The flavour of a fresh truffle is peerless, but the kind that comes in a jar will certainly look the part. Boost their flavour by soaking the slices in truffle-scented olive oil. Start this recipe the night before to allow the truffles to work their magic and infuse the chicken with their almost naughty aroma.
…and there's a recipe for truffle risotto as an optional extra to make the most of the truffle-infused rice that yours may have came packaged in.
This dish is deserving of your best red or white Burgundy but a voluptuous pinot noir or creamy chardonnay would be more than acceptable too.
- 1 top-drawer, corn-fed, free-range chicken, about 1.4kg
- 1 black or white truffle, about the size of a ping-pong ball
- 1 large onion, wedged into eighths
- 1 bulb fennel, outer layer and stems only (save the pristine bits for salad)
- 2 sticks celery, cut into thirds, leaves and all
- A few parsley stalks
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 100g butter
- 450ml white wine
- Cream or crème fraîche, to thicken the juices
Start the night before to give the truffle time to infuse the bird with wicked, pheromonal whiffiiness. Essence of laundry-basket is about right. If that sounds disgusting to you, count your blessings and think of all the money you are saving!
Begin by wiping the bird inside and out with kitchen paper. If it comes with giblets, rinse and dry these well and store them in the fridge. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, both inside and out.
Brush any remaining soil off your truffle and if it's right mucky, sponge it gently with a damp cloth. Under no circumstances immerse it in water.
Next, slice your truffle into wafer-thin discs using a truffle slicer or a mandoline and harvesting any bits that crumble away.
Being careful not to tear it, gently ease the skin of the chicken breast and upper thighs away from the flesh. Fingers with short nails are best for this. It you like to sport talons that would shame a gryphon, use an inverted teaspoon. Push the truffle slices under the skin and pull it gently back into place. Put the truffle trimmings into the cavity.
Wrap tightly in foil and leave in a cool place overnight. If this is the fridge, remove two hours before you start cooking to bring it up to room temperature and give the flavours a final boost.
Set the oven at 190°C/170° fan/ Gas 5
Place the giblets, prepared vegetables and herbs at the bottom of a robust, hob-proof casserole which comes with a lid. Unwrap the chicken, place it on top and smear liberally with butter. Carefully pour the wine around the chicken, not over it.
Place the casserole on a brisk heat and bring the liquid to the boil. Once it is simmering well, put the lid on and transfer to the oven for an hour.
After that, remove the lid, to let the chicken begin to brown up and the cooking juices start to begin to concentrate. Cook for 25-30 minutes more and check for any pink juices when you pierce the thigh with a skewer. Give it a little longer if this happens. If it is ready, replace the lid. The juices will keep the chicken moist.
Next, place a strainer over a large jug or saucepan. Lift the chicken out of the casserole and pour off the liquid, catching any spent vegetables, giblets etc in the strainer. These can be left to cool and discarded. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7.
Put the chicken back in the dry casserole, again without the lid, and give it a final short blast of no more than 15 minutes for a really golden and crisp result, revealing flesh that is moist and tender from the steam-poaching.
Transfer to a warmed serving place and rest while you make the sauce. Bring the strained juices to the boil, tasting as you go. Season to taste, add a good dollop of crème fraîche and let the mixture bubble and thicken. Pour into a warmed sauce-boat or jug.
Serve with plain boiled potatoes and simple greens. A top-drawer red or white Burgundy is warranted.
Optional extra: truffle-scented risotto
If your truffle comes packed in arborio rice to keep it nice and dry, it's a shame not to harness the strong residual flavour by making a risotto. For 400g rice, plenty for 4-6 people, you'll need a good litre of stock, which is what the chicken carcass is for. Keep it simmering while you fry an onion in butter until it's translucent. Add the rice and let it takes on a buttery gleam. Moisten with a glass of white wine and let it evaporate. Now add the stock gradually, ladleful by ladleful, to the rice until the latter is al dente - creamy but with a bite. This will take patience and about 20 minutes. Finish with a knob of butter, a bit of aged pecorino finely grated, a lick of truffle oil and plenty of tarragon or parsley. Serve a generous scoop of risotto to each guest, with a Piemontese red, nebbiolo for preference. A Barolo from a warm, ripe year like 2011 would do it.
Janet Wynne Evans
> link to Food for Thought article 'Chick Lit'