Venison-stuffed chicken

When chicken’s good it can actually be some of the best meat to eat. But usually the stuff we’re offered in the shops is the intensively-raised variety that lacks its full potential. So we’ve come up with a dish that is lifted by the use of another meat stuffing and uses the tasty and less expensive legs of a chicken.
We’ve used venison mince here but it doesn’t have to be. Any good pork sausage meat will do. Also, if you were using pork you might be able to omit the pork fat. It’s used here because venison is such a lean meat. The easiest way to check what you need is to mix up a bit of the stuffing first, maybe without the fat, and make a small “burger”. Fry it off and taste it to see what you think. This also enables you to get the seasoning right.
serves four
Four whole chicken legs – skin on
200g venison mince or sausage meat
50g pork fat
One head garlic
A sprig each of rosemary and thyme – picked off the stems
One tin of chopped tomatoes or 1kg of fresh tomatoes – chopped
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Rapeseed oil or similar
A pinch of sugar
One bay leaf
String for tying the legs.
First take half the garlic, peel the cloves and crush finely. Finely-chop half the thyme and rosemary, dice up the pork fat and add both to the minced meat. Mix and season with salt and pepper.
If you have a half-decent butcher you could ask for the bones to be removed from the chicken legs but it’s not that difficult and just involves a little patience. First lay the chicken flat on the chopping board, skin side down. Pinch the thigh bone between the fore finger and thumb and simply cut around it with a thin sharp knife. Work down past the knee joint, making sure not to break the skin, and pull the bone free. You’ll now have a boned chicken leg but don’t throw the bones away.
Divide the stuffing into four and fill each leg, folding the meat and skin around the stuffing so that it forms a tidy parcel. Secure by tying with the string like wrapping a present.
Heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Meanwhile, heat a steep-sided pot or oven-proof pan,  add a good slug of oil and brown the chicken legs on all sides while adding the removed bones and browning those too. Place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes or so whilst roughly chopping the rest of the garlic, thyme, rosemary and, if using, fresh tomatoes. Remove the pan from the oven and lower the temperature to 160°C, gas mark 3. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan with the chicken and bones and return to the oven to cook a further 30 minutes.
Lift the chicken legs from the pan and keep warm. Push the sauce through a sieve and return to the pan to reduce until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning; adding a little sugar if necessary, particularly if using fresh tomatoes.
Cut the string from the chicken legs, slice in two and
serve with some greens and good bread to mop-up the delicious sauce.

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