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The food pyramid commands you: Roast chicken and quince and sausage stuffing

December 1, 2006

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Stuffing is one of the more perfect side dishes. Think about it. Not only is it hot and delicious, but the best stuffings also have representatives from the major food groups: Bread, vegetable, meat, and in this case, fruit. Translation: Stuffing is totally good for you.

So when you’ve grown more than a little uncomfortably full and the zipper on your pants is starting to show its teeth — and yet you’re still contemplating that second helping of grandma’s stuffing … don’t hesitate. Remember your food pyramid, and fork up that stuffing, soldier. After all, our government says it’s good for you.

So now that I’ve convinced you that you not only like stuffing, but that you need stuffing, let me tell you about my husband’s latest grand design (featuring all four major food groups): Sausage and quince stuffing. Yessir.

Baked in that warm, fatty crevice that is the inside of a beautifully brined chicken, the stuffing’s many flavors — sweet and savory — mingle to create a stuffing piece de resistance. I’m a savory stuffing kind of gal, so I enjoyed the aroma and earthiness of the fresh herbs and sweet Italian sausage. But the nuggets of quince were wonderful players in this ouevre, and added their sweet song to its soaring medley. It was like a stuffing symphony arranged on the molars of my gaping maw.

Am I waxing poetic (and silly) about stuffing? Sue me. If you’d had it, you’d be spouting verse, too. And if stuffing can be a muse, I think you’ll agree, it must be damn good stuffing. (Not to mention the chicken. Oh, the chicken…. But that’s enough swooning for one post, don’t you think?)

Backgrounder…

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Other than vegetarians and vegans or other meat-adverse subversives, who doesn’t love chicken? I mean, isn’t everything in popular culture described in the context of chicken? … Frog Legs? Tastes like fishy chicken. Duck? Tastes like fatty chicken. Pork? Tastes like piggy chicken. OK, that last one is not really true and was just lazy by me, but you get the picture.

Yet this recipe is not just about very good roasted chicken. It’s also about my new best botanical friend: the quince. I started looking for them in the fall, bought them often and even have another recipe that uses them, maple glazed pork chop with quince. These golden beauties have such aroma and flavor that I had to find more places in my repertoire for them.

In this recipe, I simply modified a rather traditional stuffing of sausage and apples to accommodate the quince. I was very pleased by the results. The combination of cooking within the bird and the pork fat from the sausage yielded something I really enjoyed with the chicken.

Before I go, there are two technical issues here. First, the stuffing was placed inside the bird. This means you run the risk of salmonella if it’s not brought up to 165F. As a result, I employed a two-tier cooking method. The first tier was having it bake in the bird. The second was putting it in a large roasting dish to continue cooking while the bird was resting. The key in the second tier is to put the stuffing in a much larger dish than you would normally use. You want it to have a large amount of surface area so it cooks quickly and no longer than necessary — about the amount of time you allow your chicken to rest, so it all comes out together.

The second technical issue is the brining. Brining involves marinating the meat in a salt solution so that it is both tenderized and made more moist. In this recipe, it is not required, but the results are so much better if you do. To me, roasting is the easiest way to produce a chicken that is overcooked. Think of the brine as both overcooking insurance and flavor enhancement.

Overall, I really like quinces. They don’t taste like chicken. But the two work well together here.

Roast Chicken with Quince and Sausage Stuffing

Ingredients:

4 lbs. whole chicken

olive oil

salt

pepper

fresh thyme

Roasted Chicken Brine Ingredients:

1- 1 1/2 gallon water

1 1/2 cup salt

2 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp. whole cloves

2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorn

1 Tbsp. whole allspice berries

Stuffing Ingredients:

2 quinces (peeled and cubed)

2 1/2 cups French bread (cubed)

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage (loose, not in links)

2 cloves garlic

1 rib celery

1/2 large onion

1 tsp. fresh oregano

1 tsp. fresh thyme

1 tsp. fresh Italian parsley (finely chopped)

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Combine the brine ingredients and place the bird in the brine for 2-12 hours. Remember to keep the brine cold during this period either through ice or refrigeration. If you don’t, you run the risk of developing a great deal of nasty food bacteria.

2. Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry.

Making the stuffing:

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. In a pan over medium high heat, brown the sausage and then remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients except the chicken broth. Mix together and then add the chicken broth.

4. Open up the cavity of the bird, make sure all the potential extra chicken parts are not there. Press the stuffing in tightly. Pull the legs across one another toward the end and tie shut using butcher’s twine.

Roasting the chicken:

1. Coat the chicken with olive oil and then liberally season with salt, pepper and thyme.

2. Place the chicken on a roasting rack and into oven. Cook for 15 min. and then turn down the temperature to 375F. Continue to roast for another 1hour and 30 min or until the breast meat reaches a temperature of 160F. The cook time may be longer. If the skin on the breast gets too brown, make a tent to cover the breast using tin foil.

Finishing the stuffing:

1. It’s unlikely that the stuffing has reached 165F. This is a key temperature because it’s when salmonella and most bacteria die. So to avoid any potential issues, you need to cook the stuffing a brief bit longer. Therefore, using a long spoon, scoop out the stuffing and spread it out into an 8 x 8 dish. It should be fairly moist.

2. Return the stuffing to the oven and cook for another 7-10 min or until the temperature is 160-165. Serve the stuffing along with the chicken and enjoy!

8 comments

  1. Hi, this stuffed chicken looks so delicious. I have always baked my stuffing separately but will try this out. BTW, I love your site, it’s one of my favorite foodie blogs.


  2. Your photos are so lovely! I am a tad jealous. The winter light in MN does not make for the best photo ops. I love the photo of the hand in the chicken’s….er…a…back end.
    😉


  3. Thanks both of you. Its a great deal of fun and I’m just in the habit now of doing tons of prep photos while I’m cooking. I’m now to the point when I cook something not for the site I start to feel like its too easy.

    Oggi, I’m with you about cooking stuffing seperately. Most of the time I do as well. But cooking in the bird adds a lot of flavor to the stuffing. When I do my cornbread and chorizo stuffing, its all external. I designed this one with the bird in mind, so if you cooking seperately let me know how it goes. I’d be curiious.

    Kate, I have to admit that my wife saw that one and just laughed. We debated whether that picture was a bit too food porn for posting, but figured it was worth the laugh.


  4. the food pyramid always calls for low carb and high protein diet but ease up on dairy products as well;:`


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  7. Very good info. Lucky me I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon).

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