There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to prepare a bird. Roasted, poached, steamed, grilled, curried: the combinations of flavors and methods could fill an encyclopedia. And we bet you've had your fill.
Chicken in a pig's bladder, however, has probably not been on the menu. While it might sound offal -- pun intended -- stuffed with butter and fresh truffle, the dish is actually pretty freaking good.
If you're feeling curious or want to try to stuff a bladder yourself, we did a pictorial how-to with Executive Chef Jim Leiken formerly of Cafe Boulud.
According to Leiken, "Traditionally, the dish uses poulet de bresse, which are all over the place in Lyon, Burgundy, but it's really difficult to find over here. They grow much slower than commercial chickens over here -- about three times slower. I've been using poulet rouge out of North Carolina."
In the future, Leiken plans to try the French Chicken Farmer out of Loxhatchee for authentic poulet de bresse.
Both poulet de bresse and poulet rouge weigh around three to three and a half pounds a piece. Regardless of variety, a smaller chicken is needed for this recipe.
Step One: Take your dried pig's bladder and soak it in water over night to make it more pliable. Don't worry: it should already have been cleaned. "Tracking down the bladder is the hardest part of this recipe," says Leiken. "I finally found a sausage place out of Wisconsin that could ship them to me. It does impart a slight flavor to the dish, but if you didn't know how it was cooked, you could never tell."
Step Two: Place the chicken on a cutting board with the neck facing toward you. Cut the wings tips off at the first joint. Feel inside the cavity for the wishbone and carefully remove it with a pairing knife. "You don't have to remove the wishbone," says Leiken. "But it ensures you don't lose any meat while carving."
Step Three: Thinly slice about four or five shavings of fresh truffle on a mandolin. Make sure to have enough to cover each breast in a nice layer from front to back. At the moment, Leiken is using summer truffle, which runs about $150 per pound. "Summer truffle is not as flavorful as winter, but its fresh right now and no where near as expensive; winter truffle runs $8,000 to $10,000. For this dish, you can use canned truffle if you want, which will also bring a lot of flavor. You would never want to use white truffle, because you wouldn't want to cook it."
Step Four: Starting at from the bottom, gently slide your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the breast, working your way toward the top of the breast. Stuff about one tablespoon of butter per side and layer the truffle on top.
Step Five: Truss the chicken. If you need directions, click here for a pictorial guide.
Step Six: Remove the bladder from the water in which it was soaked. Make an incision large enough to insert the chicken.
Step Seven: Insert the chicken and add a couple of tablespoons of butter -- the more the merrier -- and a quarter of a cup of truffle juice. Tie the bladder off below the incision.
Step Eight: Bring water or chicken stock to a simmer in a large pan. The bladder will puff up when you place it in the liquid. Cook for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, basting regularly. You do not want the bladder to dry out, as it could explode. Overcooking shouldn't be a problem, as there is plenty of moisture inside the bladder, but make sure you don't undercook the bird. Leiken roughly follows the twenty minute per pound rule, so if your chicken is a bit larger, cook it a bit longer. "Essentially, it's poaching," said Leiken. "Before there was sous vide, there was this."
Step Nine: Remove the bladder from the pan and place over another pan or large dish. Cut the chicken out of the bladder, place the internal cooking liquid in a sauce pan, and reduce until it the consistency coats the back of a spoon.
Step Ten: Carve and plate the chicken. Top it off with sauce. And bon appétit!
Honestly, there is no taste of innards in this dish. Just perfectly moist chicken with some light truffle; delicate and delicious.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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