- 4 whole chicken leg (drumsticks and thighs), with skin on
- 100g chestnut mushroom, finely chopped
- olive oil
Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…
- 6 best-quality chipolata sausages
- 200g very thin straight rashers pancetta or 20 thin smoked streaky bacon rashers
Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly - the equivalent of streaky bacon. It has a deep, strong,…
- 8 fresh sage leaves
Popular in both Italian and British cookery, sage has long, grey-green leaves with a slightly…
- a few knobs of unsalted butter
- Gordon’s classic vinaigrette (see tip below)
A basic oil and vinegar-based salad dressing usually used to dress salads. A good vinaigrette…
- roasted tomatoes (see tip below)
A member of the nightshade family (along with aubergines, peppers and chillies), tomatoes are in…
Firstly neaten the ends of the drumsticks. Using a small sharp knife, make a cut all around each chicken leg, about 4cm up from the knuckle end. Holding the leg like a gun, squeeze it tight to pull the skin taut, then scrape down to the bottom of the bone to remove the tendons and clean the bone, turning the leg as you go (scissors are good for cutting the tendons). Now position your knife across the bottom of the exposed bone and bash the knife with a rolling pin or meat mallet – the bone will break smoothly.
Lay the chicken legs skin-side down, pull the flaps of skin back and cut the flesh with a very sharp small knife on either side of the thigh bone using a shaving action. Once the bone is exposed, prise it out, then twist and snap it with your fingers to free it from the drumstick. If it doesn’t snap clean you may have to cut it. You now have a part-boned chicken leg.
Lightly sauté the mushrooms in a little hot olive oil for about 5 minutes until lightly browned, season well and leave to cool. Open out the boned chicken legs and spoon in the mushrooms. Cut the end off each chipolata and squeeze the sausagemeat over the mushrooms, using the chipolata skin as a piping bag. Push sausagemeat with your fingers right to the top of the thigh, then close the flaps and pull the skin across to secure. Now roll the legs over to make the parcels as neat as possible, then hold the exposed bone and straighten out each leg.
Cut 4 sheets of foil (enough to wrap each chicken leg comfortably). Lay 6-7 rashers of pancetta down the centre of each sheet, overlapping slightly, then put the chicken legs crossways over the pancetta and top each leg with 2 sage leaves. Lift up the edge of the foil that is furthest away from you, bring it over the chicken and press down on the chicken, so that the pancetta comes away from the foil and sticks to the chicken. Repeat with the other side of the foil so the chicken legs are all wrapped in pancetta.
Roll each leg in the foil, tucking it in and pressing it tight to the chicken to form a neat cylinder. Lift the cylinder up by the bone at one end and roll the foil at both ends, twisting to make a cracker shape.
Preheat oven to fan 200C/conventional 220C/gas 7. Put the chicken parcels on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, turning them twice. Turning them like this ensures they will be evenly coloured. Turn the oven down to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4 and roast for a further 30 minutes, turning once. Remove and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Unwrap, tipping the juices on to a plate.
Heat 1 tbsp oil and a knob of butter in a non-stick sauté pan until hot and foaming. Put the chicken legs in the pan and brown over a high heat on all sides, basting frequently and turning with a pair of tongs. As they start to brown, add a few small knobs of butter one at a time to the fat in the pan (adding the butter a little at a time keeps it fresh and prevents scorching). Lift the chicken legs from the pan and roll them around in the juices on the plate so they pick up a nice glaze.
Cut the stuffed thigh meat of each chicken leg on the diagonal into 3 slices each. Don’t slice the meat too thin or it will get cold. Spoon the polenta on to the plates, stand the drumsticks in the middle and lay 3 slices of stuffed chicken in front. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette and serve immediately, with roasted tomatoes on the side.
Making the chicken look neat
Cleaning and cutting the ends off the drumsticks not only gives a professional look, it also gets rid of the sinewy tendons so the meat shrinks down during roasting and more of the bone is exposed. The bone acts as a handle, both when you stuff and wrap the legs, and when you eat them.
Gordon’s classic vinaigrette
Whisk together 125ml extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar and 1 tbsp lemon juice, adding a quarter to a half tsp fine sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. (If you like, you can shake all the ingredients in a screw-topped jar.)
Halve 8 plum tomatoes lengthways and cut out the green stalk ends in a neat V shape. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up in a baking dish, drizzle with 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, scatter over 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, and the leaves from 1 sprig of fresh thyme. Season, then roast in the oven (fan 130C/conventional 150C/gas 2) for 30-40 minutes.
Wrapping the parcels tightly
It's important to wrap the foil around the chicken in a tight, perfect cylinder. This keeps in all the flavours and stops the parcel from bursting open, so the chicken turns out a good shape for slicing. The 10-minute resting before unwrapping is important too, as it lets the juices settle back into the fibres of the meat and this makes it moister and easier to slice neatly.