Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald
“What’s good, Phil?” asked an incoming Bambini Trust client as famous Sydney artist “Phil” exited the small Italian café in Sydney’s CBD.
“Chook in a Bag” was the reply, accompanied by a flamboyant flip of his hand as Phil exited the café.
When pushed at gunpoint to do one of those ridiculous cooking interviews that all chefs will agree are unfair as it’s not a true indication of your ability, I choose as the main course my No. 1 cannot-fail dish: Chook in a Bag.
Its origins are French, but it was remastered in Oz in the ’90s by the Mod-Oz father Andrew Blake at Café Kanis. The tart verjuice glaze is balanced by the sweetness of the parsnip mash and, as claimed by Darren Smalley on Huntress, “everything tastes better with bacon.”
The chook, partially steamed in its juices, is moist, and the prosciutto acts like a leather jacket to keep everything in shape. The secret is the gravy, which is finished with all the juices that were trapped in the bag, along with the addition of truffle butter.
Jumbo raisins soaked in verjuice baked within the bag and separately steamed asparagus finish the dish off nicely.
Free-range chicken breast, Kiev cut, skin on
White truffle butter
Asparagus spears, trimmed
Chicken stock gravy
Parsnip purée made with milk and butter
Soak the raisins in verjuice and prepare chicken gravy. Set aside.
Wrap each chicken fillet in prosciutto, remembering to place a small amount of butter and thyme under the skin.
On a clean sheet of parchment paper, place the chicken breast with a small amount of soaked raisins and a small amount of chicken stock. Wrap it all up, en papillotte.
When ready to fire, place the chicken in a bag in a 200 C oven for approximately 12 minutes. Pull the chicken out and rest in a ziplock bag. Add the juices in the bag to the prepared chicken gravy, then finish the gravy with truffle butter and the soaked, baked raisins.
Place a blob of hot parsnip mash in a large metal ring and then, ring removed, place the chicken on top of that.
The asparagus, having been quickly steamed, is placed around the chicken, then the gravy is drizzled over the chicken. The final garnish is an earthy clipping of fresh thyme that adds depth and color to this French-turned-Aussie classic.
Tim MacDonald (timothymacdonald.weebly.com) has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.