Substitute any stuffing you like if the truffle peels are not easily come by—one of those suggested for the split, stuffed, and baked chicken or simply a fabrication of breadcrumbs, egg, herbs, dried or fresh, precooked onion or raw garlic purée . . . Stuffed legs may, of course, be treated like any of the stews as long as the elements in the stuffing marry with those in the sauce.
A mixture similar to the truffle stuffing was recently fabricated in one of my classes to stuff raviolis (the fat pork was replaced by a chunk of white cheese and an egg yolk was added). They were, justifiably, a great hit, served with bubbling brown butter poured over, no cheese.
If the truffle stuffing is retained, it is best to bone and stuff the legs the preceding day to permit the truffle aroma to penetrate the chicken’s flesh.
To Bone the Legs
Cut off the knobs from the drumstick bones, severing the tendons. Using a small, sharply pointed knife, slit the flesh on the skinless surface the length of the thigh bone, forcing the bone free mostly with fingertips, knife tip aiding to sever the tendon attachments at each extremity and to separate it from the drumstick bone. Free the flesh from the upper end of the drumstick bone in the same way and gently pull the bone, holding the leg in the other hand, thumb and curled forefinger pressed against the bone to prevent the flesh’s being torn loose as the bone slips out.
Pound the garlic to a paste with the seasonings and the herbs, add the truffle debris, and pound until reduced to a granular purée. Add the fatback and the breadcrumbs, sprinkle with Cognac, and mash with a fork (or work with your hands), adding enough stock to bring it to a malleable consistency.
Stuff the legs (without packing—the flesh shrinks and the stuffing swells). Each leg will use something less than a foot of string, but the work is easier if a much longer length is threaded to the trussing needle. Sew the borders of the skin together, starting at the top of the leg, run the needle through the drumstick tip, and tie the two ends of string together, pulling gently to form a neat package of the stuffed leg.
Cook the fennel, seasoned, in half the butter over medium heat, tossing or turning it from time to time, for about an hour. Remove to a plate and color the seasoned stuffed legs in the same fat. Return the fennel, if the receptacle is earthenware or heavy copper (if a skillet is used for coloring, transfer everything to a casserole, deglazing the skillet with some of the stock and pouring it over), arranging neatly to permit maximum covering with minimum liquid, pour over stock to cover, and cook, covered, at a bare simmer, for about 50 minutes, degreasing the surface two or three times and, after ½ hour, gently turning the legs over.
Remove legs and fennel, draining well, clip the strings and remove them from the legs, pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan, and return fennel and legs to their casserole, placing the legs on the bed of fennel. Keep covered in a warm place while reducing the braising juices.
Lift as much fat as possible from the surface of the liquid, skim (skin) for 10 minutes or so, a light boil maintained at one side of the pan, and when no more fat is visible, reduce by half over a high flame. Whisk in the remaining butter (softened or cut into small pieces) away from the heat and pour over the meat and fennel.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.