Sorry, is that an inappropriate picture for a post about roast chicken? I love chickens both alive and cooked, and I just don’t have enough opportunities to post pictures of them in the former state.
I remembered on Saturday night that I wanted to make a Sunday roast with the chicken that was sitting in my freezer taking up valuable space that could be filled with vegetable peelings (I’m running out of my homemade stock by now, you see, and I need to save my veggie scraps to make some more.) However, I was already half asleep, and the thought wasn’t sufficiently nagging to keep me awake or persuade me to get up now and take it out of the freezer.
So I did something terribly irresponsible and took it out the next morning, and left it in the draining rack to defrost. My mother and sister would be having fits by now (they’ve both done food safety courses.) Just to clarify, the proper way to defrost frozen meat is to take it out well in advance and leave it in the fridge to defrost. Especially chicken. But I’m the girl who re-heats risotto a week and a half later. I’m still here to tell the tale. For now.
But anyway, the upshot of this was that I absolutely had to cook it that day – I do have some, very tenuous, awareness of how-not-to-poison-oneself-and-one’s-loved-ones. But we had a full Sunday, and by the time I’d thought about cooking dinner, even the few shops that open here on Sundays were closed, so I had to improvise the stuffing from what I had in the cupboard. My mother never roasted chicken with stuffing, that was reserved for the turkey at Christmas, but she is a much better cook than I am, and meat is far less likely to dry out under her tender care (whatever she says.) I cook roast chicken with stuffing to drastically reduce the chances of ending up with a mouthful of chicken-flavoured sawdust.
With Margaret Costa’s “Four Seasons Cookery Book” as inspiration, I threw together a stuffing which went as follows (sorry, no precise measurements were used in the making of this stuffing.)
There they are.
Oh sorry, should I elaborate? Oh very well then. From the top down:
For a chicken weighing about 3lb (~1.3kg)
A lemon’s worth of lemon zest
A good handful of sultanas or other dried fruit. Apricot would probably be nice (you can’t see them above, but they’re in the bowl with the lemon zest.)
About half the amount shown of breadcrumbs. If you make too many (like I did,) they freeze fine for next time
An onion, chopped and fried in a lot of butter (see below)
A handful of fresh herbs. I used a lot of thyme and some parsley
A handful of nuts. I used almonds, (but I imagine walnuts, hazlenuts, cashews would all be nice too)
White wine. Enough to soak the breadcrumbs nicely
2 or 3 cloves of garlic. More if you don’t need to interact with people the next day
Fresh herbs (again I used thyme)
Mix together the lemon zest, sultanas, nuts, breadcrumbs, onion, and herbs together. If you’ve used a lot of butter to fry the onions, the crumbs should already be a bit wet. Add wine until they are soggy. If you don’t want to use so much butter,
more fool you use slightly more wine to make up for it. Season with salt and pepper.
When it’s all nicely mixed, stuff it into the cavity in the chicken (this is not a delicate operation, so I will not use delicate language for it.) Then crush the garlic with the flat of the vegetable knife (this is the only way to crush garlic. Specialist garlic crushers just waste too much of the precious smelly stuff,) and push into the stuffing. Put in 5-10 stalks of herbs and fold the flap of skin over to hold it all in place.
Put the chicken into a roasting dish (or other dish, I don’t have one, so I used a pyrex dish.) Smear butter all over the chicken’s skin, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stick in in the preheated (200C) oven for your calculated cooking time. That’s about 30 minutes per pound. (My mother created an absolutely ingenius spreadsheet for working out cooking times. She is the queen of spreadsheets. If you don’t have such a genius in your family, this is quite a good substitute.) Don’t forget to include the weight of stuffing when calculating the cooking time.
Spoon the juices that run out over the bird a couple of times during cooking, and put a butter paper (you know, from that stash you have in your fridge) over it during the last 20 or so minutes if you’re worried about the skin burning. When it’s cooked, tip the juices into a frying pan (or do it in the roasting tin if you’re using a metal one) and make the gravy by adding some of the water used to cook potatoes or vegetables, and some cornflour, and simmering till it’s thick enough.
Pour yourself a glass of wine (if you haven’t already.)