Next time around, I'll use a duck, which will have a longer neck too. I found that it tastes like the best things in liver, essentially. My sausage farce did not break, but you must be very careful to keep it all cold: if it does break, you're going to have something really nasty on your hands. This is a lot of work, but it's delicious and if you buy a whole chicken or duck, you're paying for all this stuff anyway. Some chef out there could make this spectacular, but it'd never pay for itself in a restaurant context. For the dedicated home cook, this is pretty wonderful all by itself. Delicious!
I began with two very fresh chickens from my local Chinese market. They come with head and feet on, and one never quite knows what giblets will be included. So I had worked out, in advance, a recipe that works by weight, and I resolved to follow it no matter what as a test. I’m sure if I did it 10 times, with the variations in giblets, there would be real differences, and that I would also refine the recipe. Nevertheless, I think in this electronic age the appropriate thing is to post a functional recipe immediately rather than re-testing it, Julia Child-style, for years (submitting it to operational proof, Paul Child used to say). What I made was delicious, and I’m sure your version will be too.
Cut your chicken so that the neck has maximal skin on it. Remove the head high up. Peel the neck skin off by turning it inside-out, and peel off anything that doesn’t look promising (e.g. the windpipe, bloody bits, white thready stuff, etc.). Rinse the neck skin well in lukewarm water, inside and out, and let soak in cold water.
With a heavy, sharp knife, split the head, going from the back of the head toward the tip of the bottom jaw. When you get about 75% of the way through, pry the head open. Pull out the tongue, which has a hard, pointy bit on the back, and remove that bit. If there’s anything else really hard on it, pull that off too. Scoop out the brain with a small teaspoon. The rest of the head should be saved for stock. I tried to ignore the eyeballs.
With a small, sharp knife, strip the neck of as much meat as you can stand to deal with. In any given section of neck, there is a definite “right” direction and a “wrong” direction, depending on how the bones lie. If it’s right, it’ll be mildly irritating but successful to slice the meat off horizontally, parallel to the lie of the spine; if it’s wrong, you’ll keep catching corners of bone and it’ll be almost impossible to remove more than a couple of millimeters of meat. This direction shifts depending on what side of the neck you’re on, so be patient. When you get the hang of it, it’s not especially difficult to strip most of the meat right off.
Pull any giblets out of the carcass and separate. The liver should be set to one side. The gizzard must be sliced around the outside of its meridian, then peeled open and all the interior stuff removed. The big fat pads by the base and neck openings should be stripped off the meat and set in a bowl reserved for fat and skin, but sniff them first – if they smell liver-y, chuck them.
Cut your chicken the way you prefer. Then scrape the carcass very carefully. Separate all fat into the fat bowl, and any bits of meat into another. At this point you will have rather more meat and offal than you would have expected.
Weigh the meat. I found I got about 260g, including the liver, per chicken. I debated reserving the liver for something else, as I’d planned, but decided to include it this time.
For every 1kg offal, meat, and liver (if using):
250g fat: add the brain, then firm fat, then skin to make up the weight
110g ice-cold white wine (or water, or stock — very dry sherry would be ideal)
11g finely-minced garlic
6g paprika (preferably Spanish smoked)
Separate hard meats from soft: the gizzard and tongue are hard, liver and such are soft, and you can sort of decide for yourself, based on feel, about everything else. Put all ingredients in the fridge for at least an hour or so — they must be as cold as possible.
When everything is very cold, chop the hard meats fine with a knife, then put in the processor and pulse a few times. While this happens, chop the fat and skin fairly well but fast — they must remain cold (if you’re slow with a knife, cut the fat mid-way through the cooling period and return to the fridge). Add the fat and everything else except the liver and wine to the processor and pulse until definitely chopped well. Scrape down well. Add the liver and wine and process, continuously, until the mixture combines in a sticky mass. Immediately stop processing and put the processor bowl into the fridge to chill again, for at least about 15 minutes.
Scoop up a teaspoon or so and sauté it, then adjust seasonings if need be.
Drain and re-rinse the neck, then pat dry and turn right-side-out. Tie up the narrow end (where the head was) with kitchen twine. With your fingers or a pastry tube, stuff the neck until it is almost entirely full. Use a toothpick and a stitching motion to seal up the wide end, then tie securely just behind the toothpick.
(Note: you may well end up with excess material, particularly if you use the liver. Roll the rest in wax paper or heavy plastic, forming a tight sausage, then re-roll thoroughly in foil. This freeform sausage can be poached as directed below. If you have some other proper sausage-skin, of course, you should certainly use it.)
In a saucepan, cover the sausage with cold water, then bring gently to 180F. Hold at this temperature — don’t let it rise significantly, better low than high for this one! — for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in the liquid. Pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until it’s time to heat for serving.
* Everything here can be done a couple of days in advance.
Heat oven to 300F.
Heat a little oil or rendered chicken fat in a small skillet and sear both sides of the sausage golden. Put the skillet in the oven. Turn at 10 minutes and 20 minutes — it should be a delicious-looking red-gold. Remove after about 20-25 minutes, let rest in the pan a minute or so, then let cool on a warm serving dish for a couple of minutes. (Remember: temperature isn’t crucial here, because it’s entirely pre-cooked, but you’ll want it to be hot.)
I served with Sauce meurette, which is basically reduced and thickened red wine. I used the wrong wine, which is why this sauce doesn’t look so great, but otherwise it was a good choice for this.