Recipe – Chicken in Half Mourning


This is my version of poulet demi-deuil, a classic French dish made by placing shaved black truffles under the skin of a chicken, resembling the veil of a woman in mourning. It seems that the appearance is only ‘half mourning’ because some of the bird’s white flesh is still seen; full mourning would be entirely black. Traditionally chicken in half mourning is braised, however I prefer the flavour and look of roast chicken, so this is my variation. While truffles are indulgent, a little goes a long way and you can buy a small one online for around $75. Use a good free-range chicken and enjoy it all with an elegant chardonnay such as Soumah Equilibrio. Serve it with some braised lettuce or baked honey carrots if you like. Bon appétit!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
  • 30g black truffle
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac
  • 1 x 1.7kg chicken
  • 50g cold butter
  • 500ml chicken stock (see note below)
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, crushed
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche
  • Steamed rice, for serving

This is a great way to use the stock leftover from poaching chicken in dishes such as Hainanese Chicken Rice or Steeped Chicken with Spicy Slaw or take a short-cut with Maggie Beer’s excellent free-range chicken stock.

Method
  1. Finely slice the truffle, add it to the Cognac and set aside for 10 minutes or so.
  2. Meanwhile, wipe out the belly cavity of the chicken to remove any blood and pat the skin dry with paper towel.
  3. Place the chicken on its back with the legs facing you and gently slide your hands under the skin of the breast and thighs to loosen it, taking care not to tear it.
  4. Finely slice half the butter, reserving the rest for later.
  5. Drain the truffle, leaving any small bits of truffle in the liquid and set it aside.
  6. Arrange all except 2 of the truffle slices between the skin and the flesh of the breast, with a sliver of butter underneath each piece of truffle.
  7. Place the final 2 pieces of truffle under the skin of each thigh with a sliver of butter.
  8. Truss the chicken (see FAQ below) and place on a large plate, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  9. About an hour before cooking, remove chicken from the fridge, remove plastic wrap, cover with a clean, dry tea towel and set aside to come to room temperature.
  10. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  11. Add chicken stock, onion, bay and thyme to a flameproof baking dish and place a cake rack into the dish so that it sits above the liquid.
  12. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt and pepper.
  13. Combine reserved butter with garlic and rub it all over the chicken.
  14. Place chicken on the rack, breast side up. Cover chicken with baking paper, tucking any overhanging inside the dish.
  15. Cover dish tightly with foil and place in the oven for about an hour, until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer.
  16. Increase oven to 220°C, remove the foil and baking paper and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until skin is crisp and golden.
  17. Remove from the oven, transfer chicken to a lipped plate, cover loosely with foil and set aside in a warm place.
  18. Place baking dish on the stove top over high heat, stir in reserved Cognac and boil for about 5 minutes until reduced to a light sauce consistency.
  19. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems, stir in crème fraîche and transfer to a sauce jug.
  20. Carve chicken and serve with steamed rice and sauce on the side.
FAQ

What does it mean to truss a chicken?
Trussing a chicken, or any poultry, means to tie it securely with twine so that the wings and legs stay close to the body.
Why truss a chicken?
Trussing makes the bird more compact so that it cooks evenly and helps prevent the wings and ends of the drumsticks from burning. It also gives the cooked chicken a neater, more attractive appearance.
What twine do you use to truss a chicken?
Use kitchen twine (also called butcher’s twine or cooking twine), a strong, unbleached cotton twine. It’s important to use cotton as synthetic twines may melt or burn.
How do you truss a chicken?
Cut about 130cm of kitchen twine. Place the chicken on its back with the wings facing you. Place the twine underneath the chicken’s back then bring the ends forward between the body and wings (‘under the arms’) then around the outside of the wings and away from you to cross it under the tip of the breast, pulling tightly to secure the wings close to the body. Bring the twine over the tips of the drumsticks then cross it under them, pulling them together. Holding the twine tightly, flip the chicken over onto its breast. Twist the twine around the tail and knot it. Cut off and discard the excess twine.
Why is it called chicken in half mourning? Why not full mourning?
Poulet demi-deuil is a classic French dish made by placing shaved black truffles under the skin of a chicken, resembling the veil of a woman in mourning. The appearance is only of ‘half mourning’ because some of the bird’s white flesh is still seen; full mourning would be entirely black.
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