This Thanksgiving, I did a deconstructed stuffed turkey. Jan invited one of her former Chinese students to dinner and she had requested American “festival foods.” Since I still have half a turkey in my freezer, I did not want to do another, but I thought I could adapt my recipe to chicken.
This recipe produces a really moist bird and a savory stuffing. It also has the advantage of roasting more quickly that roasting a bird whole. But you do lose the presentation effect of a presenting an uncut crisp bird at the table.
When entertaining a Chinese guest you want to present as many dishes as possible—the more dishes the more respect you are showing. To go with the chicken and stuffing, I made mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, a salad, and three hor d’oeuvre—deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms and kūbide meatballs.
Karl’s Deconstructed Stuffed Chicken
1 whole chicken (5 pounds Kosher preferred)
⅓ cup Irish or European style butter, softened
1½ Tbs. poultry seasoning
½+ tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked
1 sweet French baguette
1 Tbs. poultry seasoning
2 Tbs. vegetable oil (butter or chicken fat)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
½ cup shredded chicken meat (recovered from the meaty bits during making the chicken stock)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Karl’s chicken stock (or 1 cup commercial broth)
Note: While you may do this all in one day—if you start early—it is easier to season the chicken and to make the chicken stock the day before.
1. Soften the butter and mix in the poultry seasoning, half a teaspoon of salt, and the pepper and set it aside.
Tip: You do not want the butter to melt, but do not put it in the refrigerator or it will harden. You want it to be an easily spreadable paste.
2. Remove the neck and any giblets.
Note: If you have already made your chicken stock freeze these for later.
3. Remove any large lumps of fat from around the neck and tail cavities of the bird.
Tip: You may render these lumps of fat for smaltz for another recipe.
4. Lay the remaining chicken carcass breast side down.
Note: If you have read my turkey recipe, you will see that I cut the chicken apart very differently than the turkey. Since the chicken is smaller, the bones in is necessary to keep the meat from over cooking.
5. Using kitchen shears—and starting from the tail—cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it entirely.
Tip: Add the back to the neck and giblets.
6. With the chicken breast side up—use a boning knife, paring knife or kitchen shears—cut through skin and thin sheet of meat around leg quarter where it attaches to breast to separate it completely.
7. Using a knife and your hands, free the skin from the thigh and pull it all the way down to the bottom of the leg.
Tip: Ideally, you want to leave the skin attached along the top of the thigh, where it met the backbone and at the bottom of the leg. Do not pull the skin free of the leg! After you season the meat, you will be pulling the skin back over the leg and thigh
Note: One side of each leg will have some thick tendons just under the surface. Use a paring knife to punch a few holes through the tendons to let the seasoning into the meat.
8. Using about a third of the herb paste, rub the legs and thighs all over with the seasonings.
9. Pull the skin back over the meat.
10. Place leg quarters in a second roasting pan.
11. Lay the breast skin side down and, using a sharp knife, separate the ribs from the breast meat on both sides, from the pointed end up toward the front of the bird.
Note: I cut off the wing tip—the pointy end mostly skin and very little meat—and add it to the bits and pieces for later use.
12. Using a heavy knife or clever, slice down through the breast bone to separate the breast halves.
Tip: The chicken bone is soft enough that you will be able to cut right through the bone, giving you two even breast halves.
Note: The turkey breast bone was so tough I had to cut done one side of it, leaving one breast substantially larger than the other.
13. Separate the skin from the breast—leaving it attached at the line of the breast bone—and spread half of the remaining herb paste under the skin.
14. Pull the skin back over to cover the meat.
15. Spread the remaining herb paste over the underside of the breasts.
16. Place the breast in the pan with the legs.
Tip: The sides with the most skin should be up.
17. Cover the pieces with a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Tip: Overnight is better.
Note: Besides marinating the meat with the spice paste, part of this resting is to completely dry out the skin, so that it crisps nicely. Many of the TV chefs leave their poultry in the refrigerator uncovered. They, of course, have empty refrigerators dedicated to this purpose. A plastic wrap would prevent this drying, so using a kitchen towel seems like a good compromise.
