In just 0.24 of a second, Google found me thirteen million, six hundred thousand roast chicken recipes. Surely, that’s enough for you to be getting on with? So, I should just leave things here. I shouldn’t bother buying a top quality, free range, Irish chicken. With that many recipes out there, there is little purpose. It would be a waste of time. There is no point in selecting some fine olive oil to bind the stuffing ingredients. It’s a fool’s errand getting my hands on some delicious and nutritious walnuts. No matter what I do, somebody has done it before. Those Google lads have all those recipes in their rows and rows of filing cabinets. Why should I waste my time, lovingly slicing onions, zesting a lemon and delicately plucking sage leaves from their woody branches? It would be very silly of me to lay my hands on some very finely sliced streaky bacon to drape across the decollage of the plump naked bird. All that so I can give those chaps over in Google another recipe and some more photos to add to the prodigious filing pile. It’s no wonder their office in Dublin is so big.
There’s no point. It’s all been done before. However, if I only cooked totally original recipes, I wouldn’t be cooking very much. So at the risk of comments like “Saw it over on the Food Network.” or “That’s just how my gran used to cook a chicken.” I give you my Roast Chicken with Walnut and Sage Stuffing recipe.
The ingredients list won’t come as any shock to you. You have seen it all before.
- 1 top quality free range chicken.
- 3 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford.
- 2 plump onions.
- 200 grammes of walnuts
- 150 grammes of breadcrumbs
- 5 rashers of thinly sliced streaky bacon
- 1 good quality lemon.
- 1 handful of fresh sage leaves.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Cooking twine and a big needle.
At the risk of boring you all to tears, here’s the onions after I sliced them. If you are in tears, blame the onions.
Slice the sage into small pieces.
Sweat the onions in a pan until they become translucent. While this is going on, roughly crush the walnuts.
Then add the walnuts, breadcrumbs, onions and zest of the lemon to a big mixing bowl.
Season the stuffing generously, and give it a good mixing around while adding the olive oil. This will add flavour and also help to make the stuffing more manageable.
Prepare the bird by removing the lumps of fat just inside the cavity. I have spared you a photo of that. Next, ram great clumps of the stuffing into the bird. Shove it in without ceremony. When I stuff a bird, it stays stuffed!
Close over the flaps and stitch up the opening. We don’t want the stuffing falling back out.
Side note on cooking stuffing: I have read about cooking stuffing. Numerous chefs recommend cooking the stuffing separately. To my mind, this is total nonsense. Firstly, there is a clue in the name “Stuffing”. Secondly, as the bird cooks, the chicken flavour and juices get into the stuffing and the stuffing flavour suffuses the flesh of the chicken. That is the object of the exercise. If you believe that you will wipe out your family because you don’t know how to roast a stuffed chicken, you should not be let into the kitchen in the first place.
Drape the bird with the bacon. This is to keep the chicken moist. It has the added benefit of providing flavour and the bonus of having a nice few bits of crispy bacon to go with the chicken.
Place the bird into a preheated 200ºC oven. Depending on the size of the bird, it will need to be in there for between an hour and a half and two hours. Mine was a 2.2kg bird before stuffing and was cooked to perfection in one and three-quarter hours. After an hour and a half, I removed the bacon to allow the crown to brown.
I let the chicken rest for 15 minutes while I made a simple gravy using the roasting tin, salt, pepper, flour and some of the tin juices. The roast chicken with walnut and sage stuffing was fantastic. The recipe is my own. It may and may not be original. Go Google it, if you wish. I’m sure that a few million other versions are hidden away in those big Google filing cabinets (under C for chicken recipes, with a lot of duplication under R for roast chicken). They probably have the stuffing cooked in aluminium foil, in a separate oven, for safety. I encourage you to live dangerously, stuff the bird! But, read my footnotes.
Footnote on poultry safety: In case you think I have lost my marbles and am promoting risky cooking, I’m not. If you are cooking chicken, be sure that it’s cooked properly. You can do this be using a meat thermometer. I won’t tell you what temperature is safe. That seems to vary from country to country, for some strange reason. I use two methods to check for doneness. One involves jiggling the leg of the bird. If it moves pretty freely in the hip joint, it’s done. The other method is to stick a fork into the thick part of the leg. If it runs clear (no blood), it’s done too. Jiggle and poke, it works for me.
Footnote on washing poultry: For some totally daft reason, food hygienists used to recommend washing poultry before cooking. On the face of it, this seems to make sense as it would be pretty silly to wash it after cooking. However, we live in enlightened times. The current advice is to not wash the bird at all. You will spread all manner of dire consequences around your kitchen if you do. In short, don’t wash the chicken. Stuff it, then roast it.
Final footnote on poultry related hygiene: In the course of preparing this chicken, I washed my hands seven times. I also washed down every work surface that came into contact with either me or the chicken. Better safe than sorry. I believe one can be very sorry.
I wonder, do Google wash the filing cabinets?