For any of you that know me even a bit, you’ll know I am Scottish and you may have either seen here last year or know from elsewhere that Burns Night is rapidly coming up. If you don’t know the connection, Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet and his birthday is for many an excuse to break out the whisky and celebrate all things Scottish. Traditionally, a Burn’s Supper consists of haggis (see here for more on what it is and a cheats way to make it, or for those less into some of the traditional ingredients), ‘neeps’ (swede/turnip) and ‘tatties’ (potatoes). There will definitely be a dram or two of whisky, probably some good Scottish cheese or pate (either smoked salmon or smoked haddock most commonly) with oatcakes and maybe cranachan or Athol brose for dessert (both include whisky, oats and cream; cranachan also has raspberries – I will share a recipe at some point!). Even from this you might have picked up that oatmeal and whisky are pretty common in a number of Scottish dishes, and both are in the recipe I am sharing today which is a variation on something my mum has made for years: chicken with oatmeal stuffing and whisky sauce.
The oatmeal stuffing is based on the stuffing my mum has used for years in various dishes (she also adds suet but it can be tricky to find apart from pre-Christmas). One dish she makes is chicken breasts stuffed with the oatmeal stuffing, wrapped with bacon and served with a cheese and cider sauce. It’s tasty but I have to say serving like I have here with whisky sauce just steps it up into something special. The whisky sauce has the smokiness from the whisky (it’s worth using a whisky with a good flavor) plus a little sweetness from the honey all within a smooth creaminess. It’s a perfect accompaniment for the mellow oatmeal-stuffed chicken. I should point out that by oatmeal here I mean pinhead oatmeal which is one of the most commonly used in Scottish cooking. All together it makes a delicious dish from fairly humble ingredients.
This dish while being Scottish-influenced doesn’t of course need you to have any Scottish roots to enjoy it. While the bites of chicken would make a great Burns Supper appetizer, using the whisky sauce for dipping, they would be just as good at any party table or even as a game day snack. You can also have a few of them, as we did, along with some roast potato wedges and other veg, for example, to make them into a main meal. I know you’ve possibly seen me do things ‘two ways’ like this a couple times but I think it’s great to have dishes that are more versatile. Plus, to be honest, we don’t eat appetizers all that often so I often make them in to mains but I know other people have different habits.
The chicken with oatmeal are really easy to make and are nice and simple flavors that suit various tastes. The sauce is more distinct but has such great flavors it’s something that we lapped up every last drop. Both are easy to make but one thing to point out is be VERY careful when you set fire to the whisky as the flames can get very high. However it’s a necessary step to burn off the alcohol and save the sauce being bitter.
While the colors might look a bit bland, this is a tasty dish that is also easy to make and versatile in how you serve it. It’s got that comfort factor that’s great for this time of year and would fit perfectly on a Burns Supper table, or for any occasion. Give it a try and enjoy.
- 1lb chicken tenders (you can use whole breasts and cut them more or slit open and use whole if as a main)
- 1tbsp/15g butter
- ½ small onion, finely diced
- 3tbsp pinhead oatmeal
- 1oz/30ml whisky
- ½cup/120ml heavy/double cream
- 1tsp honey
- ¼tsp cornstarch/cornflour
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Use the flat side of a mallet or a rolling pin to flatten out the chicken tenders a bit to make them relatively easy to roll. Cut each tender in half so you have two short-ish lengths from each. If using whole breasts, you will need to cut them probably in 4 or more pieces or, if serving as a main, you can just slit a pocket in the middle and fill it as a whole breast.
- In a small skillet/frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat then add the onion. Cook, stirring regularly, until it has softened but is not browning (if it starts to brown then reduce the heat).
- Add the oatmeal and stir to mix through then remove from the heat.
- Put a spoonful of the oatmeal mixture onto each piece of chicken, pressing it together a little, and carefully roll them up and place in an oven dish, join down. Don't worry if it leaks a little. Drizzle a little oil over the top of the pieces of chicken.
- Bake the chicken for approx 30min until cooked through.
- Meanwhile warm a small pan on the stove then add the whisky and set light to it, off the heat. Be VERY careful as you do as the flames can be very high - definitely don't look over the pan.
- Once the flames have gone out, add the cream and put back over the heat. Once it has warmed, add the honey and mix in. Cook for around 10min at a gently simmer so the cream reduces a little. Add the cornstarch and cook a couple more minutes so it thickens a little more.
- Serve the chicken pieces either with the sauce on the side for dipping, or poured over the top.