Wednesday 5 May 2010

Recipe: Pollo Tonnato

A poor man's version of vitello tonnato, I'm not sure which came first. Certainly, Artusi included pollo tonnato when he was writing in the 1890's, and it wouldn't surprise me if the better-known version using veal wasn't a later gentrification of an essentially peasant dish. Excellent for a summer lunch, or supper - we had it last Saturday, when some of the Belforte crowd arrived for lunch in the garden, and there were sufficient leftovers again for supper on Sunday. Obviously, the chicken needs to be cooked the previous day, to give it enough time to cool down properly; apart from that, the process is very straightforward, and takes very little time actually in the kitchen.

I served braised lettuce as the vegetable to go with the chicken, and used the reduced poaching liquid (and vegetables) from the chicken to go with the lettuces once they'd been blanched and halved and were ready to go into the oven. It worked excellently, saved much time, and meant there was absolutely no waste. Alternatively, you could strain the liquid and use it for another meal in a risotto or a soup in place of stock.

For six.

Ingredients: 1 large chicken (or 2 small ones, as I used last week - currently, there don't seem to be any chickens of decent size available here) - preferable if you remove the wishbone at this stage, as it makes carving that much easier later on; 2 carrots, peeled; 1 onion, peeled; 2 sticks celery; 1 small (approx 8 oz) tin of tomato; 10 fl oz white wine; 5 peppercorns; 2 tsp salt; a handful of parsley; 2 egg yolks; approx 10 fl oz olive oil; 4 tbs lemon juice; 4 oz canned tuna; 3 anchovy fillets; 2 tbs capers.


1. In 2 tbs of the oil, heated in a large casserole, sauté the finely diced onion, carrots and celery, until they have completely collapsed (about ten minutes over medium heat). Add the tomato, parsley and wine, and bring to the boil. Add the chicken(s) to the casserole, add seasoning, and cover with water. Bring the liquid to the boil, and then simmer, partially covered for an hour.

2. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid, and allow to cool completely (overnight, and in the fridge is best). Boil the poaching liquid down until you have about a litre left, and use it as suggested above.

4. With the remaining olive oil and the egg yolks make a mayonnaise, and add to it 1 tbs of the lemon juice.

5. Process the tuna, anchovies, and half of the capers, along with the remaining lemon juice; fold this mixture into the mayonnaise, along with the remaining capers. Check and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

6. Cut the chicken into serving pieces (breasts sliced, and legs cut into thighs and drumsticks), and put half of them in the base of a serving dish; cover with half the tuna mixture, and then repeat. Refrigerate until serving...preferably for at least a couple of hours, to allow the flavours to do their thing.