Chicken in Pork Bladder
Chef Patrick Henriroux combines one of the wonderful Bresse chickens, complete with its leg tag, with wine, Port, cognac, and truffle juice in a pork bladder, seals it, and lets it poach. The bladder inflates, and this puffed balloon-like presentation is garnished with a blanched leek and brought to the table on a silver tray on a bed of tournéed vegetables sauced with cream. The bladder is pricked carefully before the diners to release the pressure and juices, then the chicken is removed and sliced. While unusual in the U.S., pork bladders make a perfect casement for such a dish, marvelously flexible and strong with the added advantage of absorbing some flavor from the poaching broth. Specialty meat stores may be able to obtain them for you with enough advance warning. A boil-in or baking bag, sealed foil, or even folded and sealed buttered parchment paper could also be used; the flavor would still be wonderful, but the traditional presentation would be lacking. Flat foil and parchment are very tricky, however, being much more difficult to seal than a bag. Chef Henriroux accompanies the dish with a simple herbed pilaf.
- Baking Chickens - 2 small, whole, preferably Bresse, cleaned and trimmed (suggest free-range)
- Black Truffles - 2, sliced very thin
- Medallions Foie Gras - two 3/4-inch-thick
- Pork Bladders - 2, cleaned and checked for holes, or plastic boil-in or baking bags, or large pieces of heavy foil or buttered parchment
- Kosher Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Freshly ground white pepper to taste
- White Wine - 1/2 cup
- Port Wine - 1 cup
- Cognac - 1/2 cup
- Ttruffle Juice - 1/2 cup
- Chicken Stock (see Cooking Basics) - 6 to 8 cups, or, if using plastic baking bags or foil or parchment packets, 6 to 8 cups water, depending upon size of cooking pot (the bladders or bags or packets should be able to float)
- Rice Pilaf
- Unsalted Butter - 1 tablespoon
- Onion - 1/2 onion, minced
- Rice - 1 cup
- Chicken Stock (see Cooking Basics) - 1-1/2 cups
- Bouquet Garni - 1 bouquet garni (sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, sprig of parsley, sprig of chervil, and celery leaves, tied together with cotton string)
- Carrots - 2
- Potatoes - 2, large
- Baby Zucchini - 2
- Haricots Verts - 8 to 10
- Baby Pea Pods - 16
- Scallions - 2, split in half, roots trimmed, tops trimmed to 4 inches
- Baby Leeks - 2, trimmed and cleaned
- Chicken Stock (see Cooking Basics) - 2 cups
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 cup
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons, cut into small bits
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- Truffle - 1/2 truffle, shaved
To prepare the chickens: Wrap a piece of plastic wrap around your first two fingers and slip them under the skin of the chickens, loosening the skin over the breasts. Slip a line of truffle slices under the skin on each side of each chicken breast. Using cotton string, truss the legs and wings tightly against the chicken body. Slip a foie gras medallion into each chicken cavity. Run your hands over the chicken bodies, making sure there are no sharp or protruding pieces which could puncture the bladder or bag. Wash your hands carefully.
If using a bladder or bag, open it and season with half the salt and a few grindings of pepper. Put a chicken inside. Pour in half of the white wine, Port, cognac, and truffle juice. Wash again. Handling it very gently, begin to close the bladder or bag, pressing out all air possible as you close; air inside will expand and too much will cause the bladder or bag to burst. Check for holes; gently gather it and press again to remove any remaining air. Twist the top tightly and tie with cotton string very snugly close to the bottom, leaving a long floppy top. Invert the floppy top over the tied portion, pull it snug, and tie this top portion tightly to the previously tied section with cotton string, creating a doubled top. Repeat with the other chicken.
If using foil or buttered parchment, spread a large piece on a work surface. If a foil piece are not large enough to seal up around a chicken, lay another sheet on top of the first and fold the two pieces together along one side. Fold again three times, then open the foil out over this seam. Season with half the salt and a few grindings of pepper. Place a chicken in the center. Wash your hands. Draw up into a pouch. Add half of the white wine, Port, cognac, and truffle juice. Gently pressing to eliminate all air possible, bring the foil or parchment up around the chicken and juice and crimp several times to seal in a seam across the top. Check to see that no juice comes out. Repeat with the other chicken.
Bring the stock to a boil in a very large pot, then reduce to medium-low. (Note: if using plastic bags or foil or parchment packets, substitute water for the stock). When the stock is barely simmering, add the bladders, bags, or packets, slipping them gently into the stock or water. The bladders or bags will almost instantly inflate. Poach 1 hour, 20 minutes, checking occasionally to see that they remain inflated and no holes have developed. The stock should not bubble or boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
To make the pilaf: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Melt the butter in a medium casserole dish over medium heat and saute the onions until softened and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the stock and bouquet garni. Cover and cook 15 to 17 minutes, until the rice is just tender. Remove and set aside, covered. Before serving, remove the bouquet garni.
To prepare the vegetables: Tourne each carrot, potato, and zucchini: cut each into 2-inch lengths, then into small football-shaped pieces with 7 sides. The pieces should be uniform in size. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the carrots; let the water return to a boil and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until just starting to soften; remove from water with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. Repeat with the potato. Repeat with the zucchini, cooking only 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat with the haricots verts and peas, cooking each 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with the scallions and leeks, boiling 1 to 2 minutes.
To make the sauce: Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the stock has reduced by half. Stir in the cream and cook until reduced by half again. Take the mixture off the heat and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time, until incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For traditional service: Set aside the softened leeks. Warm the remaining vegetables in the sauce. Spread half of the vegetable mixture in a silver tray, deep enough to hold the sauce and liquid from the chicken. Very gently lift an inflated bladder from the poaching broth using two slotted spoons or similar, non-sharp utensils. Center the bladder on the vegetables. Lay one of the softened leeks over the top of the bladder and spread out the leaves. Repeat with the other bladder. Present at the table on the trays. With the tip of a sharp knife, prick the lower side of each bladder, away from the diners, and let the juices run out over the vegetables. Cut the bladders open and reveal the chickens. Remove the trays and carve the chickens. Press the pilaf into four small timbales or molds, then turn one out on each of four warmed serving plates. Place the vegetables on the dishes and add the sliced chicken with the truffled breast slices on top. Spoon sauce from the pan and drizzle over the chicken and vegetables. Garnish the rice and chicken with truffle shavings. Return the dishes to the diners.
For non-traditional service: Place the vegetables in a large warmed baking pan. Very gently lift the bags or foil or parchment packets and place on the vegetables. Prick the lower sides to release the juices; remove the bag, foil, or parchment. Remove the chickens and slice. Press the pilaf into four small timbales or molds, then turn one out on each of four warmed serving plates. Place the vegetables on the dishes and add the sliced chicken with the truffled breast slices on top. Spoon sauce from the pan and drizzle over the chicken and vegetables. Garnish the edge of each plate with a softened leek. Garnish the rice and chicken with truffle shavings.