Poached with slices of black truffle in a broth flavoured with tarragon and Madeira: there’s no finer way to treat a bird, says Simon Hopkinson.
Chef Bocuse died just over a year ago, at the grand age of 91. Five years earlier, at the close of the above luncheon, we were greeted by the impressive man. ‘You must eat le poulet en vessie,’ chef declared. And so we did, naturellement.
The bird in question has slices of black truffle slid under its skin. In a manner known as demi-deuil or ‘half-mourning’, it’s then hermetically secured within a pig’s bladder, together with chopped vegetables and a little essential tarragon before being poached in chicken stock and Madeira.
Once cooked and prepared, the dish essentially emerges as a jointed chicken, bathed in a sauce made from the cooking liquor within the bladder, a modicum of reduced broth and much cream.
Morels – either seasonally fresh or dried – are often served in the sauce as the only accompanying garnish. A rice pilaf or some fresh noodles may be served alongside.
To simplify the original ‘grand-gourmand’ to a dish of possibility in a domestic kitchen (Ocado says no to pig’s bladder), I’ve used only the legs from a fine chicken and purchased a small truffle. I was recently quoted £850 per kilogram, so a truffle weighing 20g (about three-quarters of an ounce), which is almost more than enough, comes in at about £17. Visit www.thewildroom.com to enquire about your little black diamond.
To achieve the dish, I suggest you take a fine chicken (about 1.8kg (4lb)) and remove the legs. Cut off the breasts, leaving the bone intact, for another dish (see below). Make a good chicken stock with the chopped-up carcass, including a large glass of white wine. Begin the recipe at least 12 hours in advance or, even better, the day before.
2 chicken legs (removed from a whole bird)
1 small black truffle, thinly sliced
A little chopped onion, carrot and celery
200g sliced button mushrooms (you need them nice and white)
A sprig of tarragon and a few parsley stalks
A small glass of Madeira or medium sherry
Chicken stock (made from the carcass)
A little salt and white pepper
150ml double cream
About 100g fresh (or dried) pasta: fettucine, for me, is the correct detail, here
A little chopped parsley and a slice of butter to dress the pasta
Peel back the skin from the chicken legs until it’s only just attached. Completely cover the exposed flesh with truffle slices, replace the skin and tie back firmly using two lengths of string per leg. Tightly wrap in clingfilm and place in a sealed container in the fridge for at least 12 hours, so that the truffle infuses the chicken.
Remove the clingfilm from the chicken and choose a pot that will accommodate the legs snugly. Add the chicken legs, vegetables, herbs, seasoning, Madeira and add enough stock to cover. Having gauged how much water you need, remove the chicken legs to a plate and cook the aromatics, covered, in the stock for a good 30 minutes to flavour it.
Now, reintroduce the chicken and quietly continue to simmer, again covered, for a further 25–30 minutes. Switch off the heat and rest the contents for 10 minutes. Lift out the chicken, remove the string, cover with foil and keep it warm.
Strain the broth, discarding the exhausted vegetables, into a clean pan and reduce the liquid by half or until it’s a touch syrupy and has an intense flavour.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, then dress with butter and parsley.
To complete the dish, add the cream to the reduction, whisk together and simmer until you have an ivory-coloured sauce with an unctuous, slightly thickened coating texture. Pour this over the chicken and serve with the pasta alongside.
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