Truffle Chicken

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my love for that most knobbly and odourous of all fungi, the truffle. Whilst I cannot afford the real thing, whole, at least until my dog sniffs one out that isn’t riddled with truffle-sozzled maggots, I make do with Salsa Truffina which affords me a hint of the real thing and goes quite a bit further.
After the success of the Spinach and Truffle Triangles, I was keen to try this pungent, mushroom-laced paste again. This weekend was that time.
My husband bought me a copy of Rick Stein’s latest book, French Odyssey, which accompanied his BBC2 show. During the course of the six episodes Stein travelled around France on a barge, experiencing every facet of French cuisine. His reverence to such food luminaries as Elizabeth David and Richard Olney are clear throughout the show. He loves French food and has no reservations condemning British cuisine for slipping by the wayside. He is quite right too. We do not love our fresh produce in the same way that the French do. We are more than happy to buy all our edible groceries, from meat to fish to veg from our local supermarket rather than support local farmer's markets and fishmongers and local butchers. My hometown has not had a fishmongers since the 80s and the two greengrocers that were once the hub of the town were driven out of business by big supermarket chains like Co-Op. Unfortunately, convenience over good taste has won out.
Yes, the supermarkets do have a wide variety of organic produce nowadays but, as with any big conglomeration, they are buying produce from the farmers at very low prices and then selling them to the end user for hugely elevated prices. It is important to buy locally produced goods from farm shops or markets otherwise this situation cannot sustain itself. The farmers will be unable to keep producing good quality organic food for a pittance. This is the same scenario for butchers and fishmongers, many of whom send their fresh produce abroad where it is appreciated.
Many local producers are bypassing the supermarkets altogether and are selling their organic produce over the internet. You can get whole pigs, jointed, sent to you once a year, and you can remain secure in the knowledge that only the day before, your lovely shoulder of pork was part of a pig, snuffling peacefully around in the mud, eating acorns.
Weekly or monthly fruit and vegetable box schemes are a great idea for people whose nearest organic supplier is too far to travel to. They deliver to your doorstep for a nominal fee and you are guaranteed that the goods delivered are as fresh and locally picked as possible.
Anyway, back to the chicken. A good organic chicken is stuffed with a mushroom and truffle mix, just under the skin, which works in three ways: it flavours the chicken, it keeps the breast moist and it crisps the skin. It is very simple but looks (and sounds) impressive enough for special guests. We served it, as recommended by Rick Stein, with a simple Risotto Bianco, flavoured with the cooking juices from the chicken, and a delicate, leafy lambs lettuce salad – no dressing necessary. The leaves are just to cut the richness of the truffle and the risotto.
1 Organic Chicken, about 1.5kg
1 Shallot, chopped very finely
1 Clove Garlic, chopped very finely
100g Chestnut Mushrooms, chopped very finely
1 Tablespoon Salsa Truffina
2 Teaspoons Truffle Oil (available at a quite reasonable price in most supermarkets, a little goes a long way, try it drizzled on Jerusalem Artichoke Soup)
Tablespoon Parsley, finely chopped
45g Butter
Preheat the oven to 230c.Gently heat 25g of the butter in a small saucepan, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute gently until softened but not coloured. Add the mushrooms and sweat down for another 6-7 minutes until any liquid emitted from the mushrooms has evaporated and you are left with a dark, chunky paste. Leave to cool for a minute or two.
Stir in the Salsa Truffina, Truffle Oil, Parsley and Seasoning – but not too much salt as the Salsa Truffina is quite salty anyway.
With the neck end of the chicken facing you, gently ease the skin away from the breasts, taking great care not to tear the skin (the stuffing will ooze out during cooking). If you do happen to tear the skin badly, you could use a couple of toothpicks to ‘pin’ it back into position once you’ve stuffed it.
Standing the chicken up on its bottom, use your hand to insert all the mushroom/truffle paste under the skin. Place the chicken back down and gently manipulate the paste underneath the skin until it has covered the top of the chicken evenly.
Melt the remaining butter and brush the bottom of a small roasting tin. Sit the stuffed chicken in the pan and brush over the rest of the melted butter. Cover tightly with foil and cook at this high temperature for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, turn down to 180c and cook for another 50 minutes.
Finally, remove the foil and cook for a final 15-20 minutes to brown the top, first basting with the juices.
Remove from the oven and retire the chicken to a plate. Wrap snuggly in foil whilst you make the risotto, draining off any of the chickeny-truffle juices to add to the creamy rice.

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