Haggis! Revered by some, reviled by many, Haggis is Scotland’s national dish. And well it should be. In Haggis one finds much of that which is wonderful and terrible about Scottish cuisine…all in round or tubular form. Haggis, not to put too fine a point on it, is offal. It is the minced heart, liver and lungs of a sheep combined with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the sheep’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.
What Haggis is not, however, is the mythical beast about which many children are told in an effort to induce them to try the “delicacy.” According to this “myth” the Wild Haggis is a beast superbly adapted to its natural Scottish Highland environment; its left and right legs of different lengths – much like the Sidehill Gouger of North America or the Dahu of the French and Swiss Alpine lands — allowing it to move more easily around the steep mountains and hillsides which make up its natural habitat…but only in one direction. I have previously attempted to foist this myth on my daughter Gwennie and on Steven, the 11 year old son of my friends Ian and Julie Oakley. While I did so with Ian’s full support I understand that child endangerment charges remain pending (I’m watching you, Julie). For an excellent article on the nature of the Wild Haggis and its breeding patterns, see: http://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~s0681349/Haggis.pdf.
While Haggis is traditionally made by stuffing the minced meat, offal, onions and spices, sausage-like, inside the stomach of the sheep from which the raw offal is drawn, contemporary haggis is generally prepared in a sausage lining (either the intestines – like most sausage – or a food grade plastic). The traditional dish is generally served with “neeps” and “tatties” – mashed turnips and potatoes. The recipe of Tom Kitchin – one of Scotland’s top chefs – for this dish can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/haggisneepsandtattie_91083.
There are, however, many possible uses for this spectacular ingredient. One common dish is the Flying Scotsman – haggis stuffed inside a chicken breast. I chose to take just such an approach but paired it with a Horseradish Cream sauce spiked with 12 year old Auchentoshan Scotch Whiskey (http://www.auchentoshan.com), an elegant triple distilled whiskey with fruity flavors and hints of spice. The Auchentoshan Horseradish Cream serves to cut through the richness of the Haggis and bring the entire dish into harmony.
(Haggis Stuffed Chicken with Auchentoshan Horseradish Cream)
For the Haggis Stuffed Chicken:
- 4 half chicken breasts
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
- several sprigs fresh thyme
- several sprigs fresh rosemary
- freshly ground pepper
1 tube of haggis (preferably freshed, but 2 cans of haggis will do)
For the Horseradish Cream:
- 8-10 inch long piece of horseradish root
- 2 tablespoons, water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup crème fraiche
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (less if using the sharper European Dijon mustards)
2 tablespoons Auchentoshan 12 year old Scotch Whiskey
- Marinate the Chicken. Combine the balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, thyme, rosemary and pepper and whisk to thoroughly mix. Slit the chicken breasts horizontally to create a gap into which, eventually, to stuff the haggis. Pour the marinade over the chicken breasts (and inside the slit), cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
- Make the Prepared Horseradish. Peel the horseradish using a vegetable peeler. Chop the peeled horseradish to a rough chop. Put the pieces into a food processor, add water and process until ground to a rough paste. DO NOT GET YOUR EYES TOO CLOSE TO THE FOOD PROCESSOR AS GROUND HORSERADISH IS EXTREMELY IRRITATING TO THE EYES. Strain out some of the water if the mixture is too liquidy. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar and a pinch of salt to the mixture. Pulse to combine and to get the texture to your desired smoothness. This will make far more prepared horseradish than you need for this dish but it keeps well and has many other uses (it is excellent with salmon and superb with roast beef). If you cannot obtain fresh horseradish you can omit this step and use supermarket Prepared Horseradish.
- Make the Auchentoshan Horseradish Cream. Combine 3 tablespoons of the Prepared Horseradish with the remaining Horseradish Cream ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Stuff and Roast the Chicken Breasts. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit (175° Celsius). Lightly oil a roasting pan. Empty the haggis sausage into a bowl and break up the haggis with your fingers. Generously stuff the chicken breasts with the haggis, arrange them on the roasting pan and brush with the remaining oil. Place the pan and roast in the oven until the breasts are barely cooked through (they will continue to cook as they coast), about half an hour. Remove the stuffed breasts from the oven and let them rest on a plate or cutting board for about 5 minutes.
Plate the Dish. Place each of the stuffed chicken breasts on each of the plates and spoon over some of the Horseradish Cream. Serve with rice (or neeps and tatties) as well as a vegetable (such as roast broccolini).
NB – Horseradish offers a “heat” that is different in kind from the capsicum-driven heat of chiles. Much like chile pepper sauces the amount of heat is a matter of individual preference. The goal here is to use enough horseradish (and mustard) to taste the heat but not so much that it takes over the dish. Vary the ratio of horseradish to crème fraiche to achieve that result. The sauce can also be made using store-bought “Horseradish Sauce” by combining it directly with the mustard, crème fraiche and whiskey.