Perfect poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Tell me you don't feel virtuous just looking at this? If you’re feeling under the weather, have over-indulged or simply looking for an alternative to roast chicken, then this is your dish. And you're guaranteed to leave the table feeling holier-than-thou and surprisingly full. This particular poaching technique creates the most satiny-textured chicken you've ever tasted so don’t be put off by the many stages. You can always poach the chicken in advance and assemble the rest of the dish later – this bit only takes 15 minutes or so. Depending on the season, you could also add other veg such as peas, broad beans or spinach.

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Serves 4-6

8 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
3 sticks of celery
1 white onion, peeled and halved
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
2 bay leaves
A sprig of rosemary
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
2 litres hot chicken stock
1 (previously happy) 1.5kg chicken, at room temp
4 leeks, trimmed and halved lengthways
For the dragoncello sauce
2 slices of stale white bread, ideally ciabatta, crusts removed
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 eggs
1 small clove of garlic
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
For the horseradish
An 8cm-piece of fresh horseradish, peeled
4 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Throw 2 of the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and peppercorns in a deep pan that comfortably holds the bird. Pour in the stock along with another 1 litre of boiling water and return to the boil for 15 minutes. Have a taste and check that it tastes like delicious stock, if not, add a little more salt.

Remove any giblets from inside the chicken and give it a quick wash under cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then add the bird, breast-side down and add a little more boiling water if it is not quite covered. Bring the stock back up to the boil, then immediately (don’t let the chicken boil) turn down a simmer and, cover with a lid and leave to gently bubble for 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and leave the chicken to cool in the stock for 1 hour. After an hour, remove from the chicken from the stock and place in the fridge to cool (during this time, the still-pink flesh turns soft and silky).

Meanwhile, return the stock to the boil and reduce by half so that you get a lovely, intense broth.

While this is going on, make the sauces. To make the dragoncello, rip up the bread, pour over the vinegar and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the eggs for 9 minutes until completely hardboiled. Discard (or eat) the white.

Finely chop the garlic then crush with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl, then mash in the yolks with a fork and stir in the anchovies and capers. Squeeze the excess vinegar from the bread, then stir that in too, followed by the tarragon and a little pepper. Slowly stir in the oil so that it’s nicely emulsified, then adjust the seasoning and the acidity. It should be really rather perky.

To make the horseradish, finely grate it, then run your knife through it a couple of times. Stir in the crème fraiche, vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

Strain the broth, discarding the old veg and herbs. Return to the pan, then bring to the boil and poach the remaining carrots and leeks for 10 minutes until just soft.

Carve the poached chicken with a knife and divide between bowls. Pour over some broth and a few carrots carrots and leeks. Allow to sit for a moment before serving to allow the chicken to warm through. Spoon over the sauces and serve.