Thyme and Tonka Bean Chicken

Tonka Beans, in a square white bowl, with shadow.

Did I mention already that I think the combination of thyme and tonka bean tastes like tarragon? Not exactly like tarragon – if that were the case it would be easier just to use tarragon! – but a grassier, less aniseedy version. They’re beautifully versatile little buggers these tonka beans, with a vanilla-like freshness that works just as well in sweet dishes [like my Christmas Pudding Ice Cream] as it does with chicken and fish. I swear I detected some yesterday too in the Pork Pibil which I had at Wahaca’s Southbank porta-cabin pop-up, though the recipes I’ve found online make no mention.

I’ve used the pairing here to update a recipe which I first shared in My St Margarets Magazine a couple of years ago. And I’ve changed the method too to produce an easy, prepare-ahead dish for summer entertaining, not least because I know the Lakeland Taxi Driver has a lunch party for twelve this Sunday! This version comfortably serves six, I’m sure you can do the maths. A recent road test played to rave reviews in a packed garden, hopefully your guests will feel the same.

For the chicken

  • A 1.5-1.7kg bird, and a lidded pot into which it fits snugly
  • A large bunch of thyme
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • 300ml white wine
  • 1/3 of a tonka bean, grated with a micro-plane or nutmeg grater
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the mayonnaise*

  • 1 large egg yolk, and 1 large whole egg
  • 350ml groundnut oil
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsps white wine vinegar

Prepare and cook the chicken as per my recipe for Pot Roast Chicken Veronique [ignore the bit about the Verjuice syrup for this recipe]. Don’t forget to season the bird well, inside and out. Grate the tonka bean over the chicken before you pour over the wine. When the chicken is cooked set it aside to cool. Strain the cooking juices and reduce to one third of their original volume. Let this cool too.

To make the mayonnaise blitz the egg, yolk, salt and mustard in a food processor. Then with the motor running start to add the oil – drop by drop to begin with, then in a thin stream, and then as the sauce emulsifies and begins to bulk up you can increase your rate of pouring. Add the vinegar to the finished mayonnaise with the motor still running. I’ve only just started making mayonnaise and now I can’t stop! It’s proper magical kitchen alchemy, and nowhere near as scary as everyone makes it out to be.

*If you don’t plan to make your own mayonnaise please use a decent ready made one – this really is no time for bog standard factory nonsense!

Roughly tear the flesh from the legs, breasts and back of the bird and scatter into a dish. Take a couple of small ladles of the reduced juices [about 60 ml] and mix into the mayonnaise, and taste. If you feel it needs more, add some. And perhaps add another small shaving of tonka bean, but do it with a light hand, if at all. The flavour could easily dominate, and will build as the dish rests.

Coat your chicken with the enriched mayonnaise, stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve give it half an hour or so out of the fridge, and decorate with some chopped parsley, a grind or two of black pepper, and some lemon slices – or some watercress, or perhaps pea shoots. It will need a little garnish as although it’s delicious it can look a tad monotone without. This deserves to take centre stage, so make sure it’s dressed to impress!

2 responses to “Thyme and Tonka Bean Chicken

  1. Mmm, salivating at the thought! Where does one purchase Tonka beans? In a toy shop?

    One v minor typo in the last para – your rather than you.

    Joining Grae tonight in Fulham to watch the diving – come on Tom!

    Robin

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