I have to say that I am a big fan of chicken. But when you get a really good quality chicken there is simply nothing to compare. We spend quite a bit of time in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. And Wenty has a brilliant butcher Megalong Beef, named after the Megalong Valley. But they don’t just do beef. They source the most extraordinary open range chickens. They are grown naturally, mature to full size without artificial chemicals and taste like nothing else. So it seemed fitting this year that for Christmas day lunch we should have this brilliant bird on our table.
Roasting a chicken is fairly straight forward but one thing I have noticed is that the better quality the bird the more it adapts to external flavours and the best way to bring extra flavour has got to be stuffing. The most important tip here is around the bread crumbs. I am not talking about those boxed dry things that you could probably plug a hole in the wall with I am talking about makeing your own and it couldn’t be simpler.
Take some old white bread, again real bread, not the stuff in the bag at the supermarket. A few days old is ideal. It should be just starting to feel stale. Cut the crusts off and then roughly chop it with a knife. The pieces should be around half a centimetre in size. You can use a food processor if you wish but my rustic herbed stuffing will benefit from some decent sized bread pieces soaked in the flavours, You can also dry them on a baking sheet in a very low oven and seal in a container. So on to the stuffing.
Recipe: Herbed Chicken Stuffing
- 25 g butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks (top 2/3rds), finely chopped
- 1¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as thyme, sage, parsley and tarragon)
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Gently heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and cook the onion and celery for 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, herbs, beaten egg and salt and pepper, and mix well to bind the mixture together. Allow the stuffing to cool completely before use. You can do this early in the morning and refrigerate in a sealed container.
When using the stuffing do not pack it into the bird. Use around half in the chickens cavity along with a few lemon quarters. Put the rest into a buttered baking dish and bake in the over with the chicken for the last 30 minutes. This lets you serve a great piece of stuffing without ripping the chicken apart.
If you want a little more flavour pour some good quality chicken stock over the stuffing in the baking dish and bake a little longer, this will give you a monster boot of chicken flavour.
Cooking time (duration): 10
Number of servings (yield): 6
Meal type: dinner