This traditional Sardinian recipe will be a great alternative to your classic Thanksgiving roast. Instead of being cooked in the oven, this bird is boiled, instead of giving you turkey sandwiches as leftovers, this will give you succulent tender meat to add to your salads and a rich stock for your risottos, soups or meat stews. It brings me so many childhood memories because this is the Sunday dish my grandma used to prepare for the family. Like she would have done, I used a nice corn fed rampant chicken: my butcher cleaned it for me so it was ready to stuff. I would have needed the inside organs for the stuffing, but they were not included in the purchase, so I bought some chicken hearts separately. Another must-have ingredient is lard: according to all my family, it is the very ingredient that keeps the stuffing together and gives it the right texture. But worry not, just like I did, you will be able to find it at the supermarket.
- A whole 1.5 kg chicken, clean and ready to be stuffed (originally, the recipe features a 2 kg hen, but you can use any other bird, smaller or bigger, domestic or wild);
- cooking string and a trussing needle are ideal; otherwise the biggest needle you have and white cotton thread will do.
For the stuffing:
- The stomach, the liver and the heart of the chicken, clean and ready to use (but if you cannot purchase these at your butchery, buy a pack of chicken hearts and use seven);
- 1 celery stalk;
- 1 medium sized onion;
- 3 sun-dried tomatoes;
- 3 eggs;
- 2 slices of stale bread, toasted;
- 1 thick slice (2 fingers) of Sardinian dried sausage (this can be replaced by French saucisson, English dried sausage, Spanish chorizo, pancetta…);
- 1 thick slice of lard (I used about 50gr but the traditional recipe was very vague so you can pretty much add a quantity that seems enough for you);
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley;
- 3 leaves of basil;
- salt and pepper.
For the stock:
- 1 celery stalk;
- 1 medium onion;
- 1 carrot;
- 1 potato;
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes;
- a few sprigs of parsley;
- salt and pepper.
Step 1 – Make your tritato
In Italian, making a tritato means essentially mincing a lot of ingredients together, making sure they are chopped up in the smallest possible manner. Chop up one onion with one celery stalk, 3 sun-dried tomatoes, the sausage, the hearts, the parsley and basil. Once you have assembled all the chopped ingredients into a bowl, mix in the lard, and then, after softening the bread slices into a beaten egg, crumble them in the bowl. You should start having a uniform mixture, to which you can now add one egg and one egg yolk. Add salt and pepper to your taste. For the tritato, my grandma would have used a mezzaluna knife, so use that if you have it! If you are short of knives and patience, use a normal knife and if the result you obtain is too thick, help yourself with a hand blender. You should have a uniform creamy mixture in your bowl, ready to stuff your chicken!
Step 2 – Stuff your chicken and truss it
As your butcher will have kindly cleaned up your bird ready to be stuffed, the stuffing part is not difficult at all. The difficult part is the trussing. If you are unsure on how to do it you can watch one of the many demonstrations online or, like I did, call your mum or someone who has done it many times and will be able to give you guidance. Please bear in mind that since you will be boiling the chicken, you cannot afford to truss the chicken half way or not tightly enough. Keep calm, take your time, and get that needle going. It will be challenging, but don’t give up.
Step 3 – Prepare your stock
Peel the potato, the carrot and the onion and place them in a large saucepan, add the washed parsley, the clean sun-dried tomatoes and the celery stalk. Fill the saucepan two thirds of the way up with water, add salt and pepper and place it on the stove. Bring to the boil and let it cook at a lower heat for half an hour. Then add your chicken, being careful not to let it splash. If you like, you can add some saffron now. Let the chicken boil for one hour, then turn it around and let it boil for another half an hour. Your chicken should now be cooked: while the stock is still warm, take out the chicken and place it on a serving dish with the vegetables and get ready to enjoy!