Chicken in a salt and flour crust

Chicken in a salt and flour crust

By
From
Modern Italian Food
Serves
4-6
Photographer
Earl Carter

Just try it! This is no ordinary way of cooking chicken. Rather, the bird is baked and steamed at the same time, because the crust keeps all the moisture inside.

What follows is a basic recipe, my adaptation of a wonderful dish I have eaten at Cheong Liew’s restaurant, The Grange, in Adelaide. The chicken was stuffed with a mixture of its livers and exotic mushrooms, then enveloped in a crust and cooked to perfection. The presentation was spectacular. My guess is that, towards the end of the cooking time, pieces of puff pastry were attached to the sides of the chicken crust. These were removed at the table and set aside while the crust was ceremoniously ‘broken’. The chicken was then carved and served to each diner with a piece of puff pastry, some of the stuffing and a rich poultry gravy. Many Chinese restaurants offer a dish called beggar’s chicken, which is cooked in a similar way, but in clay. You can ‘Italianise’ this dish by preparing a sauce made of porcini mushrooms and a little cream to serve with the chicken. Or you can do away with the cream altogether, replacing it with a concentrated chicken stock.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
10 eggs
900g plain flour
200g fine cooking salt
1 x 1.7kg best-quality free-range chicken

Stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
200g assorted exotic mushrooms, such as enoki or oyster
200g chicken livers, cleaned, left whole and marinated in Marsala for a few hours
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and pepper
5 sage leaves

Sauce

Quantity Ingredient
100g porcini mushrooms
300ml cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. To make the crust, place the eggs, flour and salt in a large bowl and mix to form a smooth, malleable dough, adding a little water if necessary. The dough is quite stiff.
  2. To make the stuffing, heat the butter and oil in a large non-stick pan. Cook the mushrooms and livers until they are just seared to a light golden brown. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Tear the sage and scatter over the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or aluminium foil. Wipe and dry the chicken inside and out, and fill the cavity with the stuffing.
  4. Divide the dough in half and on a clean, floured work surface, roll out each piece to a thickness of a little under 1 cm. Place a piece of dough on the baking tray, and put the chicken on top, breast side up. Cover with the second piece of dough, pressing the edges together so that the bird is completely covered and sealed (use a little water if necessary). Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180°C and cook for a further hour. Remove the bird from the oven and leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving. The chicken can rest for up to an hour in its crust and still retain its heat. These cooking instructions serve as a basic guideline; depending on your oven, the thickness of your dough and the quality of the chicken, there may be some variation.
  5. To make the sauce, soak the mushrooms in twice their volume of warm water for about 10 minutes to reconstitute. Place the cream in a saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. Squeeze the mushrooms dry, discarding the soaking water. Heat the butter in a small pan, then add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until warmed through. Add the cream and simmer for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and, just before serving, stir in the parsley.
  6. A nice alternative to the mushroom sauce is a reduced tarragon cream sauce. Simply add 1 tablespoon finely chopped French tarragon and 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley to the reduced cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour the cream sauce over the chicken to serve.
Tags:
Stefano
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Pieri
Stefanos
Stefano's
Mildura
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