Monday, 29 December 2008

Classic Roast Chook with Stuffing and Gravy

I missed a small but very important part of Xmas this year: the stuffing and gravy. I really love a roast turkey with stuffing and gravy. I almost share my mother's position on this, which is that the turkey is mostly relevant for providing the raw material and excuse for stuffing and gravy.

I seriously thought about buying a turkey, so that I could do it anyway. But there are only two of us, and the only ones I've seen on special so far are those "self-basting" ones with the weird butter-flavoured grease injections. I have instead got a proper chicken - a 1.9kg free range beast from Lilydale poultry. So I'm going to have my roast with stuffing and gravy anyway. Chicken used to be a Christmas treat, back before the factory farming methods made them cheap and relatively tasteless.

The gravy is a bit make-do, since there were no giblets or neck with the chicken. I've simmered a common stock cube with some carrot, celery, herbs and leftover flat champagne to get the liquid. The stuffing is a classic with a twist: I've used native pepper instead of the usual black pepper. I've just got roast baby potatoes and steamed green beans to go with it. Nothing fancy, just a pure classic. I even looked up the cooking time in an old Margaret Fulton book.

Recipes follow.

Recipe 1: Sage & Onion Stuffing

6 slices wholegrain bread
1 medium onion
50g butter
1 teaspoon native pepper berries
1 tablespoon shredded fresh sage leaves

Remove the crusts from the bread, and tear up into very small pieces.
Crush the pepper berries in a mortar and pestle.
Mix pepper and sage into breadcrumbs.
Slice the onion into small dice and fry gently in the butter until translucent and starting to turn golden.
Tip onion and butter into the bread crumbs, and mix well.
Stuff into the chicken.

Notes: You can use a food processor to crumb the bread if you like. It's also easier to do by hand if it's a bit stale - leave the bread out of its plastic bag overnight, for instance, or let it sit in the warming oven for 10 minutes.

Recipe 2: Roast chicken
Umm, really? A recipe? Bung chook in oven. Keep moist somehow. Add flavours if you want. Cook until done. High or low, either can work. OK, seriously, here we go.

1 chicken

Wash chicken inside and out, remove fat from vent area, and stuff if desired. Place chicken in a flame-proof baking dish, with a little oil underneath to prevent sticking. Spray a little oil on the breast, and drape foil over the top. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes, then lower to 180C for a further 25 minutes per 500g weight. Baste with pan juices and a little white wine about every 20 minutes. Remove foil for last 20 minutes to brown.

The chicken is done when it's at about 80C on a meat thermometer, or leg and thigh can be easily wobbled about and torn off, or the juices from the thigh run clear, and not pink, when it's pierced with a skewer. Rest, covered with foil, for 15 minutes before carving.

Notes: Oh, look, there are about ten billion variations here. Stuff with lemon and herbs. Cook slower or faster. Cook on a rack. Stuff tarragon butter under the skin. Drape breast with bacon instead of foil. Use a spice rub. The flame-proof roasting pan is necessary if you're making gravy, otherwise you could easily use a glass dish. This oven temperature is NOT for a fan-forced oven. My fan element is broken, as you might recall.

Recipe 3: Old-fashioned Gravy

The roasting pan and its juices
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups stock, mixed with white wine if you want
Gravy browning

While the chicken is resting, make gravy. Strain juices from the pan into a fat separator, or just remove excess fat with a spoon. Save a couple of tablespoons of the fat. Put the pan over the heat and stir the flour into the reserved fat and juices, to make a roux. Add hot stock gradually, stirring well. If it goes lumpy, just use a whisk. Bring to a simmer to cook the flour and thicken the gravy. Add gravy browning if you like a darker colour.

Gravy browning is also called Parisienne Essence, and it's basically a dark colour made from caramel. You could use a bit of worcestershire or soy sauce instead, for a dash more flavour. Mine was dark enough anyway, this time.

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