Slowly but surely, the world around me is going bananas. The great outdoors around me looks like an 80’s aerobic class and the local brewery teamed up with a Cirque de Soleil stage set and all the confetti ever produced for the CSD parades all across the globe… and had a good twirl on the Studio 54 floor together.
Bubbly people crowding the streets in getups ranging from pink, fluffy and silly to downright scary, loud and flamboyant children of all ages following the official call to let rip and party hard, food- and drinks stalls on every corner, enough sweets to send the entire country into a sugar-induced coma, earsplitting “music” and one parade after another… all while the weather is changing it’s costume every 10 mins or so. Madness marching forwards on all sides… end of February… Yep, it’s time for the carnival! And therefore it’s time to keep myself from going guano right along with the rest of the country by avoiding the tipsy crowds and staying at home! Oooor just the perfect excuse to spend some quality time in the kitchen, have some fun, maybe a glass of wine to honor at least one seasonal tradition and create delicious things for hubby and me in relative sanity. But this time around it seems the sillies actually rubbed off on me a little while I wasn’t looking. Not that I need someone to tell me to be merry, have a good time and be a bit sillier than usual, I’m perfectly capable of doing that all day, every day, thank you very much. But I think the confetti got to me on some subconscious level! Last weekend, while I was staring into the pan holding the prep work for today’s recipe, I noticed a severe increase in very colorful – both in actual color patterns as well as in flavor combinations and aromas – food on our dinner table during the past few weeks while the city was gearing up for the upcoming shindig. Oh well, worse things could have happened! Cheers to colorful food, then~ Here’s what you need for 4 servings:
The Fruity & Spicy Carrottoodles
400-500g Spiralled Carrots
Alt 1: Shave them into ribbons/broad noodles with a veggie peeler if you don’t collect silly kitchen gizmos like I do~
Alt 2: I’ve seen spriralled veggies of all sorts appear in ready-to-eat salad/sandwich/gazpacho coolers in supermarkets around town, so if you’re in a hurry or having a lazy day, check the ones near you for a possible shortcut.
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice
1 Blood Orange, Zest and Juice
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
25g Soft Dried Cranberries
15g Dried Barberries
1 Dried Bay Beaf, finely ground
½ Cinnamon Stick
1 Generous Pinch of Ground cinnamon
6 Allspice Berries, lightly toasted and finely ground
1 Green Cardamom Pod, lightly toasted and finely ground
2 Tsp Brown Sugar
15g Ginger, freshly grated
1 Tsp Hot Chilli Flakes
2-3 Tsp Harissa Paste
Salt and freshly cracked Pepper to taste
250ml Chicken Stock
Opt: 1 Tbsp Limoncello
6 Sprigs of Marjory
1 Tbsp Ghee/Clarified Butter
2 Shallots, very finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely diced
4-8 Fresh Figs, quartered
Just a heads-up: this one’s best if it had a night to soak up the spices and develop a full-bodied oomph in the process.
1) Whether you bought, spirraled or ribboned your carrots, place them in a large colander and douse them with a teakettles’ worth of boiling water to speed-blanch them.
2) Give them a good shake to get rid of excess water and set them aside to cool off for about 15 mins.
3) Add all of the spices, herbs and juices – basically everything except for the garlic, shallots, figs, marjory, ghee and stock – to a large bowl, preferably one with a fitting lid – and give the lot a good stir to combine everything.
4) Add the carrots, close the lid and give the bowl a good shake until the c…oodles? Carrotoodles? eh… the veggies! are evenly coated with the marinade.
5) Alternatively pick up a pair of kitchen tongs and turn the carrots over in the marinade until you get the same result.
6) Close the lid or seal the bowl with a double-layer of clingfilm and place the bowl in the fridge over night or for at least 8 hours.
7) Check up on the proceedings inside after a R&R period of about 6-8 hours – you should find yourself looking at a small puddle of carrot’y lemon dressing gathering on the bottom of the bowl. If that’s not the case, add more lemon juice and a pinch of brown sugar, then shake again and marinade for another couple of hours.
8) Once you’re approaching dinner’o’clock, retrieve the bowl from the fridge and allow the contents to get back up to room temperature while you’re dealing with the bird and its friends.
The Stuffed Lemony Chicken Ballotines
On the Inside…
4 Chicken Thighs, deboned but with the skin on – if you cant find thighs prepped like this in a well sorted supermarket nearby, ask a butcher to do it for you
Alt: Thighs are really the way to go, both taste- and consistency-wise as well as knife-work-wise, but if you can’t buy, prep or eat chicken thighs for whatever reason, use 2 chicken breasts with their skins on instead.
