Ultimate Chicken, Star Anise Jus and Aubergine Caviar

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Serves 4
Method: 

If you read my article on Lameloise, I mentioned the delight of a Bresse Chicken. The only place I have found these in Britain is Harrods. They are about £20 each, but are fantastic. A different treat to fillet steak. I thought about how I could improve a humble bog standard chicken. This one was £6. My master plan was to brine it. This sounds cumbersome and time consuming, but, it is amazing. I've brined before and now found a brine, not only of salt, also herbs and sweetness that elevate the humble chicken to the best you could wish for. So what is brining and what does it do. In simplistic terms you are adding fluid to the chicken. The bird has water in it (muscles) added to a saline solution and by the magic of osmosis, fluid is passed around the two bodies. I won't bore you with the numbers, but using a low salt brine 6% (60g per litre of water) there's just enough salt to produce the chemical reaction without adding loads of salt to the meat. The benefit of doing this is when you cook the chicken it will not lose all of its juices and stay really tender. This brine was done for 5 hours, so start in the morning. Or if you fancy trying it for a sunday lunch, brine overnight. 

I filleted the chicken myself to make supremes, then used the carcass to make a stock for my sauce. A butcher will do this for you, the lad at Sainsburys won't know what you are talking about!

  1. Mix the ingredients from the water to the lemon zest together. Add the chicken breasts for 5 hours. A whole chicken will need overnight.
  2. Split the Aubergines in two, roast at 200°c for 45-50mins until completely soft. Add the garlic head, wrapped in foil, for 30mins.
  3. Add the aubergine flesh to a processor, squeeze out all of the garlic pulp, season and puree. 
  4. For the sauce, finely slice the shallot. Add to a pan with a touch of oil and the star anise. Cook until beginning to caramelise. Add the port, reduce until sticky. Add the carrot and cinnamon stick, now the wine, reduce by half. Now add the stock. Reduce down until the sauce begins to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and season. Add a few knobs of butter to add a glossy finish.
  5. Remove the chicken from the brine, dry with kitchen towel. Pan fry skin side down for 5-6 minutes over a medium heat until the skin is browned. Transfer to a 180°c oven for 6-8 minutes to finish cookng.

Put some spinach in the middle of a plate, add the chicken on top. Spoon the sauce around with spoonfuls of the aubergine caviar.

 

Ingredients: 
  • Two Chicken or Four Breasts
  • 2 Aubergines
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1 Large Shallot
  • 1 Carrot
  • 100ml Port
  • 150ml Red WIne
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 500ml Chicken Stock
  • Good knob of butter
  • 1 Litre Water
  • 60g Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • Few Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • Zest of a lemon.
  • Buttered Spinach and New Potatoes to serve.