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In this elegant salad the chicken thighs are marinated, confit in duck fat, deboned and rolled. Producing a moist and tender texture full of flavour. This is accompanied by pancetta and morels and finished off with a creamy little gem lettuce sauce.
The day before: 2 hours marinating, 2 hours cooking and 8 + hours refrigerating
Next day: about 50 minutes
Peel and crush the garlic, pick thyme leaves discarding the woody stems and finely slice the bay leaf. Mix these ingredients with the salt to form a rough paste and rub onto the chicken. Transfer chicken to the refrigerator and marinate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 150°C. Rinse the chicken to remove the marinade and pat dry. Place the chicken into an oven proof dish with the duck fat ensuring the fat covers the chicken. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours. Remove chicken from fat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the bone from each chicken thigh by carefully pushing it out leaving the remaining thigh intact. Roll tightly in plastic film to create a cylindrical tube shape. Refrigerate overnight until firm.
Blanch little gem lettuces in salted boiling water; immediately refresh in ice cold water. Finely chop the shallot and peel and crush the garlic. Melt butter in a pan, add shallot, garlic and bouquet garni and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook for 2 minutes. Add blanched lettuces and cream and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat, blend using a hand blender, pass through a fine mesh sieve and season. Refrigerate until required.
Wash and dry morels to remove any dirt. Blanch peas in salted boiling water and refresh in ice cold water. Blanch the pancetta in the same boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and cut into lardons. Peel baby carrots. In a small pan combine the sherry vinegar, sugar, water and bring to the boil, add carrots. Remove from the heat and leave to cool covered with plastic film.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Remove chicken from plastic film and slice each thigh into 2 equally sized pieces. Add rapeseed oil to an oven proof pan; fry the chicken turning regularly to colour. Transfer chicken to oven to reheat, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile heat the butter in a pan, add pancetta and cook until coloured, about 3 minutes. Add morels to the same pan and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the morels have softened. Add peas to reheat, about 2 minutes. Remove lettuce cream from refrigerator and warm through over a low heat. Slice the carrots; some lengthways and some into different sized discs. Using the back of a spoon or a scraper spread the lettuce cream over the plate creating a rectangle shape down the centre. Place 2 pieces of chicken thigh on top. Arrange the morels, pancetta, carrots and peas around the chicken, roughly keeping within the rectangle of lettuce cream. Finish with the lamb’s lettuce leaves.
The first foray into spring brings us morels and there is nothing better than confit chicken to pair it with. Even though it is technically a salad, this dish is substantial and calls for a comparatively full flavoured white wine. The tannins of a red wine would clash with the crunchiness of the peas and lettuce. An option would be to go for a wine that combines concentration and power with a good structure and ripe citrus aroma. The Lune d’Argent, Clos des Lunes from Bordeaux in a 2012 vintage, partially aged in oak barrels, would fit the bill perfectly. The 70% Semillon brings concentration and breadth that will oppose the richness of the duck fat and the earthiness of the morels. The 30% Sauvignon Blanc will provide aromatics and freshness that will marry with the green flavours of the peas and the Lettuce. If you can’t find this wine, a white Pessac-Leognan or an oaked New World Sauvignon Blanc would be the ideal alternative. To enable the wine to express all its complexity and depth of flavours, it might be worth not serving it too cold, refrain from using an ice bucket and take it out from the refrigerator a good 20 minutes before serving.
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