Spring chicken pot-au-feu

Photo: Marcel Aucar
Photo: Marcel Aucar 

This is a delicious alternative to a regular Sunday roast and it presents so beautifully at the dinner table. The intense stuffing enriches and accents the delicate poached chicken and the potatoes and vegetables take up the flavour of the stock. Be sure to buy super-fresh livers for this, and good quality ham makes such a difference to the stuffing. You will need an eight-litre pot for this recipe.

Ingredients

250 g fresh chicken livers

300 ml milk 

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

100 g butter

5 eschalots, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked

150 g leg ham, diced

1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

120 g sourdough bread, blitzed to a crumb

1.4 kg free-range chicken

4 kipfler potatoes, peeled and halved

½ bulb fennel 

2 fresh bay leaves  

2 litres quality chicken stock

1 bunch dutch carrots, trimmed

1 celery heart, halved 

2 medium leeks, cut into 4 cm pieces

2 stalks cavolo nero

1 garlic clove

1 cup quality mayonnaise 

500 g fresh broad beans, podded, blanched in boiling water and podded again

Method

1. Soak the livers in the milk for 30 minutes. Drain, trim off the white connective tissue and pat dry with paper towel. 

2. Heat a large frying pan until very hot. Season the livers well with salt and pepper and coat with oil. Sear for one minute on each side, adding a little butter to the pan after 30 seconds to help the livers caramelise. Remove and drain on paper towel. Once cool, slice into 0.5 cm slices.

3. Add the remaining butter, eschalots and garlic to a frying pan and cook over medium heat for two to three minutes to soften. Add the thyme and ham and cook for two minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add the livers, parsley, egg and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. 

4. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the chicken. Fold the skin over the opening and secure by threading a skewer through the skin.

5. Place the potatoes in the pot followed by the chicken, fennel, bay leaves and one tablespoon of salt flakes. Add the stock and enough cold water to just cover. Bring to a simmer, skim if necessary and cook gently for one hour. 

6. Once cooked, lift the chicken out of the liquid, carefully supporting it as you do. Place in a shallow bowl, cover with cling film and set aside somewhere warm. 

7. Remove the cooked potatoes (if not tender just cook a little longer) and fennel and set aside. Add the other vegetables, except the broad beans, to the pot and simmer for eight to 10 minutes until cooked.

8. Remove the vegetables from the stock and reduce the liquid over high heat until intense and flavourful. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. 

9. While the stock reduces, crush a garlic clove with a pinch of salt and mix through the mayonnaise with a decent grind of black pepper.

10. Serve the carved chicken in warm bowls with the stuffing and vegetables (including the broad beans) and ladle the hot stock over the top. Top with a dollop of aioli and serve with plenty of bread. 

TIPS

1. It's best to make the stuffing and stuff the bird just before cooking. If you stuff and then refrigerate the chicken, the cooking time will need to be increased, and it may cook less evenly.

2. Roll any excess stuffing in cling film in a tight roll, poach for 10 minutes, slice and serve with the chicken.

3. You can add different vegetables to this, green beans, globe artichokes or whatever looks good at the market.