Tonka beans are the fruit of a central American tree of the pea family. Dried they can be kept in a jar for a long time. They are grated like nutmeg mostly on sweet dishes. They became all the rage about 5 years ago in France but now they are harder to find.
They used to be grated in custards, ice cream, crème pâtissière and cake batters. They have their own taste, close to fresh marzipan, but they are usually used to replace vanilla. It is close but different.
Lucky enough, I had bought some for my mum at the time so I could try them on a gorgeous farm chicken which was 5 times the size of the big chicken I buy in Australia!
I love roasted onions especially in chicken fat and juices. It’s delicious.
At my parent’s place, there is a wonderful veggie patch where my dad grows white and purple onions.
I grated Tonka beans all over the giant chicken with salt, pepper and a bit of cinnamon.
I also sprinkled some green pepper and sliced French échalotes.
June and July are the best months to visit the French countryside. In this old farmhouse I used to spent a month at least every year as a child. Look how my gifted Mum has used her green thumbs!
Wendell loves the veggie patch and for this chicken dish went to get 6 onions to roast and a nutty green lettuce which has a bit of a lacy edge thank to the very active French slugs.
Pop it in the oven and let it roast for a length of time depending on its weight. Ask you butcher or like me, use this rule:
- 40 minutes for 500 grams
- 1 hour for 1 kg
- 1h30 for 1,5 kg
Or use this funny French Roast Chicken Cooking Time Calculator!
After 40 min, I open the oven and prick the chicken all around to let the fat out
Et voilà !
You can see the sauce full of flavours, the sweet confit onions and the special hazelnut like potatoes called rattes du Touquet which resemble our Australian Kipfler potatoes. If you can, add fresh thyme when the chicken is cooked and ready to serve. Lemon thyme goes marvellously with this spice choice.
My little trick is to cut the chicken in as little pieces as I can and I push each piece in the sauce and discretely stab the chicken with a thin sharp knife to allow the sauce to get through. I always add salt, generously, and sprinkle a bit of the spices I used at the beginning. Fresh thyme (here the lemon thyme) or oregano (try chilli oregano) can be added at the end.
C’est à vous ! (your turn!)
- 1 chicken
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 10 small potatoes (or as many as you can fit in the dish)
- 6 onions
- salt & pepper
- 1 teaspoon Tonka bean
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 twig of fresh lemon thyme
- Peel the onions, keep them whole.
- Brush and clean the potatoes, keep the skin.
- Sprinkle olive oil in a large oven dish. Massage the chicken with olive oil. Place chicken in the dish.
- Place onions & potatoes around the chicken.
- Grate the Tonka bean to obtain a teaspoon and sprinkle it over the chicken.
- Sprinkle cinnamon, salt, pepper.
- Put in the oven according to the weight (see blog post for help) at 180°C (356°F).
- After 40 min prick the chicken so that the fat comes out to confit the potatoes and onions.
- When the chicken is cooked: 1,5kg = 1h30 cut it in the smaller bits possible and press down each piece in the juice. Stab the pieces discretely with a thin sharp knife each white piece in several places to allow the juice to soak the flesh.
- Sprinkle fresh lemon thyme, a little bit of cinnamon, grate Tonka bean, salt and pepper.
- It's ready! Serve with a mash such as potatoes + celeriac, or + carrots, or + leeks, or + Jerusalem artichokes, or + fennel, etc.
WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME TONKA BEANS IN LARGE OR UNCOOKED DOSES. They would be toxic.