Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chicken and Swede

Here is a cheap, simple and peasant-like dish, elevated to dinner party status by a spirited addition. This dish is almost invariably a huge success.


You will need:
Swede (rutabaga)
Stock (optional)
Pepper and salt
Ouzo, Pernod or another aniseed spirit. Or star aniseed. Or other liqueur or spirit.
Boned chicken thighs (or legs)
Olive oil
Milled pepper

Pare away the outer skin of a swede or two, or more. Cut the flesh into smallish cubes Cover them with water or stock and boil for 20 to 30 minutes - or until soft. If you are using star aniseed instead of an aniseed spirit, add three stars to the water in which you are boiling the swede. Discard them when the swede has been boiled.
Pour off the cooking water for later-to-be-enjoyed soup.
Mash the swede with butter, pepper and salt.
Now stir in a measure (say, a dessertspoon) of Ouzo, Pernod, Ricard, or other aniseed spirit.
Cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish with the mashed swede.
Take chicken thighs (better than legs) from which you have extracted the single, central bone (if you have done this earlier, put the bones in with the swede when you are boiling it to obtain extra flavour). Keep the skin on the thigh pieces and roll them into bundles before arranging them (one large or two small per person) on top of the mashed swede. If boning chicken legs, also discard the sharp bone lying close to the leg bone and use kitchen scissors to trim away the little white ends of tendon. Wrap in their skin, as with thighs.
When they are in position, dribble or brush a little olive oil over each. Add salt, and give them a good milling of black pepper from the pepper mill.
If it is more convenient, the preparation can be done well before the dish is ready for the oven. Give it about an hour and a half at a medium setting (longer seems to make little difference, so it is an excellent dish might you be late or very late to eat). Anyhow, after the chicken skin has become crisp and golden, the dish will be ready for the table.
That's it. And it's a stunner. Serve on its own, or with baked or mashed potato, or beans, or a salad, or...
Perhaps you do not like the taste of aniseed. It is possible to use any spirit or liqueur for this excellent dish. Use your favourite, or any at hand. Grand Marnier, for instance, is excellent.
I have also made this dish with mashed potato instead of swede, and it was excellent. I flavoured the mash with pressed garlic and de-seeded red chillies finely chopped.