80-100g Goat’s Cheese Rounds, Goat’s Milk Camembert or another firm’ish Goat’s Cheese you can grate into ribbons for the occasion
50g Pine Nuts, lightly toasted and salted
4 Pinches each of Salt, Pepper, Ras el Hanout and Dried Marjory – if you don’t have easy access to a good Ras el Hanout blend yet, have a look-see at my personal Ras el Hanout Recipe over here~
1 Lemon, Zest
2 Dried Figs, thinly sliced
On the Outside…
1 Tsp Ras el Hanout
1 Tsp Vegetable Oil
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp of Lemon Zest
1 Tsp of Honey
1 Pinch of Salt
1) Cover your cutting board or work surface with a layer of clingfilm and make sure you have enough space to lay out and handle the chicken pieces next to eachother. Also make sure to have the ingredients for the filling ready, preferably already divided into 4 portions, and in easy reach. Having to open cheese package-seals or spice containers rocking twist-off caps with chicken-fatty fingers rarely ends well…
2) If you’ve bought the thighs at a supermarket, they will probably sit in their packaging rolled into themselves with the skin on the outside. Take them out of the package, unroll them, pat them dry and gently tug at the edges of the skin to loosen it up a little around the rims. These “flaps” will help you to neatly close the rolls around the filling.
3) Turn the pieces over and give the meaty side a once-over. If you find any knobbly-gnarly bits sticking out despite the butcher’s best efforts, pick up a very sharp knife and remove them.
4) Arrange the pieces in front of you – they should have a slightly rectangular shape, so make sure one of the wider sides is facing towards you, leaving the thickest part, or rather: some sort of dip between two thicker parts of meat, aligned vertiacally down the middle.
5) Place ¼ of cheese and pine nuts, a pinch each of salt, pepper, marjory, Ras el Hanout and ¼ of your pile of lemon zest in a neat, vertical line down the center of each piece of chicken and top the stacks off with the fig slices.
6) Lightly press everything down into neatly packed “logs” without flattening the filling across the meat. Also make sure the filling isn’t quite reaching the top or bottom edges of the meat, otherwise it might crumble out during the rolling- or ooze out during the frying process.
7) Give each piece a quarter of a turn so the short side with the shorter rim of skin hanging over the edge of the meat is pointing towards you now.
8) Hold the filling in place with the tips of your fingers, slide your thumbs beneat the meat and, with a bit of pressure, roll and tuck the thighs around the filling, into firm logs as neatly as possible.
9) Once you reach the other end, use the skin-flaps on the sides and on top to seal up the inside of the ballotine.
10) You could either use toothpicks – carefully as not to create more escape routes for the filling – or butcher’s string to neatly tie up the ballotines, closing up any and all paths out of the parcel.
11) Pick up a small bowl and whisk the lemon juice, zest, honey, salt, vegetable oil and 1 Tsp of Ras el Hanout until well combined. Pair the bowl with a marinade brush and place the duo somewhere safe but in easy reach.
12) Set a large, heavy-based pan onto your stove and evenly sprinkle some salt across the bottom.
13) Place the ballotines, with the long seam facing downwards, inside while the pan is still cold and turn the heat to high.
14) Once small pools of chicken fat starts oozing out around the ballotines and small sizzling noises start tickling your ears, turn the heat down to medium-low, brush the rolls with the spiced lemon mixture and, while rolling them over regularly, fry the stuffed chicken-rolls in their own fat until they’re deliciously golden, crispy and almost cooked through. This will take roundabout 15-20 mins.
Assembling the Dish
1) Grab the carrots and the ingredients you haven’t yet added to the bowl – the stock, garlic, shallots, ghee and the fresh marjory.
2) Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and the optional lemon liqueur, and allow it to simmer away for 10 mins after loosening up all the delicious things sticking to the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.
3) Transfer the chicken out of the pan and onto a warm plate. Tuck them in under a tinfoil-blanket and keep them warm.
4) Tip the reduced stock out of the pan into a small bowl and set it aside for just a couple of mins.
5) Turn the heat to medium-high, add the ghee, marjory leaves, garlic and shallots and sauté the lot with a pinch of salt, pepper and chilli flakes for 3 mins.
6) Use the stock you’ve set aside to deglaze the pan yet again, turn the heat to medium and reduce the sauce down for another 3-4 mins.
7) Add the contents of your carrot bowl, give everything a hearty toss to combine the components, close the lid and allow the lot to cook for 2-3 mins.
8) Divvy the veggie pasta onto plates as soon as they are “al dente”.
9) Top each colorful pile with a stuffed chicken ballotine and fig quarters.
Oh btw, my visual “Highlight” so far was a roundabout 10-year old girl marching towards a Ferris Wheel in a Men-in-Black suit-tie-and-Raybans getup with her Pug – also dressed MiB-Style – and her half-frozen, slightly overweight Dad rocking a pink ballet tutu and tight tights in tow.