Bourride of Chicken

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I have been using this recipe for years and cannot remember where it originates. I saw the idea in a book called Secrets of the Great French Restaurants by Louisette Bertholle sometime around 1970 but have no recollection which ‘great French restaurant’ was credited. The recipe has in any case mutated over the years to the point of being similar only in its basic concept.

Bourride is a fish soup thickened with garlic mayonnaise and this version using chicken copies the principle. You can cook and present the chicken whole if you prefer. For reasons of time and practicality in the restaurant, I make one portion at a time with the chicken jointed but left on the bone, and cook some potatoes and leeks in with the bird.

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg (3lb 6oz) chicken
  • ½ small red bell pepper
  • ½ small chilli, deseeded
  • 2cm (¾in) strip of lemon rind
  • 8 small or 4 large new potatoes
  • 1 heaped teaspoon saffron threads
  • a pinch of ground cumin 4 small leeks

For the Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 50ml (2fl oz/½ cup) sunflower oil
  • 50 ml (2fl oz/½ cup) olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

Divide the chicken into breast, leg and thigh portions. In a heavy lidded pot or casserole, fry the chicken, bell pepper, chilli and lemon rind until they start to colour.

Add 500ml (18fl oz/ cup) of water, then the potatoes, saffron and cumin. Bring to the boil. Cover and cook either on top of the stove for 20 minutes, or in a 200°C (400°F/Gas 6) oven.

Lift the chicken out from the pot and carve. If it is still slightly underdone, put it back in the pot for a few moments.

Add the leeks to the potatoes in the pot and bring to the boil.

To make the garlic mayonnaise, whisk together the garlic, egg yolks, vinegar and mustard, then slowly whisk in the oils.

Remove the potatoes and leeks from the cooking liquid. Take the meat from the drumsticks and any other trimmings and purée them in a blender with the cooking liquid, which will have reduced in volume by about one-third.

Add the garlic mayonnaise, a teaspoonful at a time, to the blender until the mixture is the texture of a light sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then serve with the chicken and vegetables.

There is a lot of inspecting done at the smart end of the restaurant trade. This can be wonderful free publicity that boosts morale more than anything sensible like a tax rebate, or, if the tone of the review is negative, it can be seriously depressing.

Those who claim indifference to the stars, marks, gongs or whatever is allocated by the restaurant guides and magazines are not necessarily to be believed. Personal remarks about your taste and comparative judgements between your efforts and those of your competitors strike deep. Then there is the Schadenfreude: a demotion in the Good Food Guide or a negative review would bring joy to those in the trade who are big on envy but low on talent, and we couldn’t have that, could we? So we have to try hard.

Most restaurant staff usually do not recognize reviewers and inspectors and are better for it. My system, in previous kitchens, if I thought a food guide inspector was eating, was always to keep the information to myself and not tell any of the brigade. The most easily spotted inspector - the single man with no booze budget and an all-purpose respectable suit - tends to regularly get a fairly bizarre offering rather than a gastronomic tour de force. Enthusiastic kitchen crew will decorate the grub with knotted chives, twirls of fruit purée or towers of multicoloured vegetables. He will get twice the portion and twice the attention but he won’t get food that is twice as good. At that point it is too late to change the quality of the raw material, the menu choice or the kitchen’s skill.
Our menu shows the reality of cooking. It’s a reflection of confidence that we don’t use wow-presentation. I can make spun-sugar baskets, but choose not to. Chefs need to know where to stop and, if you know yourself the food is okay, at least there is one happy person.
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