One of the great pleasures of the week is ‘Family Dinner’. We have this every Sunday evening. All are welcome and there is shame felt by any family member who “can’t make it”, no matter what the excuse. For over 20 years, my Mum has joined us for this weekly occasion. Her place is, rightly, at the head of the table and she has dispenses great wit, wisdom and example to the younger generations.
This week’s dinner was heading for a bit of a disaster. Youngest has abandoned the family unit to develop her life in Canada (Skype calls just aren’t the same as having her smiling face at the table). Eldest decided that visiting a comic convention in the north of England was a better idea than showing up for this family tradition. This left me with three mouths to feed. Having never cooked them before, I thought we would give Poussin with Garlic, Lemon and Shallots a go. I served it with Baked Rosemary Potatoes – a very good combination.
While we were eating, Mum was reminded of a meal she had some decades ago and the first time she was served ‘poussin’. She and Dad had been invited to dinner in a teetotal house where they rarely cooked for guests. Each bemused diner was served with a pile of vegetables and a full, large chicken on their plate. The host assuring the aghast guests; “As you know, we don’t drink ourselves but don’t worry, the white wine has been warming by the fire.” Hot white wine and a whole chicken each! We will try to be a bit more civilised.
Ingredients – for the Poussin
- 3 poussin
- 3 bulbs of garlic
- 6 to 9 shallots
- 1 lemon
- 250 ml good chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to season
Ingredients – for the potatoes
- Potatoes for three people
- Plenty of rosemary
- Salt and pepper to season
- Olive oil to drizzle
Take the elastic string off the poussin and pin the legs together, using two cocktail sticks per bird.
Heat a little oil in an ovenproof baking dish. Season the birds and brown them on as many sides as their awkward shape will allow.
Slice the garlic bulbs across the middle, peel the shallots and slice the lemon into three or four pieces.
Place all these in the bottom of the baking dish. Place the browned birds on top.
Pour about half of the chicken stock in and place in a 180º C (350º F) oven for 35 minutes. Prepare the potatoes by chopping them into small pieces, drizzling with olive oil and applying the rosemary, salt and pepper.
Put these in the oven at the same time as the poussin. After 35 minutes, take the cooked poussin out and turn the heat up to 200º, turning on the fan.
This is to finish the potatoes. While this is going on, take the poussin, garlic, shallots and lemon out of the dish. Add the rest of the stock and then reduce this gravy, over a high heat, by half. Strain and serve over the bird, garlic, shallots and potatoes.
Do cook this simple dish. Don’t skimp on the garlic. It is beautiful squashed with a fork and mixed into the gravy. I know that might seem like too much garlic for some of you. Try it and be converted. Just be sure to chill the wine and get a poussin rather than a 1.5 kilo chicken for each of your guests.