Christmas is for the children and in our house that would be Mom and Dad. I don’t know when I started assuming the adult role come Christmas but I’m only too happy to oblige. I mean, the look on their faces when I took them Christmas shopping…absolutely priceless. I was also up early Christmas Eve morning to whip up a little feast for the “kids”.
Roast chicken is a fallback for me for special occasions. It may be a bit daunting if you’ve never roasted a chicken before but it’s pretty easy once you manage to roast the first bird. I’ve roasted a few and I think as long as you 1) make sure the chicken is completely thawed to room temperature 2) blot all the moisture on the chicken and inside the cavity with a paper towel and 3) catch the drippings to make a sexy gravy, you should be on your way to delicious roast chicken.
With this roast chicken however, I made a stuffing which was a first. I always thought stuffing was reserved for turkey but why limit the yummy stuff to just one kind of bird?? In fact, stuffing is so good that I doubled mine. For my stuffed roast chicken, I took bits and pieces of wisdom from this recipe and Ina Garten’s which was the first recipe I ever used for roast chicken. I used:
1 whole medium chicken, about 1.5 kg
1 lemon, quartered
a bunch of fresh rosemary (or thyme. I personally prefer thyme but my grocery store was out.)
About 2 T softened butter
About 1 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the stuffing:
About 1 T butter
About 2 T olive oil
3 large stalks celery
2 medium onions
About 1 t dried thyme
Fresh rosemary from about 2 stalks
2 and 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
A generous 1/4 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the gravy:
1 T butter
1 T all-purpose flour
About 1 cup chicken drippings plus more to taste
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white wine (which I wish I omitted)
chicken powder to taste
1. We start with stuffing. The first recipe uses white bread for fresh breadcrumbs but I wanted to bump up the flavor and go a little healthier so I picked up some whole wheat garlic rolls. I don’t own a food processor so I was gonna blitz them in the coffee grounder attachment of my blender but it decided to conk out on me. Luckily, my rolls were dense and dry enough to crumble with a little manual pressure. Yay.
2. Set aside fresh bread crumbs in a medium bowl. Finely dice onions and celery. When done, heat a medium pan on medium heat. Add butter and olive oil. Oil is often added to the pan with butter because butter burns pretty fast and the oil slows it down. Add in onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.
3. Add cooked onion and celery into the bowl with fresh breadcrumbs. Also add in herbs, egg, salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Set aside to cool. (Oh, so exciting!)
4. While the stuffing cools, we can prep the chicken. Preheat oven to 220 C/430 F. Let’s review – make sure the bird is completely thawed and at room temperature. This is important. I got a bit too giddy a couple times and the result is raw chicken in the middle which is a drag. Pat the chicken dry inside out with paper towels. Moisture on the bird will steam the chicken and we want a gorgeous golden roast chicken. When that’s done, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper from a height. This will make for a more even distribution. Take the butter to the bird and lovingly give it a massage. I’m not kidding. You gotta show it some loooove. Throw in a pat of butter in the cavity with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper as well. Now we can stuff! I started with a wedge of lemon then stuffing and the rest of the lemon. I then shoved fresh rosemary stalks into the sides of the cavity.
I didn’t have any kitchen twine and used a strip of folded up aluminum foil instead to tie the legs together. Sprinkle leftover rosemary leaves on the chicken.
5. Place stuffed chicken on a rack. Now, this is a nice tip I learned from the first recipe – pour a cup of water into the pan that will go under this rack in the oven. This is the pan that will catch all the drippings which will later be turned into gravy. I never put water in my pan before and stuff would burn but I thought that was just part of the territory. Apparently, this will also make for a moister roast chicken. Then why be so anal about patting the bird dry, you ask? Do I look like a chef to you? Just put the tray in the oven, OK? On top of that goes the rack with the chicken. Roast for an hour and a half and look at this thing. Is that sexy or what?
Wrap the bird in foil and let it rest. And here’s the tray with the drippings. This is the business. Now we make gravy.
6. In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add in a tablespoon of flour and let cook. This is called a roux. You can cook just until it comes together or until it becomes brown, it’s really your call. I like mine a little toasty. When the roux is ready, gradually whisk in about a cup of the chicken drippings. Add in water and white wine and keep whisking until it thickens. Season with chicken powder and freshly ground black pepper. If the gravy is too thin for you, you can thicken with a flour slurry (flour and water mixture).
Oh my, I almost forgot about the leftover stuffing. Transfer the mixture into a greased loaf pan and bake at 150 C/300 F for 30 minutes. I forgot to turn the oven down (kept it at 220 C) and burned my stuffing a little bit. Oopsy. But this was delicious. STUFFING GOOD.
I served my stuffed roast chicken with some roasted pumpkin. Really easy – just chop up the pumpkin and toss with olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and chili flakes. Chili flakes are optional but I highly recommend it – the sweetness of the pumpkin with a whisper of heat is perfection.
Cover the pumpkin slices with aluminum foil and bake in an oven preheated to 200 c/400 F for about 20 minutes. Isn’t this beautiful?
And everything put together on my plate looked like this.
The best part of Christmas Eve dinner, of course, was the looks on the kids’ faces. They devoured everything and kept saying how yummy everything was because they know I’m needy like that. But modesty aside, everything was pretty friggin’ delicious. The only thing I wish I did different was the white wine in the gravy. I never put white wine in my gravy, I only tried it this one time because the recipe said so and I was intrigued. It’s soooo unnecessary unless you’re of the opinion that a slightly off tang is necessary in your gravy. But I’d like to think I more than made up for it with dessert.
Queso de bola cheesecake on my next post.
Fun Food Fact: Stuffing is only called “stuffing” when it’s cooked outside of the bird. When it’s cooked inside the bird, it’s called “dressing”. In case, you know, you want to be annoying and point that out every time someone called it “stuffing”.