Smoked Chicken: Bruny Style.
Whether they have been abandoned or whether they have escaped form someone’s back yard is up for conjecture, but these magnificent creatures are running wild. These feral chooks are often spotted on the side of the road by drivers on the Southern Outlet (the main highway from Hobart town to the suburb of Kingston in Southern Tasmania) and have become quite legendary. Their presence has created quite a debate between residents and local councils – whether they should be caught and confined or whether they should be allowed to run free. Some are even feeding them and collecting the eggs! Brunyfire, on the other hand would, if she could, put ’em in the pot…….So for the smoked (foraged) chicken dish that I was proposing to do in my Bruny Island firepit, the next best thing was to buy some chicken – preferably, organic from my friendly award winning, butcher Vermey’s of Sandy Bay.
Brunyfire found a neat recipe that included an initial brining, but instead of using salt and water, the rich salty syrup from the last lot of preserved (foraged) lemons was used.
For foraged preserved lemons, firstly, find your lemons – these are almost foragable – but Brunyfire figured they were not fair game as they weren’t over the fence enough, so went around to the front door and asked the charming young man who answered if I could pick a few – please!To which, he generously agreed…….
As most people know, preserved lemons are just about the easiest thing to make – start with fresh, scrubbed lemons and quarter cut right down the centre of each lemon, stopping short of cutting right through. Pack each lemon with organic rock salt crystals – add the odd bay leaf or a chile if additional flavour is preferred, and store in a sealed sterilized jar for at least a month before using. Don’t be tempted to use them before then. They can then be used as they are, straight from the jar in cooking (stir fries are great) – or if a less salty flavour is preferred, cut out the pith and rinse in cold water only using the lemon peel – in salads for example.
To prepare the chicken (in this instance, a couple of breasts), pierce each piece with a skewer, and soak the meat in a bowl of the preserved lemon salt syrup for about an hour. Then the firepit is prepared with a lidded wok and a rack……..Fill the wok with some water, lay the chicken on the rack and cover – the chicken will be partially steamed before smoking commences……Once the chicken is partially cooked, remove the meat and empty the wok of water. Line the wok with aluminium foil, and place in a mixture of wood chips……….…….in this instance, plum. Jetsetvagabond had sourced some dry plum wood (the above is a wild flowering plum at Kettering) which partner John had made into shavings and Brunyfire then put through the food processor to create fine chips. To the plum chips was added some rosemary……….…….and some brown sugar on foil, which was then placed in the bottom of the wok. The steamed chicken was then placed back on the rack above the smoking mixture…….…….and the lid placed on firmly – preferably airtight and allowed to smoke for 20 minutes, to half an hour.Slice up the chicken and toss through a salad – the flesh has the sweet smoky taste of the caramelised sugar, the plum and rosemary, with a salty lemon finish!