Last month I showed you a gorgeous fresh black truffle received from a special reader of my blog, who prefers to stay anonymous. The package also included the right tool to shave it, and a bonus bottle of white truffle oil. I had to come up with a nice recipe to showcase this once-in-a-lifetime goodie.  After spending hours with cookbooks, magazines, and surfing the net, I finally found the recipe: a classic French dish called “Poulet Demi-Deuil“, which loosely translates as “chicken in half-mourning”. Morbid? Well, not really, the name is associated with the black truffle slices showing through the skin, like a black veil.  Let’s say it’s poetic, ok? Chicken DemiDeuil
POULET DEMI-DEUIL  (Truffle Braised Chicken)
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 oz. fresh black truffle
2 Tbs. Madeira wine; more as needed
One 2-1/2-lb.chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
4 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
2 medium carrots, peeled 2 large leeks (white parts only)
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the truffle very thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp, thin-bladed knife and a steady hand. Put the slices in a small bowl, add the Madeira, and let soak briefly to moisten the truffles (making it easier to slide them under the chicken skin and giving them some Madeira flavor).

Strain the truffle in a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Reserve the liquid. Moisten your hands under cold running water and loosen the skin on the chickens’ breasts and thighs, carefully sliding your hands between the skin and meat.   Slide the truffle slices under the skin of the chicken breasts to cover them, then slide a slice or two under the skin of each thigh. Finely chop the remaining truffle slices and set aside for use in the sauce. Truss the chickens, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight to allow the truffles to flavor and perfume the chickens.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, then rub with the softened butter. Set on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes. (The chicken will be underdone.) Pour the stock, reserved chopped truffle, and reserved Madeira into a ovenproof, flameproof casserole large enough to hold the chicken with some room to spare. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid is simmering and cook until reduced to about 2 cups;  about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the carrots and leeks into square segments, keeping them separate. Wash the leeks well. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cut out the center portion by slicing down its length to remove 4 rounded sides. Discard the rectangular center portion and cut the outer portions into uniformly sized pieces. about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the strings from the chicken and set it in the casserole, breast side up. Add the vegetables, cover and braise at a simmer until fully cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Raise the heat in the pan with the stock and veggies to high, and cook until the broth has reduced a bit, about 5 minutes. Swirl in the cold butter, one cube at a time, to thicken and enrich it. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, Madeira, and/or lemon juice. Spoon some sauce and vegetables over the chicken on the serving platter and serve.


to print the recipe, click here

composite1 Comments: My hands were shaking as I started slicing the truffle. In a flash-back, I had this vision of my days as a pos-doc in Stanford, around 1988. At some point I needed to use a special reagent: it was an antibody chemically coupled to a gold particle that could be later visualized under the electron microscope. In those days, such reagents were tremendously expensive, and the P.I. of my lab was definitely not swimming in grant money. So, I knew I had to be VERY careful and not make any mistakes once I opened that tiny little container. My hands were shaking, I was hyperventilating, even feeling a bit queasy.  But, back to the chicken, even though no gold-labeled antibody was involved, I went through similar hyperventilation as I worked to stuff the delicate slices under the skin. skinstuffing Phil at first was looking over my shoulder, but at some point he said “I think I should leave you alone with the truffle“. Smart man. The soaking of the slices in Madeira wine is a must, not so much for flavor, but to allow the slices to slide easily under the skin. If you don’t do that each slice will crumble in tiny pieces, and that would make a polka-dot instead of a black veil. You don’t want that. composite2
Of course, for such a special recipe, I had to make chicken stock from scratch, and used my favorite method: chicken wings, carrots, celery, onions, some herbs, a smidgen of ginger. In a little over one hour I had a luscious stock, dense with gelatin, intensely flavored.   It would be a crime to join fresh truffles with something poured out of a can, don’t you agree?

Pointers for success:  First, do the truffle stuffing under the skin 24 hours before you plan to make the dish. You get a much more intense flavor of truffle through the meat by doing that. Do not skip this advice.  Second, soak the truffles in Madeira wine for the reasons I specified.  Third, make your own chicken stock.  Those are three simple details that will make this recipe really shine.  And you don’t want to cut corners when dealing with such delicacy…

Even though the truffle flavor is present in every bite of the chicken and in the sauce that must be spooned all over your side dish of choice, when you get one of the actual slices in your mouth, it is heavenly! I found it quite interesting that the smell of the fresh truffle, especially as the days went by, was almost unpleasant. Strong, and pungent, like a Pont l’Eveque or a ripe Camembert. But the taste… sublime!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, my secret friend!  In the near future I will share two more recipes using the special gift you were so kind to send me…

ONE  YEAR AGO: My Rio de Janeiro: A cookbook review
TWO YEARS AGO: Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
THREE YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad
FOUR YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup
FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread


During our sabbatical  year at UCLA, we often went to a restaurant in our  street, Beverly Glen Blvd, right at its junction with Mulholland Drive.  It was a small Italian restaurant called Fabrocini’s, almost hidden in a little corner, but always packed with folks from the neighborhood. The restaurant is affordable (for L.A. standards, that is), has an extensive menu, and the moment you sit at the table the waiter greets you with a small bowl of their focaccia.  Interestingly, each time we went there, the focaccia was just a little different, as if the baker loved to improvise.  We were obviously hooked!

One evening I was not very hungry and ordered a small bowl of their stracciatella soup for my dinner.   From the first spoonful, I was equally hooked.  Their version had spinach and a little pasta added to the basic egg-drop preparation, in a light and delicious broth.  I loved it so much that before we left L.A. I wrote an email asking for the recipe, but they never even replied to it…  😦      Undeterred, I went on my own quest to make it at home, and finally found a good version on a Food and Wine magazine.

(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

1 cup tubetti, ditalini or other small pasta
1 quart chicken stock, preferably home made (recipe follows)
1 garlic clove, cut in 4 pieces
3- 4 ounces baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well.

In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer with the garlic; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic using a slotted spoon, add the pasta and spinach and cook over medium heat until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the eggs, breaking them into long strands. Simmer the soup until the eggs are just firm, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmigiano cheese. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve with additional cheese grated on top.

to print the recipe, click here

(adapted from Mark Bittman, and other sources)

8 – 10 chicken wings
10 cups water
1 onion, cut in half
4 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
4 green onions, cut in half
1 piece of ginger (1/2 inch thick)
1 bay leaf

Stuck 2 cloves into each onion half, add all ingredients to a large stock pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and cook, uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the layer of foam that eventually floats to the surface during the initial stage of cooking, using a slotted spoon.

Drain the stock, discard all vegetables and meat.   Let it cool slightly, refrigerate, and remove the congealed fat from the surface before using.  Freeze 1 or 2 cup aliquots.   Season with salt and  appropriate spices when using for soups, risottos, or sauces.

to print this recipe, click here

The beginning…..

Almost at the end of cooking….

The reward…  Liquid culinary gold!

I am no food snob, in the sense that I use store-bought chicken stock on a regular basis.  However, for this soup to be really special, I went the extra mile and made my own.  I’ve made many types of chicken stock in the past, using chicken bones, or a whole chicken.  But once I found this shortcut version at Bittman’s book “From Simple to Spectacular,”  I adapted it to my taste and it’s been my method of choice because it is fast and produces incredibly rich  and dense stock.    Usually I make my first batch when the weather turns cold, and save a few cups in the freezer.

This simple soup, with very few ingredients, definitely benefits from a home made stock, but in a pinch, I’d still use a good quality store-bought version.  Do what suits you best, but make this soup, it’s a winner… 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Sabu’s Spicy Coconut Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO: Poolish Baguettes

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