Friday, April 4, 2014

Roast Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing & Orange-Wine Sauce

Plate of Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing
Early Spring Comfort Food

Recipe by Robin

Stuffed chickens are extremely out of fashion and I’d like to reverse that trend, particularly at this time of year. Though technically spring, many days still tend towards damp and chilly, evenings are nippy, and my East Coast friends are looking at snow from yet another storm. We’re craving something warm and comforting. An oven-roasted bird with stuffing reminds us of celebratory feasts from seasons past and orange-wine sauce provides a lighter take on gravy. Why limit our enjoyment of stuffed birds to winter occasions?

Scooping Stuffing out of Roast Chicken
Scoop of Deliciousness
It’s true that making stuffed chicken requires significant time, but during much of this time only minimal work is required by the cook. One must make the stuffing, prepare the bird, stuff the bird, then cook for 1½ - 2 hours while basting (the key to crispy brown skin) and preparing the orange sauce. The stuffing can be prepared the night before, like my grandma did, if it’s refrigerated then brought up to room temperature before stuffing the chicken. Allow at least 3½ hours for stress-free preparation, 4 hours is better if your rice requires 45 minutes or more to cook.

Platter of Stuffing Removed from Chicken
Remove Stuffing Immediately When Done
Stuffed poultry raises legitimate questions about the possibility of ingesting bacteria that can make us sick. Here are some safety tips:
  • Buy organic chickens raised in a clean environment.
  • Check the expiration date and if prepackaged choose a chicken with minimal liquid.
  • Keep chicken under refrigeration.
  • Rinse and dry the chicken inside and out before using, then wash your hands and the sink.
  • Don’t put cold stuffing into the chicken.
  • Stuff chicken loosely. Air must circulate to heat stuffing sufficiently.
  • Don’t cook stuffed chicken at a high temperature (450 – 500 degrees F) as some cooks recommend for unstuffed chicken. Stuffing will not cook quickly enough.
  • After cooking, test temperature on both thigh meat and middle of stuffing: both must be at 165 degrees F. to be safe.
  • When chicken is done cooking, remove stuffing immediately.

Plate of White Chicken Meat and Stuffing with Orange Wine Sauce
Orange-Wine Sauce Compliment
Use any rice or rice mix that you like. My choice is Lundberg’s Wild Blend, a mixture of 5 varieties of brown, black, and wild rices.  Note that it takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to cook, but once it’s simmering you needn’t attend it. The Lundberg family has been farming rice in California’s Central Valley for 3 generations. They’re devoted to eco-farming and using renewable energy sources as well as being official participants in the North American No-GMO  Project. Buying in bulk costs 2½ times less than pre-packaged, and of course is more environmentally friendly. Both options are available at natural food stores and some supermarkets such as Nob Hill.

Ramekin with Stuffing Dotted with Butter
Cup o' Stuffing with Butter Dots
Seasonal oranges (preferably sweet Cara Cara navels,) golden raisins, and fresh herbs from the garden provide some zip, but essentially this recipe is only as good as the quality of the chicken and rice that you use. Do use a bird that has been humanely treated and healthfully (organically) fed. It’s easier on the conscience as well as the taste buds.

Roast Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing
serves 6 – 8

Chicken Leg over Rice on Plate Topped with Orange Wine Sauce
Tangible & Comestible Results of Cook's Work
Note that this recipe is for only 4 servings of stuffing, which works well in our small, mostly-Paleo menu household. Double the recipe if you are serving more than 4 people at once. When doubled, only about ¼ of the recipe will fit inside the chicken.

1½ cup chicken stock
 1 tbsp. cara cara orange zest
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. packed snipped parsley
½ tsp. snipped fresh (winter) savory
¼ tsp. dried poultry seasoning
2 grinds fresh pepper
1/8 tsp. salt or to taste
~4½  lb. organic chicken
salt and pepper
a few dots of butter
~2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. cornstarch
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup red wine
¾ cups fresh orange juice
1/8 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. orange marmalade
2 tbsp. grated orange peel
1/8 tsp. salt or to taste
honey or agave or to taste if needed

For Lundberg’s rice: Prepare 6 oz. rice mix using 1½  cup chicken stock in place of water: rinse rice then add to medium saucepan with chicken stock. Bring to boil then reduce heat to very low simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Or prepare rice according to package directions.