18. Cut the baguette into ½-inch cubes and toast them on a baking sheet in a 300º F oven for 20-30 minutes, until dry and just starting to brown.
Tip: Stir the bread cubes half way through, so that they brown evenly.
19. Transfer the bread cubes to a large mixing bowl.
20. Sprinkle the poultry seasoning over the bread and toss to distribute.
21. Add some oil to a large pan and sauté the onions and celery with the salt until just translucent.
Tip: You may use butter, vegetable oil or chicken smaltz.
22. Sprinkle the black pepper over the vegetables and add the reserved chicken meat from making the stock.
23. Stir in one half a cup of liquid into the pan and remove it from the heat.
Tip: Again, this can be homemade stock, water, commercial chicken broth, or water.
24. Add the apple pieces and pine nuts to the bread cubes in the large mixing bowl.
25. Put the eggs in a two-cup measuring cup and beat them well.
26. Mix another half cup of liquid into the eggs.
Tip: Here you may use half a cup of white wine or sherry.
27. Pour the egg mixture and the contents of the pan over the bread cubes.
Tip: Use a spatula to scrape out all of the “good stuff” from the pan and measuring cup.
28. Toss the bread to distribute the ingredients.
Tip: The mixing bowl may be very full at this time, toss the ingredients very carefully—as they will want to fall out of the bowl as you toss them.
Note: The stuffing may seem a bit dry. However, as the chicken releases its juices the stuffing will become quite moist during the roasting time.
Roasting the Chicken
29. About 30 minutes before you are ready to put the bird in the oven, pre-heat it to 450º F.
30. About 2½ hours before dinner, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and set it on the counter to come to room temperature.
Tip: A room temperature bird will cook more evenly than a refrigerator cold chicken.
31. Pam a large roasting pan.
32. Transfer all of the stuffing to the roasting pan and pat it flat.
33. Place both breast halves—skin side up—with the thickest parts near the outer edge.
35. Arrange both leg quarters—again with the side with the most skin facing up—over the other end of the stuffing.
36. Lightly season breast and leg quarters skin with salt.
37. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil lightly over the breasts.
Tip: This prevents the breasts from overcooking, while the legs—which take longer to cook—get a jump start.
38. Put the roasting pan into the oven and roast for 20 minutes at 425º F.
39. Reduce oven temperature to 350º F and insert a constant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, near the wing joint.
Tip: Set the thermometer alarm to 160º F.
Note: Remove the foil covering the breasts.
40. Roast for another 20 minutes and then rotate the pan.
Tip: The back of the oven tends to be hotter than the front. Rotating the pan insured even cooking.
41. Continue roasting until the thermometer alarm goes off—another 20-30 minutes.
Tip: The time is dependent on the exact size of your chicken and the exact temperature of your oven.
Carving the Chicken
Note: This recipe does not lend itself to a fancy carving ceremony at the table. I prefer to carve the chicken into decent portions in the kitchen and then to present them artfully arraigned on the serving plate, with the stuffing on the side.
Alternative presentation. Mound the stuffing on a large platter and set the breasts on top of the stuffing. Place the legs in position as if they were still attached. Carve and serve at the table.
42. Transfer the breast and legs to a cutting board.
43. Check the seasoning of the stuffing and add salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: If you feel the stuffing might be getting cool, toss it—so that the stuffing on the bottom does not burn—and return the pan to the cooling oven.
44. Lay the leg in the cutting board with the skin side down and separate the leg from the thigh.
45. Transfer the leg and thigh to the serving platter.
46. Lay the breast skin side up and slice it into portions crosswise.
Tip: Depending on the size of the breast I cut off the wing with a good bit of the breast meat, the point, and I leave the remaining piece whole for a small breast and divide it in two for a large breast.
47. Reassemble the breasts on the serving platter.
Tip: You may garnish the platter with parsley
48. Serve warm with the stuffing on the side.