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a pan. Season the chicken with salt and place in the hot pan to seal both breasts. Transfer to a roasting tray, skin side up and add the onions and garlic. Add the wine or water and place in a 200oc oven for about 50 minutes, depending on size, or until juices from meat run clear. Remove leaves from basil and set aside. Finely chop the stalks. Halve tomatoes and place in a roasting tray. drizzle
over a teaspoon of the oil, sprinkle with salt, the basil stalks and sugar. Place in oven for last 10 minutes of chicken cooking time.
Allow chicken to rest for 15 minutes.
Strain the juices from chicken into a pan with the vinegar and boil to reduce to a spoon coating sauce. Squeeze the garlic into the sauce and check seasoning. Remove meat from bone and slice.
Grill the bread until golden and place on 4 plates or a platter. Spoon over some of the cooking juices. Add the sliced chicken. Mix the borlotti beans with remaining juices and cooked onion. Spoon over the chicken and scatter over the tomatoes and their juice. Garnish with the basil leaves.
Ballotine of chicken with corn cream and grilled corn
2 large chicken legs
150g sausage meat
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 dessertspoon Olive oil or good local rapeseed oil
Place chicken legs skin side down on your board. Take a sharp knife and cut the thigh to expose the bone. Scrape away the flesh and remove bone carefully to not cut the skin. Remove bone and then do the same with the drumstick and remove any sharp sinew. Mix the sausage meat with the herbs and place along the flesh. Roll up the whole thing and then season with salt and rub with oil all over. Wrap tightly in foil and roast in a 180oc oven for about an hour or until juices run clear. Rest for 10 minutes then pat dry (keep the juices) and cook in a hot pan to crisp the skin. Slice.
Carcass and bones from chicken
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, chopped
1 chopped celery stick
Few sprigs thyme
Few crushed peppercorns
Heat the oil in a pan until hot and add the bones. Cook to seal off and add the vegetables. Cook gently until colored and then cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and add thyme and peppercorns. Simmer for about 4 hours and strain. Boil to reduce by half.
Creamed and grilled corn
2 corn on the cob
2 tablespoons olive oil or good rapeseed oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
250ml chicken stock
100ml double cream
Cook the corn in boiling salted water for 5 minutes then drain and remove niblets from one cob.
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Add the niblets and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the cream. Cook to spoon coating consistency and blend to a
smooth puree. Check seasoning. Rub remaining cob with oil and place on a hot pan or bbq and cook to scorch all over. Remove niblets.
Spoon corn cream onto a platter and add the sliced chicken. Scatter over the scorched corn and serve.