Galantine of Chicken

Makes 6 servings

Need a chicken dish for a picnic, potluck, or buffet? A galantine, which resembles a large, round meatloaf, will do the job perfectly. Serve it warm right away or make it a day or two ahead and serve cold.

1cup chopped British or Canadian bacon (see sidebar, [>])
1pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
8ounces mild bulk sausage
1cup dried, unflavored bread crumbs
½teaspoon dried sage
½teaspoon ground mace
3tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1large egg
1teaspoon salt
½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine the bacon and chicken in a food processor and pulse until the meats become a coarse paste.
  2. Combine the bacon-chicken mixture with the sausage, bread crumbs, sage, mace, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, egg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir well to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Oil a 6-cup heatproof round bowl and pack with the meat mixture. Because the galantine will be unmolded in the bowl shape, try to keep the top (which will become the bottom) of the mixture level; use a butter knife or spatula if needed. Cover with aluminum foil.
  4. To steam, pour about 1 inch of water into a large pot with a cover. Then put the foil-covered bowl in the pot. The bowl should be near, but not touching, the water. (I use a 5-inch ring mold.) Finally, cover the pot itself and place over low heat so the water simmers. The galantine will need about 2 hours to cook all the way through. It’s done when a long toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted in the center comes out dry.
  5. Remove the galantine from the pot and let it cool in the bowl until it is easy to handle, about 15 minutes. Unmold it onto a serving plate by flipping it over and tapping gently on the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of parsley. If you’re serving the galantine warm, serve it immediately. If serving cold, chill, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to several days.
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Pilgrimage: Smoking Permitted

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Stonington, Maine, is a pretty remote place. To get there, you’ll have to leave the main highway, drive for miles down hilly side roads, and then cross a surprisingly large suspension bridge and a causeway. When you get there, though, there’s more than a bit of Maine at its best: a perfect harbor with fishing boats, small shops selling what fishermen need, and trucks ready to get that fish to market. This is where Richard Penfold has set up shop. Yes, there are a few art galleries and espresso bars, too, but they don’t ruin the experience. All in all, it’s the perfect place to run a fish-smoking business.

You wouldn’t expect a guru of kippers and finnan haddie to be in the United States, but from his outpost in Stonington, Richard produces some of the world’s finest smoked fish. Originally from London and schooled in Plymouth, Richard spent more than a decade in places like the Shetland Islands learning the art of smoking fish and becoming an expert on every aspect of commercial fishing. While in the Shetlands, he taught at the North Atlantic Fisheries College and created their fish-processing library. This is a man whose life is truly focused.

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When I visited Richard on a cold winter’s day, we were soon talking about the proper way to defrost frozen fish. A few moments later, Richard confirmed something I’d long suspected—that quality frozen fish is far better than a lot of fresh fish that’s available, and that frozen fish finds its way into many of the finest kitchens.

He’d prepped three or four kinds of fish and was mixing up a brine of salt and water. “Brine is immensely powerful stuff,” he said while moving fillets through the bath. I was used to brining pork and turkey and thought a few days was about right. Richard brined the fish fillets for 80 seconds. According to Richard, understanding brining is the key to the process. It was the length of time in the brine that determined how salty the final product would be.

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Richard was trying to teach me about the entire North Atlantic fishery and the science of fish handling in a single day, and I was just trying to wrap my mind around notions like “finnan haddie is made out of haddock” and “kippers are made from the same herring they sell in Polish grocery stores.” As we went through the day, I came to realize that this was a country boy moving at city boy speed. One minute he’d be filleting fish and washing down the counter, and the next he’d be at the kiln getting the smoke going, or using specially cleaned needle-nose pliers to pull pin bones from salmon.

Hidden in the dead center of the operation is that kiln, a bathroom-size, highly controllable smoking unit. I asked Richard what sort of wood he used. “We get food-grade sawdust from Virginia,” he told me. I imagined that the sawdust from those Maine loggers would do a good job, and, as usual, I was wrong. “You can’t have wood that was just cut by some guy’s chainsaw,” he explained. “It’s been splattered with oil. You don’t know what’s in it.”

“Good grief,” I thought. Details! Details!

Soon the steps became clear: First the fish is prepped. The haddock for the finnan haddie is filleted, and the kippers are split in half, with their bones left in. Then the fish is brined— that is, immersed in the salt solution for that quick 80-second dip. And after that it’s smoked in a kiln for a couple of hours, cooled, and packaged for sale.

By midafternoon, the kilns were filled with smoking fish and the pace was winding down. Richard was hinting that I should leave the building for an hour or so. It was obvious that some secret ritual was going on, and I was determined to find out what it was. I later learned that Richard is a huge Terry Gross fan and it was time for her National Public Radio show.

That night I joined Richard and a few others for dinner at his home. We had fish, of course. In fact, it was some of the same Icelandic haddock he’d shown me that morning. The conversation was mostly about fish, and Richard, a self-described “fish-head,” liked it that way.

What was it like moving from the Shetlands to Stonington, I asked. “The Shetlands were far more remote,” Richard said, “and you could be cut off for days from the mainland. Here, we’re connected by a suspension bridge. And the weather, it’s colder in the winter in Maine, but the Shetlands feel more severe. Especially on days when the boats can’t come over.” His American wife may have had to push him a bit when they first decided to come, but they seemed pretty content on that bitter cold night.

After I left, I noticed that both my clothes and my car gave off a sublime fragrance: smoke from Richard’s kilns. Nothing fishy, and as pristine as Maine itself.