There really is something exciting and magical about this recipe. You start by wrapping up a chicken in a layer of salt, you may think it’s too much salt but trust in the recipe, it works. Once cooked, crack open the warm salt crust, and the smell of salt and tarragon steams out from the shell, to reveal a delicious tender chicken. Mmm, yum!
- 1.8 kg free range chicken
- 1½ bunches tarragon
- 5 garlic cloves
- 60 ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 lemons, zest finely grated and lemons halved
- 2 kg cooking salt
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle
- 4 free-range egg whites
- salad greens and avocado, to serve
- ½ bunch tarragon, leaves finely chopped
- 60 ml (¼ cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 60 ml (¼ cup) tarragon vinegar
- 125 ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 garlic clove, squashed but still whole
- salt and black pepper, to taste
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
Combine the tarragon leaves from the ½ bunch tarragon, 1 garlic clove, oil and pepper to taste in a food processor and blend until a thin paste forms. Rub the paste over the chicken, inside the cavity and under the skin on the breast. Be careful not to tear the skin or the salt crust will penetrate the flesh and become too salty.
Stuff the cavity of the chicken with two of the lemon halves and the remaining 4 cloves of garlic. Truss the chicken and set aside while you prepare the salt for the crust.
Finely chop the leaves from the extra bunch of tarragon. Place in a large bowl with the salt, lemon zest, crushed peppercorns, egg whites and 60 ml (¼ cup) water. Using your hands, mix the ingredients well. The salt mixture should be the consistency of wet sand that you would use to build a sandcastle.
Place a layer of the salt mixture, approximately 2 cm thick, into the base of a heavy baking dish. It only needs to big enough for the chicken to sit on. Pack the remaining salt around and over the chicken to completely encase the chicken. Bake for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, to make the tarragon vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake well. (Makes 1 cup.)
Remove the chicken form the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Break open the salt crust to reveal the chicken. You may need to use a meat mallet or pestle to crack the crust. Using a towel or oven mitts, break off the remaining salt, brush off any broken bits of salt, and remove the chicken skin to reveal beautiful juicy chicken.
Shake the vinaigrette well and remove the garlic clove before use. Serve the chicken with salad greens and avocado, and a drizzle of tarragon vinaigrette.
Photography by Petrina Tinslay, styling by David Morgan and art direction by Anne Marie Cummins.