Tribute to Tom Jones: Trencher Chicken

As an aficionado of finger food, what could be more perfect than bonding with your partner and sharing a meal without utensils? Let’s just say, we are simply removing all the encumbrances and getting down to bare basics.

For years I collected cookbooks and related sources on what is now popularly referred to as ‘Food Porn’. ‘Aphrodisia’ is my preferential term, albeit far less sensational – it conjures up food that promotes Love and Beauty, from the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. Of course, we still have the same end in mind: we’re talking about the vehicle and the methods we use to get there. It’s personal, it’s about the process. The whole package.

In support of Food Porn, nothing could be closer to the case than the literary and cinematic classic Chicken Scene from Tom Jones, one of my all time film favorites. Here, the womanizing fop and the pretty damsel have an out of body experience over a succulent roast chicken. The couple lustfully eye each other while erotically devouring a plump juicy bird with their hands – clearly in lieu of each other. Wholly mackerel, Andy!

Which brings me to the main course of the whole package: Trencher Chicken aka Chicken in Bread Crust. Back in Shakespeare’s day, when utensils might have included a hunting knife, or maybe a wood spork, food was often served on a trencher, a board possibly of bread and also the handy edible plate. In honor of St. Valentine, I offer you Trencher Chicken, a complete meal (in a bun) including vegetables.

A final note: due to the nature of the occasion the preparation steps are simplified. Who wants to be exhausted from cooking a fabulous meal, when the meal is the thing? In that spirit, I happen to have a half chicken on hand, so that is what I include here (for this event, it’s plenty for two people, really ;-). If you elect to follow in the footsteps of Tom Jones and use a whole chicken, proceed per instructions and bake up to 2 hours. Bon appétit!

Trencher Chickenaka Chicken in Bread Crust, a moist and flavorful meal; a recreational dining selection
1/2 recipe pizza dough

1/2 whole chicken, or @ 3 1/2 lbs halved
1 tablespoon olive oil, approx.
salt and pepper
1 whole onion, cut into large chop
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, cut into thick rounds
2 small red potatoes, cut into 3/4″ pieces
1/2 green pepper , seeded, cut into large chop
1 tablespoon thyme, or 1 1/2 tsp dry
salt and pepper
1 egg, for wash plus 2 tsp water

Bring the pizza dough to room temperature or prepare and let rest.

In large pot, heat oil to medium high, add the halved chicken seasoned with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan, add vegies and thyme, reduce to medium and saute to wilt, 8-10 minutes. Season and transfer to shallow dish and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 325, lightly oil shallow baking pan about 10×14″.

Roll out the dough to form approx. 15″ square, a little thicker in the center. Place the cooled vegies in the center of the dough, set the chicken on top, bring the dough up and around the chicken by pulling up one corner at a time until 3 of the corners meet on top, pressing together. Bring the fourth up and over the others, sealing it together, making neat packet. Carefully lift the wrapped chicken onto baking pan and brush the bread with egg wash. Bake until bread is puffed, golden and cooked thru about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for at least 20 minutes – up to 1 hour. Use a serrated knife to assist in cutting to bread. Serves 2.

Note: a light sauce can be made with the pan juices. Add a handful of sliced mushrooms, 1-2 cups chicken stock or water to pot, stir to release any residue in bottom and simmer 30 minutes or as time allows. To thicken combine 1 heaping tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup water and stir into pan, simmer and allow to thicken.

Inspired by Susan Herrmann Loomis’, French Farm House Cookbook. ~~

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