Chicken Balmoral is an easy and elegant modern Scottish dish. It's a great way to enjoy the flavors of haggis without it being all you taste. The whisky sauce rounds it out perfectly for a main fit for any guest (Royal or not!)
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This dish is one that is very close to my heart, not that I knew it under this name at the time. When we got married, we fairly quickly decided on the basic location near my parents in Edinburgh. Then a few other details fell in to place relatively easily through connections or referral.
Some took more time, of course, like photographers and a band that can be hard to find available and of your style. Caterers for many fall in to the same bracket, but we got fairly lucky on that.
I contacted a handful, including one that was the catering arm of a restaurant we'd been to a couple times. They had a couple things on their menu that sounded pretty good so we arranged a tasting. Which quickly became a firm yes.
We tried a couple options for each course and immediately agreed on both main and dessert. Dessert was banoffee pie (still a big favorite of ours) and this haggis stuffed chicken was main. Both received lots of compliments from guests, so it seems we chose well. But really, the dishes themselves were the perfect fit for our Scottish-ish wedding.
What is haggis?
I talk a little more about this in my simplified haggis recipe, but essentially it's a dish made with oats, spics and various internal organs from lamb. It's arguably the national dish of Scotland, and if nothing else is a firm favorite for Burn's Night, the celebration of Scotland's national poet.
Haggis can, however, be one of those dishes that doesn't appeal to everyone. Even if you enjoy the flavor, as I do, it's often best balanced out with the the traditional sides mashed potato and mashed rutabaga (swede/neeps).
This dish is another great way to enjoy haggis flavors in a more 'tempered' way. The bacon and chicken to haggis ratio really works to make a lovely dish, that's pretty elegant too.
Why is it called chicken Balmoral?
The origins of this dish are not entirely clear, and even the name can vary. Some call it Braemar chicken, others Highland chicken, as well as chicken Balmoral/Balmoral chicken. But what all those have in common is the Royal residence in the Highlands of Scotland, Balmoral, which is near the town of Braemar.
Whether this dish was ever served to the Royal family, who knows. But you can imagine it is the sort of thing that could be, since it incorporates flavors local to the area, but also has a certain elegance.
You typically serve the chicken with whisky cream sauce, but you can also use a creamy pepper sauce.
Ways to stuff a chicken breast
You might think there's "one best way", but there are actually a few. Each has their pros and cons, as I'll explain.
The first method involves cutting the chicken breast in half right through the middle with only a slight join left on one side. You may then flatten it further with a mallet. To fill, you open it out and basically fold over the stuffing, like closing a hotdog bun, just hopefully a little better closed!
The advantages of this method is it gives you a large area to fill (more filling!) and you have easy access to it. This is great for more chunky fillings or where the filling is layers eg ham and cheese. The downside is you have a large open edge meaning filling can potentially escape during cooking.
The next method starts basically the same as the first, and would almost certainly flatten with a mallet, but closes it differently. Instead, you roll the chicken around the filling.
The upside to this method is it gives it a more even shape and hold the filling in better. However the downside is you get less filling. You can also end up with a shape that doesn't sit well for cooking, or it's very thickly chicken where it folds over. And filling may still escape at the top and bottom.
The third method might seem more surgical! For this, you make a slight incision on one side then move the knife around inside the chicken to make a pocket. You then fill from the small opening.
The upside is you only have a small opening so there is less chance of filling escaping. This is great for softer fillings like garlic butter or as with my goat cheese stuffed chicken. The downside is it's less easy to fill and you typically get less filling.
Here I have gone with the last method, as while the filling isn't exactly liquid, it is still crumbly and so I find this way holds the filling in place best. But feel free to change method, if you prefer.
Making whisky sauce
Whisky sauce, too, has a couple different methods. Some start with some shallots cooked in butter, then add whisky, stock then cream. Others flame the whisky before adding cream and stock and/or some other flavors like mustard and honey.
As with the chicken stuffing, each has their advantages. Setting light to whisky can be a little scary if you are not used to it. You do want to stand back! But this burns off the alcohol and helps give just the flavor rather than bitterness.
The shallots help add some sweetness to counteract the whisky in that method, but then they mean the sauce is not as smooth. Personally, I prefer to just take care with the flames 🙂 I also add just a touch of honey to balance out all the flavors, but you can skip this if you prefer.
While the traditional haggis sides of neeps and tatties (mashed rutabaga/swede and potatoes) would work here, you could also serve this with just one or the other, or simply boiled potatoes. Something that will mop up that tasty sauce is always a good idea.
Some broccoli or other green vegetable works well too to add some color and balance out the richer flavors.
Chicken Balmoral is a great way to enjoy some delicious Scottish flavors in a relatively elegant way. It's also a dish that will appeal to more palates than traditional haggis, while still giving you a taste. You can prepare the chicken ahead, so it's a great option for entertaining, to give a tasty little taste of Scotland.
Try these other tasty chicken recipes:
- Chicken Provençal (with tomatoes, wine, olives and herbs)
- Chicken saltimbocca (with prosciutto and sage)
- Aji de galina (Peruvian chicken stew)
- Plus get more main dishes and British recipes in the archives.
Chicken Balmoral (haggis stuffed chicken)
- 2 chicken breasts (2 chicken breasts total approx 1lb/450g)
- 3 oz haggis approx
- 6 slices smoked bacon or less if larger (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon Scottish whisky
- ¼ cup stock beef best, but chicken also works
- ½ cup heavy cream double cream
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon honey optional, but I find works well
To prepare chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Trim off any fat or fibrous bits from the chicken then lay them flat on a cutting board. Using a small, sharp knife, make a slit on one side and move it around a little up and down inside, without cutting through the other side, to form a pocket. The opening can be small or larger, as suits, but around 2in/5cm works quite well. Use your hands to help open up the pocket evenly, as needed.
- Take around half of the haggis and stuff it inside the pocket in the chicken breast, pressing it up and down either end of the gap. Press the top and bottom together a little then take pieces of bacon and wrap them around the chicken, with the ends joining underneath, as far as possible. repeat with other chicken breast.
- Warm a skillet/frying pan over a medium-high heat and sear the bacon onto the chicken on the bottom, and sear briefly on the top. Transfer to a baking dish. Sometimes, this shrinks the bacon so that curls away from the chicken - if so, use a cocktail stick to help hold the bacon in place.
- Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake for around 30 - 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (it should feel firm and you may see some white juices appear at the bottom). Meanwhile, make the sauce.
For whisky sauce
- I find it works well to use the same skillet as for searing the chicken, just wipe it clean, but you can also use a separate small skillet/frying pan or pan. Gently warm the skillet/pan and then remove from the heat or turn it off.
- Add the whisky, let it sizzle slightly then carefully light it with a blowtorch or match (take extreme care, as the flames can be high - do NOT lean over the pan and light only on the edge, quickly moving hand away). Let the flames burn off the alcohol and naturally die down.
- Once flames have stopped, return to the heat and add the stock and cream. Stir in the mustard. Warm over a medium-low heat to come to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes to gently thicken the sauce. Stir through the honey, if using, and serve over the chicken.
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