Inside A Pro-Chef’s Tiny Kitchen

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After scoring their house at an auction – “which is quite terrifying because you only get to see it once” – Johnnie and his wife, Bianca, an actress, embarked on a renovation project that involved extending the building and adding a second bedroom. But, above all else, the couple wanted the kitchen to be the “focal point” of the home. In our latest episode of Kitchen Stories, we discover how they achieved their goal.

Johnnie’s recipe for chicken, chips and herb aioli
For the herb aioli

Handful of herbs, ideally from your garden (Johnnie uses chives, fennel fronds, parsley)
250ml neutral oil
4 egg yolks
1 squeeze of half a lemon
1 drop of white-wine vinegar
1tbsp of Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch of sea salt.

For the chips

3kg good roasting potatoes
Oil and salt for cooking

For the chicken

½ chicken, deboned
Oil, butter, garlic and hard herbs, such as rosemary and thyme for cooking

For the brine

1kg water
30g salt
30g sugar
100g of olive (or caper brine if you have any)
Any citrus peels you have (optional)

Start with the aioli (you can do this a day or two in advance to get ahead if you wish). Chop the herbs as fine as possible and blend with a drizzle of oil. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic and salt and blitz in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, drip in the rest of the oil bit by bit to emulsify and thicken into a lovely aioli.

Next, make the chips. To make the best oven chips, start a day or two in advance. Boil the roasting potatoes whole with the skin on, until they are soft all the way through but not breaking apart. Then leave them to steam and fully cool before popping them in the fridge overnight. (This a good method for best roast potatoes too.)

The next day, cut the potatoes into chip size, you want them small enough to get crispy but they retain their shape. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius, toss the chips in a good amount of oil and a generous amount of salt and then add them to the hot oven. They should take around 30 minutes to cook. Don’t overcrowd the tray so they have space to crisp up and keep an eye on them – turn them over a few times while cooking so each side gets crispy and turn the oven down a bit if they are going too fast.

Now, there are many ways to cook a chicken, but this is a nice method if you’re cooking for a few friends in a short time. Start by brining the half chicken. Get a container with a lid and put your deboned half chicken inside. Weigh out enough water to cover you half chicken in a container – the weight of the water will give you the amount of salt and sugar for the brine. I usually do a three per cent salt and sugar brine. The percentage is the amount of liquid – so for one litre of water, you will need 30g of salt and 30g of sugar. Add these to your water and whisk them in cold water, you don’t need to heat the water but just need to whisk it until it’s all dissolved. If using add a little glug of caper, olive brine or some leftover citrus peel. You can do this a day in advance and leave it in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to go, take the chicken out of the brine, wash it off and pat dry. For a crispy skin, you want the chicken to be dry so be sure to remove the chicken a few hours early and then leave it uncovered in the fridge so it can dry out.

Now cook the chicken. Start with a cold pan and a good glug of oil. Season the skin and then add it to the pan skin side down. Use a medium heat, you want the skin to crisp up but not burn and the chicken to cook through gently. Once the skin is crisp, turn it over and add a bit of butter to the pan with some crushed garlic and hard herbs. Baste the skin with the melted infused butter. If you have a thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 70 degrees Celcius. You should need around 25 minutes cooking and 20 minutes resting to cook the whole thing. And if it’s looking cooked on the outside before the middle is finished, you can pop it in a low oven to finish it off. Make sure you rest it well; this is a really key part so don’t skip it. The chicken should be lovely and crispy but still tender and juicy once it’s fully rested. Baste it with the pan juices whilst it’s resting.

To serve, slice the chicken and spoon over any remaining resting juices. Put everything on the table, a nice bowl of the aioli, a big bowl of chips and a nice green salad for a perfect early summer supper for friends.

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