A chicken’s inner secret

There is a most underestimated treasure lurking in poultry parlours and butcher shops across town. You might well have to search diligently for these little wonders, and perhaps even argue with your butcher as to your rights to them.

They are difficult to find because most of us wouldn’t even think to look for them. Stuck on the underside of a chicken breast (or pheasant or squab or any flier), is the underfilled attached to the breast by a few threads of sinew and fibre. This is the treasure.

It took me ages to wake up to the extra meal on every couple of chicken breasts. This is the ultra premium cut of the chook, needing a minimum of cooking – no more than a quick sear on each side in a very hot pan.

There’s more to this salutary tale. The same lovely tender underfillet is part of every lamb. If you think well about your buying patterns, and grab an entire loin, bones and the works attached, you will see a deli- ciously pink and tender fillet clinging on like grim death (excuse me) to the edge of the fillet. This too, is pure tender pleasure.

It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to buy these things. Butchers and poulterers leave the chicken underfillet attached. You must pull it away and freeze it until you have enough for a meal. You will need at least two per person for a substantial feed. But think of it this way: it’s free. The slightly smaller portion on a usual chicken breast meal will have no effect on anybody. If you are keen on chicken, it won’t take long to gather enough underfillets for a substantial meal.

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup first-grade sherry — You should have a bottle of sherry handy for all occasions, including resuscitation when the pressures get you down. Even the best is cheap.

½ cup chicken stock, or water if you have none

1 hot chilli, chopped

1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar

sprig of rosemary

several sprigs of tarragon

2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped

8 underfillets of chicken (2 per person) — Next time you buy a chicken breast, have a look underneath. The spear-shaped piece, hanging by threads, is what we’re talking about here.


Mix together the soy, sherry, stock/water, chilli, sugar, herbs and tomatoes, and bring to the boil. Then simmer on a very low heat, just keeping everything at a bubble. The tomatoes will soften, then disintegrate, adding their body and flavour to the mix. Taste for seasoning.


Add a little oil to a pan and heat until very hot. Sear the chicken for about 45 seconds on one side, then turn and do the same on the other side. Remove from the heat and add the chicken to the simmering sauce. Turn off the heat and leave in a warm spot. The cooking of the chicken will be completed in the hot sauce.


Serve with simple noodles, the sauce tossed through, and the chicken pieces here and there. Note: The chicken fillets love a simple marinade of equal parts of soy sauce and sherry, flavoured with a dessertspoon of honey per cup of marinade. Heat the lot through with chilli, garlic and ginger, until the honey has dissolved. Bring to the boil, allow to cool, then cover the fillets. Allow to sit for a few hours, then cook the chicken quickly in a hot pan. Serve with some hot marinade.

WINE: Full-bodied dry white, like a cbardonnay, or medium-bodied red, are equally welcome — it depends what you feel like. If it’s a cbardonnay, don’t chill it too much — the colder it is the less flavour it will give. Any old publican will tell you that if you chill the guts out of a crook white wine, no one will complain.