Happy Thanksgiving 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!

If you haven’t made a dinner plan for Turkey Day, it’s not entirely too late:

As for your leftovers on Black Friday, you should be able to adapt some of these recipes:

  • The Turkey plov will help you repurpose both your gobbler and your butternut squash.
  • I could see the Guinea Hen Rillettes working with turkey leg and thigh meat.
  • The Kurnik can be done with white and dark meat, and will move a lot of leftover turkey. But of course, you may find yourself with leftover kurnik the next day :)

Kurnik, Russian Chicken Pot Pie

Kurnik, a kind of Russian chicken pot pie, is akin to a coulibiac where the fish is replaced with poultry — the name of the dish derives from the Russian word for chicken. Elena Molokhovets’ seminal A Gift to Young Housewives gives a recipe containing kasha and hardboiled eggs, but my starting point comes from Darra Goldstein’s A Taste of Russia. While Goldstein’s recipe contains most of the ingredients I’m using, I made a few significant changes:

  • Let’s face it: chicken, rice and mushrooms in themselves can be the most boring ingredients on earth. If you want the dish to stand out, use the best. Get the best chicken you can find (mine came from Eataly), use good wild mushrooms (chanterelles here), and make an interesting risotto (mine combines spring onion, fennel and pear).
  • Similarly, we don’t want to prepare a bland filling. This being a kurnik, it really has to taste like chicken. Cooking the chicken in a pressure cooker concentrates the flavors, and most of the resulting chicken stock is used in the risotto.
  • My pie contains only 3 layers, with the rice and eggs at the bottom to absorb any liquid running down from the chicken mixture. Not only does it make the pie way more attractive, it also delineates the flavors better, which is somewhat important given the large numbers of ingredients.

This is a fairly time-consuming recipe. You could prepare all the elements a day in advance and do the assembly and the baking just before serving. The leftovers can be reheated or eaten at room temperature.

Pastry dough
Yields 1 pie

10 oz butter, softened
10 oz cream cheese
2 egg yolks
13 1/2 oz flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until airy, then add the egg yolks. Combine the flour with the salt and baking powder, sift and mix in on low speeds in a few additions.
  • Divide into 2 balls, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Chicken filling

Yields 1 pie

1 whole chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 lb
black pepper, ground
6 oz peeled carrots
6 oz peeled onions, quartered
4 parsley sprigs
1 fennel green stem
2 spring onion stems
3 cups water
12 oz cleaned chanterelles, halved or quartered (depending on their size)
1 oz olive oil
3 oz sour cream
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped chive

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper on all sides, then place into a pressure cooker with the carrots, onions, parsley, fennel stem, onion stems and water. Heat the cooker until it reaches high pressure, then cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Take out the chicken, remove the skin (you can keep some if you want), pick all the meat from the bones, and shred into pieces about 1 1/2″ long. Slice the carrots and transfer to a bowl with the chicken. Reserve the chicken stock for the risotto.
  • Sauté the chanterelles in the olive oil in a pan over high heat, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft. Remove from the heat, mix in the sour cream and transfer to the bowl.
  • Add the chopped parley and chive to the bowl, mix well, cover and refrigerate.

Yields 1 pie

4 1/2 oz peeled spring onion, very thinly sliced
2 1/2 oz fennel white, very thinly sliced
4 1/2 oz peeled and cored Bosc pear, julienne
2 oz butter
4 1/2 oz arborio rice
black pepper, ground
16 oz chicken stock, hot
1/2 tsp fennel pollen

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion, fennel and pear in the butter until soft. Mix in the rice and season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/3 of the chicken stock, cover with a lid, and cook until fully absorbed. Stir the mixture, and repeat twice with the rest of the stock.
  • Mix in the fennel pollen, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Yields 1 pie

pastry dough
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
chicken filling
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 oz water

  • Roll the first ball of dough to a 13″ disc and transfer to a 9″ diameter, 2″ thick pie mold. Spread one layer of the risotto mixture, up to about 1/3 of the height of the mold. Cover with sliced of egg, and add chicken filling to the full height, pressing to pack the mixture a bit. There might be some risotto and chicken left; do not overfill.
  • Roll the second ball of dough to a 13″ disc. Cut a 9″ disc into the dough, cover the pie with it, and tuck it on the sides. Use the trimmings to make decorative patterns on top, and dig a 1″ diameter hole in the center to allow the steam to escape. Brush all over with the egg wash (the egg yolk and water).
  • Bake in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes, then lower to 350 F and bake for another 25 minutes, until golden. Take out of the oven and let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Chicken Tabaka

Chicken tabaka is a Georgian dish prepared in a special pan with a lid, called the tapaka. A small bird (usually a poussin) is flattened and fried whole until brown and crispy on all sides. You can get some very good pictures of the process here (the site is in Russian, but Google Translate does a decent job). The carcass is sometimes flattened with a meat pounder; it’s not rare in restaurants to hear loud banging noises coming from the kitchen just after you order your tabaka!

My main problem with the original recipe is that you end up with too little meat and too many bones.  I like replacing the poussin with a fleshier bird, like a guinea hen, and splitting it in half to serve two people. I get rid of the carcass and some of the wing joints, and keep only the bones that most people enjoy gnawing on. This also allows me to expose most of the skin to the frying pan.

The rest of my preparation focuses on optimizing two qualities of a good chicken: tender meat and crispy skin. To that effect, I brine the meat as with the Guinea Hen Satsivi, then fry it in a hot pan skin side down, before finishing it in a very hot oven without flipping it.

This dish is meant to be complemented with sauce or vegetables, which is why the recipe lists so few ingredients. Try it with tkemali or with a red pepper purée.

Chicken tabaka
Yields 2 servings

1 chicken (or guinea hen), 2 1/2 to 3 lb
kosher salt
3/4 tsp piment d’espelette
1 oz clarified butter

  • Cut off the last 2 wing joints of the chicken and reserve for stock. Separate the meat from the carcass in two halves, starting from the breastbone. Each half should now consist of a boneless breast and bone-in wing joint and leg, skin-on and in one piece. Reserve the carcass for stock, as well. Place the chicken halves in a pot, cover with a brine made of cold water blended with 7% salt, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • Discard the brine and soak the chicken in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with piment d’espelette on all sides. Melt the clarified butter in a hot pan, add the meat skin side down, and sauté over high heat until brown. Transfer to a 500 F oven for about 15 minutes without flipping. Remove from the pan, let rest for a couple minutes, and serve.