Salt Crust Chicken with Creamy Polenta & Beurre Noisette

 

 

Salt crust cookery is an ancient technique, which seems to have its origins in Chinese cookery where poultry was packed in pure salt and baked. The method I have given is commonly used in France and uses a flour and salt dough shell to preserve the moisture and texture while intensifying the flavour. This method of cookery also lends itself to various game, fish and certain cuts of beef.

 

Serves 4

 

INGREDIENTS

The Salt Crust

  • 1kg (2lb) butchers salt

  • 1kg (2lb) plain flour

  • 670ml (1 1/4 pints) cold water

 

The Chicken

  • 2 bunches English spinach, stems removed and leaves chopped

  • 1 bunch sorrel or rocket (arugula), stems removed and leaves chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • Cracked black pepper

  • 14 (1.4kg / 3lb) free range or organic chicken

 

The Polenta

  • 2 ½ cups (625ml / 1 pint) chicken stock

  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) white polenta (or yellow polenta if white is not available)

  • 40g (1 1/2 oz) butter

  • 30g (1 oz) grated Parmesan

 

METHOD

  1. Knead the butchers salt, flour and water together to form a smooth dough and rest for 30 minutes.

  2. Pre-heat oven to 220°C / 430°F.

  3. In a saucepan wilt the spinach, sorrel, and garlic until collapsed. Season with black pepper and refrigerate to cool.

  4. Remove the chicken from the packaging and drain well. If the neck is still intact, remove it using a sharp knife, being careful not to remove too much skin from around the breast. Slide your fingers, between the skin and the breast meat to form a pocket. Stuff the chilled, spinach mixture into the pocket. Tie the chicken with string to secure the legs.

  5. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Roll the salt crust dough out until 5mm (1/4 inch) thick and large enough to encase the whole chicken. Wrap the chicken in the dough, being conscious not to leave any holes. Trim away any excess. Place into a prepared baking tray.

  6. Roast chicken for 47 minutes. The best way to test if it’s done is to pierce the salt-crust with a small sharp knife near the thigh. Remove the knife and feel the blade with your fingertips, it should be quite warm. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a good half an hour before cracking open the crust.

 

The Polenta

  1. Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Slowly add the polenta, whisking as you go. Reduce the heat to low and stir for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the polenta starts to pull away from the side of the pan. If too thick, thin down with a little extra water.

  2. Stir in the butter and Parmesan along with a good grinding of fresh pepper; be aware when adding salt because the Parmesan is already salty. Cover and set aside.

  3. To serve the chicken, remove breast meat by running a knife down the centre of the breast then leaver the meat away from the breastbone. Slice each breast in two. To remove the legs, pull the thigh away from the carcass, and cut at the joint. Cut the thigh from the drumstick.

 

Beurre Noisette (Nut Brown Butter)

  1. Don’t start preparing this until the polenta is cooked and the chicken is portioned.

  2. Melt the butter in a small fry pan allowing it to gently reach a bubbly stage after which it should foam. The butter will start to take on colour once the foam subsides. At this point throw in the chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice and season.

  1. To serve, lay a piece of the breast and thigh on a little bed of the creamy polenta and nap with the beurre noisette.

 

* Butchers Salt is a high quality washed salt with a medium crystal size used mainly for food processing.



Recipe by Chef Jason Roberts, check out his Instagram here
Styling by Kayla Cameron. Visit her site here & Instagram here.
Photography by Bonnie Coumbe. See her site here & Instagram here.