Chicken mousseline sausages with petits pois à la française
Of all the pretty green spring vegetables, it is peas that bring me the most pleasure. I find them at their most sublime when they’re small and sweet and tender, so early in the season I harvest them as soon as the little globes start forming in their pods. But as the season wears on, picking becomes less rewarding as pods that have been missed are found, only to yield their fatter, slightly mealy and not-so-sweet peas. To avoid this disappointment, I grow successive crops of peas, sowing new ones each month for the length of the season. It is also why I have written this recipe with the option of using frozen peas, which are available year round.
This classic French way of cooking peas pairs perfectly with many main course dishes, such as roast chicken, roast lamb and the like. The addition of the boudin blanc brings it to a more sophisticated level.
Boudin blanc is a traditional French sausage that is made from only white meats – chicken, pork or veal. This version uses a classic chicken mousse recipe as the filling, which is soft and rich and a delight to eat with the peas. If the process of stuffing the skins seems too arduous, there is another way that is less environmentally friendly. This involves piping the mousse onto a sheet of cling wrap and rolling it into a cylinder. The ends are then tied and the sausage poached.
In the cooler climes in which I live, I am still a few weeks away from harvesting peas, but for those who live in warmer parts, they should be ready to go. On a gardening note, I always make sure that in midwinter I sow some seeds of the wonderful lettuce Reine des Glaces. This variety gets its beautiful name from its cold-weather hardiness, since it is the “queen of the ice”. Wonderfully crisp, ice queen lettuce is perfect for early sowing and a fitting accompaniment to my favourite spring crop.
Petits pois à la française
- 125g kaiserfleisch, cut into lardons
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 40g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
- 50ml chicken stock
- 250g frozen baby peas, defrosted, or 1kg young peas, podded
- ⅛ iceberg lettuce, shredded
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, add the kaiserfleisch and fry until golden. Add the onion and butter and stir occasionally until the onion is tender. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and add the peas.
- Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the lettuce and simmer until the lettuce is tender and the liquid is reduced to coating consistency (about three or four minutes).
- Season to taste and serve warm.
Chicken mousseline sausages
- 225g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into a small dice and chilled
- 1 large egg white
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- sausage skins
- 50g butter
- When making a mousse filling it is important that all the ingredients are chilled and you work quickly. In a food processor, pulse the chicken until finely chopped. Add the egg white and pulse until blended. With the machine on, add the cream in a steady stream and puree until smooth. Scrape the mousse into a bowl and stir in the parsley. Transfer the mousse to a piping bag and refrigerate until chilled (about one hour).
- Before proceeding with the sausages, bring a small pot of water to a simmer with one teaspoon of salt. For tasting purposes, spoon a mounded teaspoon of the mousseline mixture into the simmering water and simmer gently for about five minutes. Taste the sausage meat for seasoning and add salt if required.
- Cut the sausage casing into four 20-centimetre lengths and soak the casings in cold water for about 10 minutes. Fit the end of one of the casings on a clean kitchen tap and gently run cold water through the casing for about 30 seconds. Start running the water slowly, so if the casing has a crimp, the water won’t cause it to burst. Repeat with the other casings. Fit three-quarters of each sausage casing over the end of the pastry bag and, while holding the casing onto the end of the bag, pipe in the mixture until you have about 15 centimetres of mousseline per sausage, leaving 2.5 centimetres free at both ends of the casing. As you’re stuffing the sausages, tie the ends either by making a little knot with the extra casing or by tying the casing with string. You can refrigerate the sausages for up to one day before you cook them.
- To cook, bring a large pot of water to the boil with two teaspoons of salt. Lower to poaching temperature and add the sausages. Poach for 10 minutes. Heat a frying pan, add the butter, brown slightly and then add the drained sausages, moving them around until they have browned a little on all sides. Do this gently so they don’t burst.
- Serve with the peas.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 14, 2020 as "Noble peas prized".
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