Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Potato-Stuffed Roast Chicken

I've stuffed plenty of chickens, but I have to say that I've never stuffed one with potatoes. But why not? Chicken and potatoes go together perfectly. So when I saw a recipe for potato-stuffed chicken in the book Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee, I knew I had to give it a try.

This is one of the books that's being mailed around in the Cook My Book group that I belong to. I'll admit that the chicken wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever made, but it was delicious, and the skin was super-crisp.

The interesting thing about this chicken recipe was how evenly the thigh and breast meat cooked. Usually the breasts cook faster and tend to dry out, but in this case, the layer of potato shielded the chicken breast from the heat. Meanwhile, all the fussing with the skin caused the legs to splay out a bit. And then I gave them a little encouragement, so that thigh-body joint that tends to be a problem was exposed to more direct heat.

Next time I make this, I'm going to add some flavor to the potatoes. Fresh herbs would be good, or maybe some roasted garlic or some onions cooked with the potatoes.

And there's going to be a next time for sure. This was a really good dish. Not stunningly pretty when it was done  - but I always cut up poultry before I serve it. So it doesn't really matter what it looks like in the pan.

Potato Stuffed Roast Chicken
Adapted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee

1 large Yukon Gold potato (about 11 ounces), peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
Fresh herbs, roasted garlic, or other flavorings (optional)
1 roasting chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Grate the potatoes coarsely using the large holes on your favorite grater. Wrap the potatoes in some cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.

Melt the butter in your largest cast iron skillet over medium heat (you'll be using this skillet to cook your chicken, so just make sure the chicken fits). Add the grated potato, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper (or to taste). Stir gently and cook for exactly 2 minutes, then transfer the potatoes to a plate and let them cool.

When the pan has cooled, wipe it out with a paper towel; you'll be using it again.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. The chicken needs to fit in the pan on that rack, so make sure it fits - ovens are not all the same, and you don't want the chicken bumping the top of the oven.

Now it's time to wrangle the chicken. Place it on your work surface with the breast side up and the legs facing you. slide your fingers under the skin and start moving it from side to side to release the skin from the breast meat. You want it completely loose from front to back. If you like, you can spin the bird around and work at it from the opposite side. Try not to tear the skin.

If you're adding fresh herbs or other flavorings to the potato mixture, mix them in now. A teaspoon of fresh herbs should be fine, or add what you like to taste. Stuff the potatoes into the space between the loosened skin and breast meat. Try to get it in somewhat evenly, then massage the outside skin of the chicken to get those potatoes into an even layer all across the breast.

Rub the chicken with the olive oil and season with as much of the remaining salt and pepper as you like.

Heat the cast iron pan on medium heat. When the skillet is hot, place the chicken breast-side down in the pan and press it gently against the bottom of the pan. Hold it while it browns lightly - about 3 minutes.

Flip the chicken over onto its back in the pan and place it in the oven. Cook at 400 degrees (yes, that's correct) for 50-60 minutes, until it reaches your desired cooking temperature. These days, 155-160 degrees is accepted. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes.

Carve the chicken as desired. The best thing to do with the breasts is to carefully remove them from the chicken bones and cut each breast into 3 or 4 large pieces for serving.