Monday, November 9, 2009

Camembert Stuffed Chicken with Braised Fennel

This roast chicken is the result of a long weekend of excess on a beach in New South Wales. It was Sunday night, little in the fridge and little inclination to cook so we decided to stuff the remaining camembert into the chicken and roast it. We thought the result was delicious and I have been cooking it ever since. I believe there are versions of a camembert chicken around but this is, to my mind, the easiest and probably the tastiest.
The only refinement from those early days is that I now add some shallots (or onions) with the cheese. The cheese adds a great flavour to the chicken and melts into a lovely gooey-ness. The chicken does not taste like the cheese so please do not be put off by the thought of camembert.
The fennel goes very well with chicken but is not an essential accompaniment.

1 roasting chicken (1.5 - 2 kilos)
2 or 3 shallot or a small onion
100 - 250g camembert

None of these ingredients need to be exact- there is nothing at all exacting about this dish - 100g of camembert will flavour the chicken and melt into a real goo- 250g totally fills the cavity of the chicken and may not totally melt but makes a lovely soft cheesey/onion mixture
to be spooned out and served alongside the chicken.
You will soon get the hang of how much you like and however much you use the chicken will take on the special flavour.

an hour and half before dinner

heat the oven to 180 C (375 F gas 5)

peel and chop the shallots into small pieces.
cut the camembert into bits about the size of an apricot - this is just to help you stuff it into the chicken so no need to be precise.

Put some cheese into the chicken- jam it to the end of the cavity and then put in some of the shallots, more camembert, more shallots- until you have used it all, ending with cheese.

Place the prepared chicken into a roasting tin and pop onto a rack in the middle of the hot oven.

The chicken will take about an hour and quarter- maybe more if it is on the large side.
Check if the chicken is cooked by piercing the meat at the thigh joint and look at the colour of the juices that run out. They must be clear if the chicken is cooked.

Braised fennel

Fennel bulbs (probably one per person, depending on the size)
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
garlic cloves, peeled (maybe 4 or 5 or more if you like)
Salt & pepper

Chopped parsley (optional)

45 minutes before dinner

Prepare the fennel by removing the green tops, the base of the core and any discoloured outer leaves. Cut the bulb into quarters, lengthways.
Heat the oil in a pan, when hot add the fennel and stir it around. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, occasionally stirring the fennel around in the oil. The fennel will
begin to brown.
Heat some water to the boil.
Add the garlic, continue to cook until the garlic changes colour.
Pour boiling water into the saucepan. Enough to come about halfway up the fennel. Lower the heat and simmer until the fennel is soft which will take about a further 15 minutes. If the water boils away before the fennel is cooked add a little more hot water - be sparing as there shouldn't be any water left by the time the fennel is cooked.
Add sea salt and a good grind of pepper.
If you want to add some colour when serving, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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