Braised Chicken with Bread and Bacon Stuffing

BRaised Chicken with Bread and Bacon Stuffing Done

With snow flurries in the forecast and cold temperatures to come for days my best winter dinner thoughts come from Molly Stevens and All About Braising, but before I could sit down and decide on a casual dinner for friends someone on another forum that I belong to mentioned the braised chicken with bread and bacon (for Thanksgiving) and I immediately knew that it would be perfect and the recipe happens to be one of my go to roasted/braised chicken recipes.  The best way to handle this recipe is to be organized and make most of it ahead of time, stuffing the bird at the last minute and of course the gravy is easily prepared while the chicken is finishing its last blast of heat.

A handy immersion blender allows you to make the gravy right in the braising pot instead of using a blender.  I might mention here that I made a total of 3-3-1/2 cups of chicken stock as inevitably the gravy is too thick or simply not enough and that last ½ cup solves both problems.

The gravy alone is gold as you use all of the braising liquid and all of the vegetables that went into it so big flavor especially if you have made and used the schmaltz. I agree that this would be a fantastic substitute for turkey at Thanksgiving as it is 6-8 pounds of perfect juicy chicken…

Bonus is the carcass makes a wonderful stock for another dinner or in my case a pot of ramen noodles when added to my stash of ramen broth etc.

I served each guest a local roasted sweet potato and a great “super food” salad of baby kale and other greens, apples, oranges, celery, almonds, and dried cranberries with a light caramel dressing.

Adapted from Molly Steven’s recipe in All About Braising

(The Stuffing:  Make ahead and refrigerate)

4 TBSP rendered chicken fat or butter

1.5 cups chopped yellow onion
2/3 cup finely chopped inner celery with leaves  (4 small stalks)
2/3 cup finely chopped baked ham (I used prosciutto de Parma)
1/3 lightly toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup currants soaked in warm water for 20 minutes (I used golden raisins and did not soak)
5 cups 1″ bread pieces torn from slightly stale rustic white bread (about 8 oz)
2 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) I highly recommend making this
salt and pepper (drizzle some over the dressing).

The Braise:
One 6-7 lb. roasting chicken, neck, heart and gizzard reserved
salt and pepper
2 to 2-1/4 cups chicken stock
1 TBSP rendered chicken fat or butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large or 2 small carrots, coarsely chopped ( I used 2 large chunked up)
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 large fresh bay leaves
3 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 strips thick cut applewood smoked bacon
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)


The Stuffing:

Melt the fat or butter in a saucepan and add the onion and celery.  Cook for about 7 minutes or until translucent.   Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with the ham, pine nuts, currants or raisins, parsley and bread. Toss to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 325.

Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water.  Pat dry.  Chop off the wing tips (I did not do this) and reserve.   Season inside and out with salt and pepper.   Stuff with enough stuffing to fill the cavity taking care to NOT PACK TIGHTLY as the stuffing will expand in the cavity.   Place any leftover stuffing in a buttered baking dish and pour over ½-3/4 cup of chicken stock, enough to barely moisten the stuffing. Cover with foil and set aside.   I had quite a bit of stuffing left so I used more broth.

Truss the chicken: “Using a length of kitchen string about 30 inches long, truss the chicken: Loop the middle of the string around the ends of the two drumsticks to pull them together. Now bring the ends of the string back along the sides of the chicken, running the string between the leg and the breast on both sides, then turn the chicken over and snag the string over the base of the neck so that it won’t slide down the chicken’s back. Knot the string securely and trim off close to the knot.

Heat the butter or chicken fat and oil in the Dutch oven. Once it’s hot add the carrots, onions, wing tips, neck, gizzard and heart. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat everything and sauté until brown in spots (about 7 minutes).

Add the rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for one more minute.

Add the wine and bring to a rapid simmer.

Set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Lay the bacon strips over the chicken from head to tail (use 1 of the strips cut in half to cover each leg.   Gently pout 1.5 cups of stock over the chicken and bring it to a boil.

Cover the chicken with parchment paper and tuck the edges around the chicken. Cover the pan tightly with the lid or with a sheet of heavy duty foil. Slide the pan onto the lower rack of the oven, basting every 30-40 minutes by spooning some of the braising liquid over the breast and lefts. Continue braising until the juices run clear or when the temperature between the thighs and the breast reads 170, about 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours.

When the chicken is almost done, put the dish of stuffing into the oven alongside it or on the rack above it to heat through, about 25 minutes.

Transfer to the chicken to a sturdy baking sheet and loosely cover it with foil. Increase the oven temperature to 475.

While the oven is heating, tilt the braising pan and skim off as much surface fat as possible. Retrieve the bay leaves, lemon zest, wing tips, heart, neck, and gizzard with tongs. Transfer the vegetables and juices to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in cream.

While the sauce is heating, place the chicken in the oven and roast until the top is browned and crusty, about 10 minutes.
Serve the chicken along with the stuffing and browned bacon. Pour gravy over and have the remaining sauce on the table.

Great finds this week…always check the freshness date on the greens.