Friday, December 23, 2005

Truffled Chicken

One email discussion list I subscribe to is all about Molecular Gastronomy (more info). The list isn't very active, but does have interesting discussions with chefs all over the world. Most of the cooking, as well as the science is above my head. Still, fun to read.

I want to pull bits and pieces of a recent thread. The first email announces an interesting way to prepare a chicken:
I am working in a small village in Spain near the French Border at a classical restaurant. Last sunday the chef and I prepared a classical french recipe more or less a truffled chicken also called "chicken in half mourning". After cleaning the birds, slices of truffles are inserted between the skin and meat on all sides of the bird.

After they are finished they are individually wrapped in a linen
table cloth and buried in the ground for 14 days. It is winter here
and is normally about 0-4 degrees celcius. The reason of this is
because it was believed that if you put the truffle back in the ground
it will continue to produce its aroma.

Does anyone know if there is any validity in this recipe? I will let
you know how they come out on the 31st of December.


Wow, I'm intrigued. Burying foods isn't uncommon, but was mainly done before refrigeration. Let's look at some of the responses.

Maybe refrigeration would work:
I am not aware of any scientific explanation to support putting a truffle back in the ground. Mind you, if the truffle is placed as you say within the chicken, buried and held at a low temperature then nature is producing a natural vac pac. There will be no fragrance molecules lost into the atmosphere. The fragrance of the truffle should slowly penetrate into the flesh of the chicken. I believe this to be a sensible old recipe. although I don't believe that the truffle gains anything else from being re-buried. You may achieve a similar result buy vac pac and refrigeration at low temp.

sounds like a classic technique:
Probably the fact of buring the chicken is to rotten it. Since the middle ages "volaille" has been let to rotten. It is said that putrefaction is a biological way of "cooking". This will soften the chicken's meat.

Secondly the fact that is was thought that truffle could keep on generating aroma once reburied i think is improbable....but all that i have just said are hypothesis and not scientifically proved (as usually in Kitchen).

Try a vacuum seal:
Truffle is aromatic and will diffuse into the chicken over time. Putting the chicken in the ground is highly likely to be the ancient equivalent of putting it in a refrigirator. You would get the same effect (but better controlled, and more hygenic) by putting truffle under the skin and wrapping it in plastic (or better yet vacuum sealing) in the fridge for a few days.

The original chef responds:
I agree with all the previous comments from ***, ****, and *****. Nevertheless, I will continue doing it in the ground, because although the effect is probably similar wrapped in plastic (and much more hygienic), the poetry in burying the chicken is wonderful.

And finally:
Well thanks everyone for the comments, but it seems that only time will tell. We kept one of the chickens at the restaurant in the fridge. So I will get back to you in the beginning of January to let you know how they turned out.

And I'll update when our chef does.

I did look for a recipe and found this Truffled Chicken from a show on the Canadian FoodTV. Does not involve burying the chicken.

I did find this explanation for Chicken in half mourning(google):
‘chicken in half-mourning’ in which black truffle slices are inserted under the skin, representing mourning coats worn at funerals. The poached chicken skin lays a translucent white chemise over the black funeral coat.


Final note. I've never tried truffle, though I would like to; however, when it comes to nasty truffle oil no one says it better than Poppy Z. Brite in this restaurant review:
Truffle oil is the ketchup of the modern foodie. I didn't make that up, but I fervently agree with it. Plus it tastes like ass.

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