It’s Sunday, and the thought of heading out for a roast is just beginning to make its way into your consciousness.
You’ll most likely spend the coming hours weighing up the particulars.
“Beef? Pork? or… chicken?
or I could do a real madness, and get the nut roast?
There’s probably also a little voice in your head – as there is in mine quite frequently – cautioning you against the potential pitfalls of a dry, uninspiring and underwhelming roast chicken.
In fairness, you only get one shot at this. One attempt to nail the choice. After all, Sunday dinner is a pillar of the Sunday ritual. You may as well right off the following Monday, and even the Tuesday, if you get this wrong.
So, I recommend the fail-safe option. Shelve the roast momentarily, and just make this creamy braised chicken & leek rigatoni, with a pecorino & chicken skin crumb.
Shopping list (serves 6)
Large chicken x 1
Large leeks (green leaves removed & finely chopped) x 3
Large carrot (peeled and finely chopped) x 1
Garlic clove (smashed & chopped) x 1
Bay leaves x 2
Fresh thyme x 1 small handful
White wine x 250ml
Crème fraîche x 4 tbsp
Unsalted butter x 2 tbsp
Boiled water x 1.5L
Braised leek & chicken thighs:
Chicken thighs (skin removed) x 8
Large leeks (green leaves removed & evenly portioned into 3) x 2
Garlic cloves (minced) x 1
Neutral oil x 1 tbsp
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Chicken skin from the whole chicken & thighs
Pecorino cheese x 4 tbsp
Green ends of 4 leeks (washed & roughly chopped)
Light olive oil or neutral oil x 300ml
Make the oil first. Simply blitz together the green leek ends with the oil until completely smooth. Set aside, and when needed, pass the mixture through a cheese cloth and store in the fridge.
All the flavour in the sauce is going to come from a simple leek and chicken bone stock. Break down the chicken, retaining the whole legs and breasts, and do your best to remove all the skin. Store it together with the chicken thighs’ skin. If your knife is sharp, and you’re savvy enough on the ol’ PC, you can do this easily using one of the many youtube tutorial videos. If you can’t be bothered, just get your butcher to do it.
Freeze or chill the breasts for a later date.
In a large saucepan, or stockpot, fry off the vegetables and garlic over a medium heat in a glug of oil. Season well with salt. At the same time, break up the carcass of the chicken into about 10 pieces, and roast with a sprinkling of salt in your oven at 200°C (fan)/220°C for 40 minutes.
In the stockpot, reduce the wine, and add the bay leaves and thyme. Season well again with salt and black pepper. Add the water and keep at a light simmer, before adding the pieces of the chicken carcass. Leave the stock to simmer very lightly for at least 4 hours, longer if possible.
Sieve the mixture, and reduce in a another saucepan until about 400ml remains. Add the butter and crème fraîche, stir well and keep at a very low heat. If needed, you can store this in the fridge for three days, or freeze for a later occasion.
Whilst the stock is simmering away, you’ve got plenty of time to prep the rest of the meal.
With a pinch of good salt, gently fry the all of chicken skin in a dry pan over a medium heat for around 40 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Alternatively just place in your already hot oven on a baking tray, for the same amount of time.
Once done, remove, and allow the pieces to cool and harden further on some kitchen paper. Try not to eat them all before you get round to making the crumb… Retain the liquid chicken fat.
Simply blitz the skin until you have a rough crumb. Mix together with the pecorino cheese, and set aside.
Slice the portions of remaining leek lengthways, making 12 pieces in total. Rub the chicken meat liberally with the lemon juice, zest, oil and garlic, and keep chilled for a couple of hours.
An hour before you want to eat, set your oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C and use a red-hot griddle pan to quickly colour the cut-side of the leek portions. Remove and place in a baking tray. In the same pan cook all the thighs, and two whole legs, on each side for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Remove these, and place on top of the leek in your baking tray.
Pour the chicken fat from before over the top, cover and place the tray in your hot oven, knocking the temp down to 160°C (fan)/180°C when you do. Allow it all to cook for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them where they are, whilst you get on with the rest.
Boil the rigatoni for 10 minutes in well-salted water. Drain the pasta, and add back into the same pan with a couple tablespoon of its water. Mix in the creamy sauce, cover and leave on a medium heat for five more minutes.
When the time comes, simply portion the pasta into bowls. Add the juicy and soft leek portions on, topped with chopped chicken thigh meat, and a good sprinkle of the crumb. A few drops of the leek oil is the final touch.