Nicely stuffed: A masterclass in roasting a chook

RUTH PRETTY
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014
Ruth Pretty
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

PLUMP AND MOIST: Ruth Pretty's roast chicken with prune and apricot stuffing and pan jus.

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I love roast chicken and mostly enjoy it without stuffing. However, we all know stuffing does go down a treat, so take the extra time to spoil those who gather around your dinner table. The bacon-wrapped stuffing balls cooked alongside this chicken are a bonus for stuffing lovers.

ROAST CHICKEN WITH PRUNE AND APRICOT STUFFING AND PAN JUS

Serves 4- 6

My preference is for corn-fed chickens as they are plump and the meat is moist. Frozen chickens are always handy to have on hand but a fresh chicken will produce crisper skin and juicier meat.

The most efficient way of thawing a frozen whole chicken is to place the frozen bird in its plastic wrapping into the sink and run a continuous gentle stream of cold water over it. 1.3-1.5kg (size 14) chicken

Size 14 chicken
3-4 rashers streaky rindless bacon
30ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil, plus extra for oiling roasting pan
3-4 small rosemary sprigs
500ml (2 cups) white wine, chicken stock, a mixture of both, or half of either with cold water added for volume
tsp flaky sea salt
tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Remove any giblets and the neck from the chicken. Wash the inside and outside of the chicken with cold water and pat dry using paper towels.

3. Push Prune and Apricot Stuffing (see below for recipe) into the cavity of the chicken, and secure the opening with toothpicks or bamboo skewers. (There will be stuffing remaining so form it into small walnut-sized balls and wrap in bacon to add to roasting pan during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.)

4. Fold chicken wings back on themselves to prevent them from flopping out when cooking.

5. Heat a large heavy-based fry pan over a medium heat and add oil. Place chicken, breast side down in fry pan and sear for 1-2 minutes till golden brown. Turn the chicken onto its side and continue this process till each side is golden brown.

6. Lightly oil a roasting pan and add rosemary to the base. Place the chicken on top of the rosemary.

7. Place roasting pan in oven and roast for 1 hours or until chicken juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

8. (Don't forget to add bacon-wrapped stuffing balls to the roasting pan after 45 minutes of chicken roasting time.)

9. Remove chicken from pan and rest for 10 minutes, away from heat, covered with a heavy tea towel. Discard rosemary.

10. Place the roasting pan onto a medium heat and pour wine into it. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any baked-on bits from the base of the roasting pan and reduce liquid to about . Add salt and pepper and slowly pour in olive oil, whisking as you do. If you wish, strain jus.

11. Carve stuffed chicken and serve with jus and stuffing balls. If you wish, accompany with roast kumara and Silverbeet with Sherry Vinegar (recipe below).

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PRUNE AND APRICOT STUFFING

If possible, use dried apricots from Central Otago as they are soft and luscious.

225g (3 cups) fresh breadcrumbs
75g (cup) pitted prunes, roughly chopped
75g (cup) dried apricots, roughly chopped
35g (cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
30g (3 Tbsp) butter
90g small onion, diced
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tsp flaky sea salt
tsp black pepper

1. Place breadcrumbs, prunes, apricots, pine nuts and lemon zest into a medium-sized bowl. In a small fry pan over a medium heat, add butter and melt. Add onion and cook till soft and transparent but not brown. Add rosemary and combine. Cool.

2. Add onion mixture to breadcrumb mixture and combine. Add egg and salt and pepper and mix together.

SILVERBEET WITH SHERRY VINEGAR

Serves 6

750g-1kg (1 large bunch) silverbeet
40g (4 Tbsp) butter
3 cloves finely crushed garlic
15ml (1 Tbsp) sherry vinegar
1 tsp flaky sea salt
tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Wash silverbeet well and remove stems from greens. Slice leaves and stems.

2. Place half the butter in a large pan set over a medium heat and melt.

3. Add garlic and cook for a few seconds or until just beginning to soften.

4. Add greens, stalks and the remainder of the butter (depending on the size of the pan you may need to cook silverbeet in two batches).

5. Cook while stirring until silverbeet is wilted and tender.

6. Add sherry vinegar with salt and pepper and combine. Remove from heat and serve.

TIPS

■ Take a tiny amount of stuffing, cook in the microwave and taste to test if seasoning is correct.

■ Browning a chicken before it goes into the oven guarantees crispy golden skin.

■ For ease of slicing silverbeet, layer leaves in stacks and roll widthways.

- Your Weekend

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