Confit chicken wings with cauliflower, sultanas and pine nuts. Photo: Marina Oliphant
Most people cook chicken so often, they fall into the same groove. Roast chicken, pan-fried chicken, grilled chicken; and repeat. But that means missing out on a lot of the wonderful and diverse meals chicken offers with its various bits and pieces.
Chicken livers make one of the fastest meals around, with little more than a quick toss in the pan to make a great sauce for pasta. Ask the butcher to mince a few chicken thighs, and you've got yourself the makings of some irresistible meatballs.
Meanwhile, chicken wings are the new darling of the chef set, the once humble off-cut being elevated by chefs such as Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain, whose recipe for confit chicken wings inspired the one here. He teams them with nasturtium leaves and soft, just-set eggs cooked at 62 degrees for 35 minutes; I prefer cauliflower, sultanas and pine nuts.
Slow-cooked in olive oil and left for a few hours or overnight to settle, the chicken pan-fries to a wonderful golden crispness: the cook's reward for trying something new.
If your celery comes without its beautiful green leaves, substitute flat-leaf parsley. Don't worry if the soft, cooked meat shreds as you remove the bones, just push the meat back into place and it will set into its natural shape while in the fridge.
16 chicken wings
1 tsp sea salt and pepper
Up to 600ml olive oil
2 tbsp sultanas
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
400g potatoes, peeled and chopped
600g cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup picked celery leaves, washed
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Heat oven to 140C. Clean chicken wings, trim off wing tips, and pat dry. Toss with salt and place snugly in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add olive oil until just covered, cover and bake for one hour. Remove wings and cool until you can handle them. (Strain oil, refrigerate, and re-use in other recipes.) Separate the two sections of each wing and gently push out and discard bones, keeping meaty bits as complete as possible. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
Soak sultanas in vinegar for 20 minutes, then drain. Cook potato in simmering salted water for 15 minutes and cauliflower for five minutes or until both are tender. Drain. To serve, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and gently cook chicken skin-side down in a pan over medium heat until crisp and golden. Arrange cauliflower, potato, chicken and celery leaves on each plate, scatter with sultanas, pine nuts, salt and pepper, and serve.
Look for good, fresh chicken livers from a chicken specialist or good butcher. My favourite egg pasta is the little golden nests of ribbons nestled in a box of De Cecco fettuccine all'uovo.
300g tagliatelle or fettuccine
500g chicken livers, trimmed and cleaned
2 tbsp butter
3 rashers of bacon, chopped into lardons
150ml white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp small capers, rinsed
100ml chicken stock
100g spinach leaves
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
100g rocket leaves
2 tbsp grated parmesan for serving
Cook pasta in salted, simmering water for eight minutes or until al dente. Cut chicken livers into bite-sized pieces. Melt one tablespoon butter in a frying pan, add bacon and cook for two minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add remaining butter and livers and cook for three minutes over medium heat, tossing well. Add wine, tomato paste, anchovy and capers and cook for another three minutes, stirring. Add chicken stock, spinach, sea salt and pepper and cook for one minute until spinach has wilted. Remove from heat and serve over pasta on warm dinner plates. Top with a handful of rocket, grated parmesan, extra black pepper and serve.
Freshly minced thigh meat is the ideal carrier for the light, bright flavours of lemon zest, garlic and parmesan in these chicken patties. Vegetarians, all is not lost: serve sweetcorn or chickpea fritters with the fetta yoghurt and pickled red onion instead.
1 red onion, very finely sliced
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp lemon juice
100g day-old bread, torn
500g minced chicken (preferably thigh)
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp olive oil
200ml natural yoghurt
100g fetta, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
100g baby spinach
2 tbsp Kalamata olives
1 lemon, quartered
To pickle red onion, slice it into rings, toss with salt and two tablespoons lemon juice and set aside. Heat oven to 180C. Soak bread in milk for five minutes, then lightly squeeze dry. Mix with chicken, parmesan, egg, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon zest and remaining lemon juice, mulching mixture with your hands. Form meat into eight to 10 patties in your hands.
Heat oil in a pan and cook patties over medium heat, in batches, until lightly golden on both sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Mix yoghurt, fetta, oregano, sea salt and pepper. Serve polpettes on a bed of spinach leaves, with fetta yoghurt, olives, lemon, and a tangle of pickled red onion.