This chicken recipe was inspired by an article I came across in an old book of Italian cooking for preserved chicken in oil. The text described poaching a chicken for hours (I can only think they had giant Foghorn Leghorn fowl back in the day) and the chicken meat was packed with woody herbs. I might try sage and rosemary in winter, but as we are creeping slowly towards spring and summer I felt the vibrancy and freshness of tarragon was what I was after. I have a feeling that chopped wild garlic will be a perfect partner for the tender chicken too –watch this space. I use the chicken in salads, sandwiches and I strongly advise adding some of the tender garlicky morsels to your dressed leaves for the best chicken caesar salad.
- 2kg large chicken
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 celery sticks, trimmed
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Maldon salt (plus extra for seasoning)
- About 375ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 20g bunch fresh tarragon, leaves only
- Juice of ½ lemon
- If you don’t mind handling raw chicken remove the skin from the chicken. It is easy to do if you ease your fingers between the skin and the meat at the breast and pull the skin away. When you reach the end of the legs, cut the skin with a knife to pull off completely. It is not essential to do this but the stock will be less fatty.
- Put the chicken in a large pot and add three of the garlic cloves, carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns and salt. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken and put on a lid. Bring the water to the boil then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and simmer gently for one hour. If your chicken weighs a little less than two kilos simmer for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the stock.
- When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, lift the bird out of the stock onto a board. Remove all the meat from the carcass and roughly chop. I like to keep the pieces of chicken quite big. You can put the carcass back into the stock, bring it to the boil, then simmer for about 4-5 hours for a tasty chicken stock for soups and sauces.
- Pour two tablespoon of the olive oil into the base of a terrine (mine measures about 28 x 12 x 8cm) or you can use a 3 litre soufflé dish. Arrange a layer of chicken in the base and season well with salt and ground black pepper. Finely chop the tarragon and scatter about a third over the chicken. Lightly squash the remaining nine garlic cloves (I press down with the blade of a large knife) and place three among the pieces of chicken. Repeat the layering twice more, remembering to season each layer well. Press the meat down gently to pack it in. Pour over just enough olive oil to cover the chicken. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 24 hours before eating.
- To serve, arrange some salad leaves on a large platter along with some blanched asparagus or fine beans and cold, cooked Jersey Royal potatoes. Lift out pieces of chicken and scatter over the leaves. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve immediately. You could also stuff wraps or pitta pockets with the chicken, or toss with drained cannellini beans and chopped avocado.