10 May 2010
POUSSINS BASTED WITH CACAO
HELP! If you can think of a better name for my dish-let me know. It could do with a bit of 'sexing' up!
For our June session of Cooking Club, I chose the theme of "Chilli & Chocolate", although not necessarily used together. For months I have had in my possession, 3 gleaming, dark, smoky and intoxicating bars of Venezuelan Black 100% cacao. They had been sitting in the darkest, coldest corner of my fridge awaiting a befitting fate and finally, the time had come to make their debut. I did not want to fail the cacao OR my fellow foodies by neglecting to do some research in the kitchen to see what the best medium would be.
The first thing I tried was a shoulder of pork. The idea for the recipe came from Willie Harcourt-Cooze, the brains (and literally, the brawn) behind the product. A cocktail of heady spices, along with some of the cacao would be injected into the joint before being rubbed all over with fennel seeds and salt and then roasted to achieve a crisp crackling with a flavoursome meat underneath. My version of this turned out to be a little bland, and missing any definite hit of the cacao.
Back to the drawing board. After some more Googling I discovered a recipe for Partridge basted in Cacao & Goose Fat. Lets face it-that sounds disgusting but I was intrigued by the concept of basting the bird. So the long and short of it is I ended up with the concept of a marinade to infuse the bird with some base flavours and then layering with the cacao throughout the roasting process.
At this point I would like to credit my VEGETARIAN husband with giving me some ideas for the marinade-the best one probably was to use some Youngs Double Chocolate Stout instead of wine. This, he reasoned, would help with 'layering' the flavour of chocolate. I agreed-although feared it would be chocolate overkill. You might be more game (pardon the pun) to try it.
I used poussins but you could also use chicken marylands or other game birds and adjust the cooking time.
6-8 Poussins, spatchcocked
2 cups shiraz or merlot
3 Tbs brown sugar
4 bay leaves
handful of fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup orange or grapefruit juice
2 strips of orange peel (white pith removed)
2 Tbs Juniper berries, crushed
approximately 80g grated cacao
a little chicken stock
1. Place the marinade ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 10-15 mins.
2. While marinade is cooling, rinse your poussins and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place them skin side up in a large baking tray. (I used a disposable, aluminium baking tray) and pour over the cooled marinade.
3. Roll your sleeves up and massage the poussins with the marinade until thoroughly coated. Cover and marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
4. Take poussins out of fridge and bring to room temperature about 1 hour before cooking. Remove poussins and wipe excess marinade off. Set aside two cups of the marinade.
5. Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown the poussins on both sides, this might only take a couple of minutes. Take care not to burn the skin (the sugar in the marinade may cause the skin to burn if the heat is too high).
6. Place poussins in a clean baking tray, skin side up. Season with sea salt-you can afford to add a little more as the marinade is sweet.
7. Place 3/4 cup of the reserved marinade in a bowl and add the grated cacao. Mix well to dissolve the cacao-warm it up in the microwave if you need to. This mixture will be used to baste the birds as they roast. At this stage, SMELL the mixture-you want to make sure there is a reasonably strong smell of cacao otherwise all you will taste in the end is the red wine.
8. Baste the poussins generously before roasting them in a hot oven (about 200 degrees).
Baste every 10 mins or so, until the poussins are just pink (insert a skewer into the thickest part of the meat and make sure the juices are clear). Remove from the oven , give them a final baste and cover with foil. Rest for 10 mins.
To make a sauce, strain the pan juices (after resting) into a small saucepan, and add a little more grated cacao and stock. Season to taste and simmer for a minute or two. You should get a hearty, savoury gravy with a slightly bitter but definite cacao finish on the palate.
I am desperate to try this again, if for nothing else but to hone down the measurements. Quantities I have given above, are approximate as I created the marinade as I went on the day - I suppose many new recipes begin that way!
Please give it a try, it really rates as the most original, innovative dish I have ever created, and it was pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself!. Feel free to re-invent it to suit your tastes, thats what cooking is about. An evolving process with a few ground rules to guide the way. Send me an email if you would like to discuss :-)