You know those people. There's one in every bunch. They're free wheeling types, always very wacky and willing to do weird and wonderful things. But when it comes to food, they're utterly conservative. I know a couple of people just like that and my first instinct is a) to try and help them see the light by taking them out and showing them the wonderful world of food available. Failing that: b) never invite them over to my place ;)
Excuse the name dropping but a few weeks ago, I was at the Iron Chef dinner in Sydney (well that wasn't so bad was it? :P ). One of my favourite dishes that night was the chicken baked in a salt crust. Not only did it taste great and was utterly succulent in a very subtle but fantastic way but it also looked amazing in a crazy way. Chef Haru had actually made it to look like an actual chicken (and you know how I have a bit of a fetish for making food look like animals right?). I knew that I should make this for that fussy guest that only wanted plain chicken and mashed potato but I still wanted a wow factor that wouldn't disappoint other guests.
It wasn't hard to find a recipe, in fact Chef Haru had put his online so I used his recipe. When you make it, to ensure that the chicken remains succulent make sure that there are no holes in the dough. The salt crust which is not meant to be eaten (trust me I tried some) acts as a steam oven keeping in all of the lovely juices and producing a gorgeous tender chicken, even with the breast which can often run dry. In fact when you take off the chicken shaped lid all of those heavenly juices will have gathered on the bottom and when you slice into the chicken, juices will run freely as it is so moist.
With the mash, please don't feel like you need to buy blue cheese and buttermilk. I just wanted to use up both in my fridge and found that they combined really well with the mild flavoured chicken. The buttermilk lends a creamy tang, much like a yogurt would and the blue cheese add flavour and depth to the mash.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you politically adventurous but a conservative eater or vice versa or similar on both counts?
Salt Crusted Chicken with Blue Cheese & Buttermilk Mash
Adapted from Chef Haru
1½ bunches thyme, chopped coarsely
1½ bunches rosemary, chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
900g/31.7 ozs salt
900g/31.7 ozs plain flour
egg whites of 7 x 60g eggs (250g/9ozs)
300ml/10.14 ozs. water
1.5kg chicken (preferably free range, trussed) taken out of fridge 1 hour before starting to cook
2 egg yolks, combined with a little water
Buttermilk & Blue Cheese Mashed Potato
1kg/2 pounds potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
25grams blue cheese (or however much you like ;) )
75g / butter
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Blend thyme, rosemary, garlic and salt in processor. Combine with egg white and flour in large bowl. Unless you have a really large electric mixer, mix it by hand. It almost killed my mixer as there was so much mix. Mix to combine. Gradually add water until a smooth dough forms.
Step 2 - Divide the dough in two portions: one thirds and two thirds of the dough. Place smaller piece of dough on a sheet of lightly floured baking paper. Roll the dough out to 5mm in thickness.
3. Place this dough on a lined baking tray. Place trussed chicken, breast side up, in the centre.
Step 4 - Roll out the rest of the dough and cut out two "wings" and a tail. Cover chicken with remaining piece of rolled dough. Do this carefully and ensure that there are no gaps or holes as they will dry the chicken out. Crimp edges to seal, brush with egg wash.
Step 5 - Fashion a chicken's head and add two cloves for eyes. Using the egg yolk as a glue, attach the head, tail and wings to the chicken and brush these with the egg wash.
Cutting the crust
Step 6 - Bake at 170°C/340F fan forced for 1.5 hours. Once cooked, cut around base of salt crust. (DO NOT EAT CRUST). Remove the top crust. Lift chicken onto chopping board, and cut into serving size portions. Serve with mashed potato and herbs to simulate a chicken's roost. Just because you want to.
For mashed potato
Step 1 - Boil potatoes in salted water until soft. Pass through a potato ricer into a bowl. In a large saucepan, heat butter, crumbled blue cheese and buttermilk and once heated and butter has melted, stir through the potato. Add salt and pepper to taste.