I like this dish best with new season tarragon from my herb garden, eaten and enjoyed with friends in the late spring sunshine with a glass of fine Chardonnay to wash it down. But the chicken can be equally enhanced with other herbs instead, such as marjoram or oregano. Fresh lemon thyme leaves work very nicely too in mid summer, and sorrel is always a wonderfully tangy winter alternative. Be mindful of the wine you choose to drink though, ensure it matches with the herbs you use. Corn-fed or organic chicken is always the ideal choice for this dish.
4 chicken marylands, skin on, thigh bone removed
4 small cloves garlic, crushed
6 tablespoons French tarragon leaves, chopped finely, plus plenty of sprigs to garnish
150 grams ricotta very fine zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
4 shallots, sliced
16 small vine tomatoes left on the vine
250 ml muscat or white wine 3 tablespoons chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Combine the finely chopped garlic, tarragon, lemon zest and ricotta in a bowl and mix well.
Take each chicken piece and with your fingers gently push a quarter of this mixture evenly between the skin and the flesh, as far down the leg as possible, making sure you don’t puncture the skin. The skin will part from the flesh relatively easily if you do it slowly. Using kitchen string, tie up the thigh to secure the filling.
This can all be done ahead and the marylands refrigerated for several hours if you wish.
Next, rub the skin all over with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and put to one side.
Heat the remaining oil in a roomy sauté pan on a medium heat and sauté the shallots until they just begin to colour. Place the chicken marylands on top of the shallots, raise the heat and first add the chicken stock, then the wine to deglaze the pan. Place the vine tomatoes around the chicken legs and cook gently for about 5 minutes. The liquid will begin to reduce quite quickly. Season the pan juices and tomatoes with salt and pepper and place the dish in the oven uncovered for approximately 20-30 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and is slightly golden. The cooking time will depend on the size of the marylands. The braising liquid will not have thickened at all but the flavours will have intensified and the volume should have reduced.
When cooked, remove from the oven and slice each thigh only halfway through about three times while still leaving it attached to the drumstick. Place each maryland on a warmed plate with the tomatoes arranged around the chicken, the poaching liquid spooned over the meat and some fresh, green sprigs of French tarragon to garnish.
A pan of sizzling hot sautéed potatoes with garlic and freshly chopped parsley won’t go astray with this dish. Serves 4