Easy Sunday Lunch – Part 1. Picantones (Spring Chicken) with Dauphinoise Lite

14 Mar

What a week of weather we have had – rain, rain and more rain – of course it is a gift but we are not used to it so we are all moaning away – it gets us every year too!  One day you are having to move under the tree in our courtyard because it is too hot (as in two weeks ago) and the next you are rally driving through the mud up our track!  Anyhow, the thing that never fails to cheer me up is getting stuck into a big cook up for friends.  We were out to lunch last Wednesday at our friends Graham and David having a magnificent lunch – they had just come back from Istanbul and so were making a Turkish banquet – and I mean banquet – it was sensational.  Anyhow, because I knew the forecast was still a bit miserable for the end of the week, I invited them to ours for a warming traditional English roast lunch – the thought of lamb or chicken sizzling away in the oven with mountains of roast potatoes is real food for the soul.  They had another friend coming so I said just bring them too. Another friend from England, Ilse, was staying with us as she is over checking repairs to her cave house which had suffered a little with the inclement weather, so we were going to be a nice little group.

As it turned out, Sunday dawned bright and sunny – and hot!  So I changed my menu slightly and laid up the table outside instead.  This meant saving loads of time lighting wood fires to warm everyone up and instead I flung open all the doors to let the day into the house.  Originally there were to be eight of us, which is the amount that I am most happy to cook for without stressing too much – any more and it is a barbeque, a curry or something that requires no last minute faffing.  Well, there were to be only six but the lunch I made you could actually easily do for 10 without any fuss, even if you are not comfortable cooking for a crowd.  In Spain, we easily get lovely little Picantones – Spring baby chickens – I love them, not just for the taste, but because you have one each and so there is no carving involved at the end and therefore everything can be served very easily, and more to the point, hot!  The recipe I use for this is actually from a tapas book by Penelope Casas where she uses Quail.  But because this is a main course, one would have to have at least two Quail and delicious though they are, they are too fiddly for what I want today.  If you can’t buy baby chickens, then just use one or two beautiful free range hens and joint them before cooking to achieve the no hassle serving.  One very large hen will do for six, but for eight buy two and have some leftovers for the next day.

You need to start the recipe the night before.

6 baby chickens or one large hen jointed (your butcher will do it for you if you ask)

20 cloves of garlic peeled and minced

1 or 2 onions – if they are very large, one will do – cut into chunks

A slosh of stock, I used a bit of chicken stock that I already had but frankly a bit of a vegetable stock cube is fine – use about half a cup full of liquid

A slosh of white wine

A good slug of olive oil

2 or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper

Put everything into a food processor and whiz it all up until you have a paste – if you don’t have a food processor, just chop the onions as finely as you possible can, and mix everything together in a bowl.  Put the chickens or jointed chicken pieces into your roasting tray and cover with the marinade.  Turn all the pieces so they are coated, cover with foil and put in the fridge overnight.

These will take about an hour and hour in a fan oven – start off at 200 c, gas mark 6, and then lower after 20 minutes to 190, gas mark 5.  Cook skin side down for the first 30 minutes and then turn over and baste once or twice throughout the cooking time.  If you like you can remove from the oven, cover and then reheat at 190 for ten minutes when you are ready to serve.

Yesterday I served these with a lovely green salad and a pan of potatoes that I had sliced with a mandolin and layered up with onions and sage, a little olive oil over each layer and a cup of stock, salt and pepper and just put them in with the chicken on a lowish shelf, then turned up the heat to crisp the top layer.  They are utterly delicious and much healthier than Dauphinoise!  I also baked some onions, having simmered them whole for 20 mins, popped them cut in half in a baking tray with a good cup of double cream and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  Then they sat alongside the potatoes for about 25 minutes. Then instead of stuffing I wrapped spicy sausages in bacon and oven baked for 30 mins and served with the chicken platter.   I didn’t put any of the food onto posh serving dishes, just put them out as they were for everyone to help themselves.  I promise this is so much easier than trying to keep a traditional roast lunch hot and is really every bit as good.  The fact you can prep everything in advance just means you are free to be with your friends for most of the time instead of in the kitchen.

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