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Winner winner chicken dinner!

April 22, 2010

Like many people who enjoy cooking, I express love through food. I have been described as a ‘feeder’ – I encourage mild-to-moderate indulgence (incidentally accompanied by nourishment) and relish time around a shared table with family, friends and strangers.

However, love and happiness are not the only emotions which I express through cooking. When I am frustrated or melancholy, it shows on the plate through barely palpable nuances: off seasoning; bad timing; careless presentation; and, of course, the more palpable occasional disaster. My palate dulls. As a result, during such times, I tend to avoid cooking, or at least simplify the process as much as possible. Cooking becomes a chore to provide fuel for the body rather than an activity to savour and relish.

Happily these periods are becoming more infrequent, and I have lately returned to my culinary duties with gusto. As a guest in the house of my beloved Aunt and Uncle, I am endeavouring to express my delight in their company and hospitality the best way I know how: with food!

This week, Uncle pointed out three Gawler River Poussin (teeny-tiny chickens) languishing in the freezer, which I adopted as this week’s project.

First thing’s first. Whenever I see a Poussin, I immediately think of the famous chicken dinner scene in David Lynch’s 1977 film Eraserhead which I saw for the first time during an ill-advised attempt to study contemporary film at university. Indeed, this scene is about the only thing I can remember from that course (which admittedly made it worthwhile). I still don’t understand what the film is about. Does anyone? Anyhow, if you’re squeamish or easily disturbed, consider yourself warned (though I assure you that, by way of compensation, the subsequent images of Poussin in this post will be rather more appetising):

Back to the Gawler River Poussin. Having travelled through the spiritual homeland of these tiny chickens last week on the way home from a mini-break in the Flinders Ranges, I decided to make a meal utilising as much local produce as possible. I chose as my inspiration an Autumnal recipe from the beautiful cookbook Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. I won’t lie to you, one of the reasons I chose it was because it is essentially a recipe for meat stuffed with other meats (though not quite as high on the meat scale as the famed Turducken). Also, having ample time at my disposal, this quite involved dish allowed me to imbue maximum love and appreciation.

Naturally, Adelaide Central Market had everything I required: Berkshire pork mince from Feast Fine Foods (founded by current Masterchef star Richard Gunner!), meaty speck from Barossa Fine Foods, and quinces from Central Organic.

Even better, I was able to raid Aunt and Uncle’s bountiful garden for herbs, freshly dug spuds and onions.

Grow your own homegrown

Catalan Chicken with Quince Allioli (adapted from recipe in Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa)

Serves 3

The original recipe was for a 1.7kg chook, which I replaced with the Poussin. I also used different herbs, incorporating what we had in the garden, and replaced some of the suggested quantity of breadcrumbs with more pork (why waste valuable cavity space?)

3 x Poussin
olive oil and sea salt

For the stuffing

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
70g speck or pancetta, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
a handful of pine nuts
300g pork, minced
a handful of fresh breadcrumbs
1 small egg, beaten
a generous handful of herbage: I used parsley, sage, marjoram and thyme
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

For the allioli

1 large quince, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
75ml mild extra-virgin olive oil
a good squeeze of lemon juice
5ml white wine vinegar
15ml runny honey

While you’re making the stuffing, cook the quince for the allioli. Simply cover with water in a small saucepan and simmer on a low heat until tender (around 30 minutes). When cooked, drain and keep aside.

Get stuffed!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, then make the stuffing. Saute the onion and speck in olive oil on a medium heat until it begins to caramelise. Add the pine nuts to the pan and allow them to brown slightly. Turn the heat to high, then add the pork mince and cook until beginning to brown. Allow the mixture to cool while you prepare the Poussin, then add to a bowl along with the token breadcrumbs, egg, herbs and seasoning. Mix well.

To prepare the Poussin, rinse inside and out, pat dry with kitchen paper. Stuff the cavity, and secure with toothpicks. Place on a baking tray and massage with olive oil and sea salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. Begin with the Poussin breast-side-up, then turn it breast-side down after 15 minutes, then back again for the final 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest under foil for 10 minutes or so. To test if the bird is cooked, insert a skewer between the leg and thigh. The juices should run clear.

Now for the allioli! This is fun, and best made in a mortar and pestle, though you could use a food processor. Roughly chop the garlic and pulverise with the salt. Add the cooked quince and crush it to a puree. Slowly add the olive oil, drop by drop, beating as you go until everything emulsifies and you have a thick puree. Season with the vinegar, lemon juice and honey. It should be garlicky, salty, sweet and sour.


A toast for the host with the most roast!

Serve Poussin with salad or roast vegetables and a generous side of allioli. I roasted some fennel and potato sprinkled with fennel seeds, which nicely complemented the pork in the dish.

Poussin explody!

This is a dish to be shared with your nearest and dearest. The Poussin is best torn apart with the hands, dipped in allioli, the flesh then sucked from the bone.

Mess and merriment are mandatory at my table.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 09:23

    It’s only quarter past eight in the morning and I could quite happily eat that right now.

    • felixexplody permalink*
      April 22, 2010 19:35

      I wouldn’t rule it out as a breakfast dish, that’s for sure!

  2. April 22, 2010 13:11

    Me too! Yumo! That book you got the recipe from sounds lovely too.

    Re: Eraserhead: never, ever got it….

    • felixexplody permalink*
      April 22, 2010 19:37

      It’s a lovely book, beautiful and approachable recipes with some nice writing and photography. This weekend I’ll be adapting a recipe from it to make quince and rose petal jelly (I’ll save some for you!)

      Eraserhead really was a sign of things to come, David Lynch-wise. It hurts my brain! Love it though.

  3. Maggie Alderson permalink
    April 22, 2010 19:06

    Everything about this post pleases me. The reference to Eraserhead made me shout with laughter.

    I particularly love the way that after making that poussin extraaganza, you casually think to roast some fennel and potatoes with fennel seed – that’s what makes you a real proper cook in my opinion.

    At that point in my kitchen, I would be reaching for the frozen peas.


    • felixexplody permalink*
      April 22, 2010 19:43

      I am flattered Ms Alderson! You have a lifetime standing invitation to dine at my table (or wherever I happen to be staying at the time đŸ™‚

      Frozen peas are indispensable IMHO. They’re usually better than fresh (which, by the time they make it to the shop, are usually old, dry and horrid). I use them in curries, mush them to go with mash, and they’re sooo yummy with butter and some fresh mint. Oh, and out of the bag as a frozen snack. Truly, a favourite since childhood *ahem*

  4. Emma permalink
    April 23, 2010 11:39

    Yum! I hope you are planning the menu for the Dictionary reunion extravaganza in May!

  5. Margo Beasley permalink
    May 14, 2010 19:07

    Hi Flissy,

    Love your blog. It’s making me very hungry in the wilds of northwest Tasmania.



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