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You know what?  I’d never stuffed a chicken before.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my Chinese mother used her oven for storing plates, so we never had roasts or homemade cakes.  That certainly isn’t a complaint, as mum more than made up for it with the most amazing meals.  But a roast chicken, well, it just wasn’t culturally congruous.

So despite my friend Ellen’s misgivings (“you can’t blog about stuffing a chook!”), here is my first attempt. We roasted the chicken in our Römertopf baker and, as always, were completely delighted with the results.

Ingredients: shallots (you could use onions, I just had these on hand), organic garlic, fresh sage leaves from the garden and leftover sourdough bread…and an egg.

1. Soak the clay pot in a sink full of cold water for at least 15 minutes. Tear the bread into large pieces and food process into large crumbs.

2. Chop the shallots and garlic, then fry them briefly in a little oil to soften.  Add them to the breadcrumbs, finely chopped sage and egg, and mix the stuffing together to form a moist paste.  Season with a little salt and pepper. You might need to squelch it together with a clean hand.

3. Loosely stuff the cavity of a prepared chicken – ours was a large free-range bird, weighing in at about 1.6kg.

4.  Lay scrubbed and halved potatoes over the base of the presoaked baker. Scatter over some extra garlic cloves and any leftover stuffing.

5. Remove any excess fat, then rub the chicken all over with a little olive oil,  a little caramelised balsamic vinegar (optional), salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sit it breast side down on top of the potatoes.  You might need to adjust the spuds a bit, depending on the size of your bird.  The nice thing about the clay baker is that you really only need to add the tiniest bit of oil – the chicken will mostly baste in its own juices, flavouring the other ingredients as it does so.

Note that the potatoes will boil and bake in the rendered fat and juices, so don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of liquid at the base after the chicken is cooked.  And don’t panic, it’s not all fat, most of it is chicken stock which hasn’t evaporated because the pot is sealed.  Just lift the cooked potatoes out with a slotted spoon at the end.

6. Put the lid on the clay baker, and place it into a cold oven.  Turn the temperature to 200C with fan and allow the pot to bake for one and a half hours.  Remove the lid and allow it to roast for another half an hour or until golden brown and cooked through.

One roast chicken comfortably feeds all four of us, with nothing left over. Small Man eats the drumsticks and wings, Big Boy eats the thighs and a little of the breast meat, Pete eats the rest of the breast and I get the wonderfully bony backbone with all the bits of offal stuck to it!

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