Roast Chicken, Bread Stuffing, and Braised Vegetables
Usually when we stuff a chicken or a turkey for a special occasion like Sunday dinner or Thanksgiving, we spoon the stuffing into the cavity of a big bird. But here you are going to learn a much simpler way to make a stuffed roast chicken for an everyday dinner.
THE HERB SAGE: A GIFT OF FLAVOR IN BREAD STUFFING
How would it feel to live in a world where everyone was wise and lived forever? During the Middle Ages, many people believed that if you ate sage leaves, you would become very wise and live for many, many years. We know today this isn’t true.
Sage was also used as a medicine by the Greeks and Romans, thousands of years ago, and by Native Americans, who mixed sage leaves with bear grease to heal sores and to treat snake bites. The Chinese thought sage leaves made one of the finest teas.
The wild plant called sagebrush that grows in the high desert is not the same plant as the sage that we use in cooking. It smells good, but it tastes very unpleasant. You can plant the sage for cooking in your own backyard. Sometimes you can find fresh sage leaves for sale at a farmers’ market or at the supermarket, and you can always buy it dried. The sage we grow has a strong, sharp, rather bitter, but pleasing taste. It is hard to describe because it has a flavor all its own. For our stuffing we can use either dried sage, crumbled or ground up, or finely chopped fresh leaves.
WHAT YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT TO PLAN A MEAL
What foods look and taste good together? You want to try for a balance in both color and texture: something green and something light-colored, something crunchy and something soft. You don’t have to be an artist. Just don’t serve mashed potatoes, pancakes, and sliced white bread all together for a meal because all these things are pale, white, and soft in texture, and they will taste similar and dull together. A meal you would love to meet at the table would be: a slice of warm, juicy, browned meatloaf with a hot, buttery baked potato and a crisp, green salad. A chocolate brownie would make a perfect end to this supper.
Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
Recipe Coursemain course
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturesavory
- 8 slices white bread
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 small onion
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons dried sage or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- ½ cup chicken broth or water
- 2½-pound chicken, split in two
- Vegetable shortening for greasing the pan
- Salt and pepper
- 4 carrots
- 2 onions
- 8 small red potatoes
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup water
- Salt and pepper
- Kitchen Timer
- Tongs or a Fork
- Large Bowl
- Paring Knife or 8-inch Serrated Knife
- Cutting Board
- Small Bowl
- Medium-Sized Skillet
- Large Spoon
- Measuring Spoons
- Measuring Cups
- 13-by 9-by 2-inch Baking Pan for the Chicken
- Vegetable Peeler
- 1- to 1½-Quart Casserole Dish (With Lid) for the Vegetables
- Small Saucepan
- Pot Holders
Making the sage bread stuffing:
Turn the oven on to 225°F. Spread the bread slices in a single layer on the oven rack, keeping them a little apart. Set the kitchen timer for 35 minutes. When the bell rings turn the slices over with tongs or a fork. Let the bread dry out 15 more minutes and then take a slice and break it in half If it is still soft in the middle, put it back and let the bread dry out 15 more minutes. Dry bread has much better taste and texture than fresh bread when it is baked in a stuffing. When the bread is completely dry, take it out of the oven and put it in a large bowl. Use your hands to break up the bread into lots of little pieces.
Cut each of the 2 celery stalks lengthwise into 3 long pieces. Then cut these crosswise into small pieces. Put the chopped celery into a small bowl.
Trim off the stem end of the onion and the fuzzy little roots. Peel off the papery outside skin. Cut the onion in half from the top, stem end to the bottom, root end. Put the onion halves on a cutting board, cut side down. Cut each half crosswise into about 8 slices, and then cut the slices into thirds so you end up with lots of small pieces. Put the chopped onion into the bowl with the celery.
Set a medium-sized skillet on the stove burner and turn on the heat to medium-low. Put the 4 tablespoons butter into the skillet, and when it has melted a little, tilt the skillet—up, down, and around, so the that the melted butter covers the bottom. Add the chopped celery and onion to the skillet, and stir them around with a big spoon, spreading them evenly around the skillet. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes, until the onion has softened a little. Test to see if it has softened by taking a few pieces of onion out with the spoon, letting them cool a minute, and tasting to see if the onion has lost its crispness. If it hasn’t, keep cooking and stirring and test again in 2 minutes. When the celery and onion have cooked, add them to the bowl of bread pieces.
Add the ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the dried 1½ teaspoons or 1 tablespoon fresh sage. If you’re using dried sage, taste a little pinch of it, and if it doesn’t much flavor, add an extra teaspoon. Mix the stuffing with your hands, reaching to the bottom of the bowl and tossing, so all the flavors mingle with the bread.
Drizzle the ½ cup broth or water over the stuffing. Toss and mix the stuffing lightly with your hands again, until all the ingredients are moist and well mixed. The stuffing should not be wet, just softened and damp. Taste and add a little more salt, pepper, or sage, if needed.
Preparing the chicken:
Turn the oven on to 425°F. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven. Wash the chicken halves under cold running water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
You need a baking pan or an ovenproof baking dish large enough for the 2 chicken halves to sit side by side without crowding. Grease the pan with a little vegetable shortening.
Divide the stuffing in half. Make 2 rounded mounds of stuffing at either end of the baking dish. Salt and pepper the skin of each chicken half. Put each half on top of a mound of stuffing. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables.
Preparing the vegetables:
Slice off the stem top and root tip of the 4 carrots. Hold each carrot by its thick top with one hand and with the other, hold a vegetable peeler. Slide the peeler down— from the top where you are holding the carrot to the bottom— digging in just enough to remove the peel. Turn the carrot and repeat until the whole carrot is peeled. Cut each carrot into 4 pieces and put them into an ovenproof casserole dish with a lid.
. Trim, peel, and cut the 2 onions in half the way you did to the onion for the stuffing. Then cut each onion half in two crosswise, so you end up with 8 pieces of onion. Add the onions to the carrots in the casserole.
. Wash the 8 small potatoes and dry with paper towels. Don’t peel them. If they are larger than a golf ball, cut them in half. Add them to the casserole with the onions and carrots.
. Put the 3 tablespoons butter and ¼ cup water into a small saucepan and turn the heat on to medium. Stir while the butter melts and mixes with the water. As soon as the butter and water are blended, remove from the heat, and pour the liquid over the vegetables in the casserole. Lightly salt and pepper the vegetables. Stir the vegetables with a large spoon so every vegetable is coated with the butter and water mixture. Put the lid on the casserole.
. Put the chicken and the vegetables in the oven at the same time. If you have to, place the vegetable casserole behind the chicken—but both should be on the middle rack. Set the timer for 45 minutes. When the bell rings, using pot holders, take the chicken dish from the oven and put it on the stove top. With the tip of a small paring knife, cut into a chicken leg at the joint between the drumstick and the thigh, cut into a chicken leg at the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. If the juices are clear, the chicken is done. If the juices are pink or red, put the dish back into the oven and cook 15 minutes more.
. When the chicken is done, care fully take the pan out of the oven with pot holder and put it on the stove top or another heat-proof surface. The stuffing around the edges of the chicken will be crisp and dark brown; the stuffing under the chicken will be moist and soft. Take out the vegetable dish with pot holders and put it nearby. With your serrated knife, cut each chicken half in two, cutting between the leg and the wing to make 4 portions. Dish up a portion of chicken, stuffing, and vegetables on each plate, and serve.
1995 Marion Cunningham