By J.M. Hirsch
Why is it that we only stuff poultry one day a year?
Let’s face it, stuffing takes an already delicious dish — roasted poultry — and makes it even more so by adding flavorful, fat-soaked carbs to the mix. Yet outside of Thanksgiving, few of us ever think to stuff and roast a bird.
Admittedly, most of us don’t have the time to prepare a stuffed turkey on a weeknight. But why not try a chicken?
The beauty of a roasted chicken is that aside from about 15 minutes prep, nearly all of the time is hands-off. And we can keep the roasting time itself pretty minimal by spatchcocking the chicken (cutting out the backbone and flattening the bird) before stuffing and roasting it.
With Passover coming Monday evening, I decided to play around with a matzo-based herb stuffing. But if you’d rather stick with a more traditional stuffing base, the technique works just as well.
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
5 sheets (5 oz.) salted matzo, crumbled
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
5-lb. whole chicken
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 13-by-18-inch baking pan with cooking oil.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion, celery and mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the oregano, parsley, thyme and basil and cook for another minute. Add the crumbled matzo. Stir well, sprinkling in just enough broth to make a moist stuffing, about ½ cup. Season with salt and pepper, then spread the stuffing evenly in the prepared baking pan.
Place the chicken on the cutting board with the breast down. On one side of the backbone, use kitchen shears to carefully cut from the neck hole down the length of the backbone and out the rump. This will require a little effort, but the shears should cut through the bones without too much difficulty. Repeat the cut along the other side of the backbone, removing and discarding it.
Spread open the chicken, exposing the cavity, then overturn the bird and set it over the stuffing in the pan. Season under the skin with salt and pepper. Rub the outside of the skin with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees. If the chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil.
Makes 6 servings.