Use a lemon zester to make 1 tbsp. orange zest from the orange peel (~½ orange). Set peel aside.

Heat olive oil in medium sauté pan over medium - medium high heat. Sauté celery until partially tender, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add raisins and onions and stir to coat with oil, cooking another minute.

Remove from heat. Add 2 cups cooked rice, stirring to coat rice evenly with oil and break up chunks of rice. Stir in ¼ cup chicken broth, reserved orange zest, parsley, winter savory (or substitute ¼ tsp. dried summer savory), poultry seasoning, and ground pepper. Taste stuffing and add 1/8 tsp. salt or to taste, stirring in thoroughly. Set stuffing aside to cool to room temperature.

Stuffed Roasted Chicken
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken and remove any fat that you find around the openings. Pat dry with paper towels both inside and out.

Pat salt and pepper onto chicken both outside and inside. Spoon stuffing LOOSELY into both openings in the chicken, filling and pulling skin over to cover. You’ll only use about half of the stuffing. Spoon the leftovers into a small casserole dish and dot with butter.

Wrap the middle of the butchers’ twine around the narrow part of the chicken legs, forming a figure 8 and pulling moderately tight, holding the skin closed over the stuffing. Make a second figure 8 loop around the legs, then pull twine to top (neck end) of chicken, tucking wings under twine. Tie twine at top of chicken to hold wings and legs in place.

Transfer chicken carefully to roasting pan fitted with roasting rack. Place chicken in 450 degree F. oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, baste the chicken with melted butter and lower temperature to 350 degrees F.

Cook chicken at 350 degrees F, basting every 15 minutes for perfectly browned skin. When butter is used up, baste with drippings from pan.

During the final 20 minutes of cooking, place casserole dish with leftover stuffing in oven.

Estimate the chicken’s cooking time from the standard 20 minutes per pound plus 15 extra minutes for the stuffing. Start checking the temperature on a 4½ lb. chicken at about 90 minutes to avoid overcooking. With meat thermometer, test both the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh and the middle of the stuffing. It’s done when both reach 165 degrees F (meat will be done first).

If the stuffing temperature is close to 165 degrees, don’t return it to the oven.  Allow the thermometer to sit in the stuffing for about 5 minutes while “residual cooking” takes place. This may raise the temperature to 165. If stuffing temperature is still too low, return chicken to oven and check at 15-minute intervals until stuffing is up to temperature.

Orange-Wine Sauce
Towards the end of the chicken’s cooking time, make the sauce. Cara cara oranges make a sweet sauce, and low/high sugar marmalade will affect the sauce’s sweetness. You’ll fine-tune the sweetness at the end.

Mix the cornstarch into a small amount of the chicken broth until smooth. Add broth, cornstarch, wine, orange juice, and paprika to medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Boil hard for 4 - 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and becomes clearer and glossy. Remove from heat and stir in orange marmalade and grated orange peel.

Taste and add final seasoning to sauce. Add salt a few pinches at a time (it intensifies other flavors) up to about 1/8 tsp. If oranges were sour and/or you used no-sugar marmalade, you might want to add a dollop of honey or agave.

Keep the sauce warm.

Serving the Stuffed Chicken and Sauce
Let chicken rest for 10 minutes after coming out of the oven. Then immediately remove to serving platter, untie butchers’ twine, and spoon stuffing out of both cavities. Combine the stuffing from inside the bird with the stuffing in the casserole dish for best flavor and texture balance (skip this step if there are vegetarians present!)

Put orange sauce in small serving bowl or gravy boat.

Carve the chicken and serve with stuffing and orange sauce. Kick back and enjoy the fruits of your finesse!

Pan of Stuffing with Orange Peel and herbs just added
Or Stuff Fish, Butternut Squash, Zucchini: Whatever You Like

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