I’ve missed you, CrankyReader. I was out of it there with all the working I was doing, and then last week crankyGreg said something to the effect of:
There’s something glorbity smorking about the mammary cache of the Tostito smookity-do, so we’ll have to transmogrify existing posts over to Bluehost, where we’ve already registered the dominoes and have 72 hours.
I nodded, sliding across the kitchen to reach Z., who was trying to duck as his brother was evoking piercing whines by shooting imaginary lightning bolts. I tried to ignore, but quickly found myself shrieking, “You – the lightning bolts aren’t real!! You’re okay! And you – your brother was not put on Planet Earth for you to whomp every time you feel bored! And stop taking my kitchen tools! And where the heck are your socks?”
Yep. And then everything broke and I whined about it a lot. And as a bonus I have tremendous blogger guilt, since it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I haven’t been able to post about the first product I’ve been sent for review in time for it to mean something.
I will admit that I have a big soft spot for Olivia’s Croutons. They’re from adorable Charlotte, Vermont, and are a darned good product. Once I spotted them in a Wild Oats in south Florida and squealed so loudly the woman next to me dropped her seitan. (Ok. I’m making up that last bit. But I did get kind of excited to see them there in the tropical heat.) When I got an email from someone at the p.r. firm who’s now handling their marketing, it was easy to accept some of their stuffing to review.
(Total disclosure: I’ve had coffee and baked goods and sometimes network with Nicole from pmg.)
If you’ve been reading along with me, you know that I believe that the job of cooking is primarily to use what you’ve got. In this spirit, it’s hard to imagine ever buying croutons or stuffing, since there’s always leftover bread needing to become something or other.
But if I were to turn into someone who bought such things, Olivia’s would get my business. And for testing purposes, I was delighted to have an excuse to make something from Molly Stevens‘s excellent “All About Braising.” And what a delight to find that I somehow managed to have nearly all the ingredients around for:
Braised Whole Chicken with Bread Stuffing and Bacon
Adapted from Molly Stevens’s All About Braising, a cookbook you should own if you don’t already
In a large dutch oven, heat over medium heat:
- 4 T. unsalted butter, or mild-flavored vegetable oil
When rippling or foaming, add:
- 1 1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
- 2/3 c. finely chopped inner celery stalk, including leaves
Cook for a few minutes, or until nearly translucent, then place in a large bowl and mix in with your hands:
- 2/3 c. finely chopped good ham (didn’t have it: used turkey bacon)
- 1/3 c. pine nuts
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 1 bag Olivia’s Stuffing, or 5 cups stale mild white bread with crusts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- salt & pepper, to taste
Set bowl aside.
Preheat oven to 325.
Rinse and pat dry:
- 1 6 – 7 lb. roasting chicken, trussed
Then sprinkle generously with:
- kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
In the bottom of a large flame-proof dutch oven or large pot, heat:
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1 T. olive oil
Add and cook until the onion is lightly translucent and golden spots appear on all vegetables:
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, coarsely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
With heat on medium-low, add and bring to a gentle boil:
- 2 t. mixed fresh herbs – I used sage and thyme
- 3 strips of lemon zest, removed from fresh lemon with peeler or zester
- 1/2 c. dry wine (Stevens calls for white but the only thing I had in the fridge was an off-dry riesling so I went with a red)
- 1 c. chicken stock
Place a couple of cups of the reserved stuffing inside the chicken, being sure to leave plenty of room for it to expand. Place the chicken in the pot, and cover, including the legs, with:
- 5 strips lean bacon (wished I still had some VT Smoke & Cure around, but was forced to use more turkey bacon since that’s what I had)
Bring back to a gentle boil, cover, and then place in the oven.
In the meantime, take the remaining stuffing and place it in a casserole dish for which you have a cover, pour:
- 1 1/2 c. chicken stock over the top, and place it in the oven.
Cook chicken for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 when it pierces the thigh. Remove chicken and stuffing from oven. Using a carving fork and knife, or two wooden spoons, or your giant waterproof oven mitts, remove chicken from the pot and place on a rimmed cookie or half sheet pan. Raise the oven temperature to 425. Place the chicken back in the oven for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. (If you like crusty stuffing, you can scoop that onto the cooking sheet too, but cover it with foil or parchment after 10 minutes so you don’t burn it.)
In the meantime, remove any herb stalks and then puree the cooking liquid with your blender, immersion blender, or food processor, being careful of steam and splatters. (I left in the lemon peel, Stevens removes it. You decide whether you want it in or out.) Pour the resulting liquid back into the pot and place over a low heat until barely boiling. Stir in:
- 1/4 c. heavy cream, light cream, or half-&-half
and turn down heat. Stir until thickened. Keep warm.
Remove chicken (and stuffing) from oven and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes so the juices settle to make for better and more beautiful carving. To serve, I placed right on top of baby spinach leaves, which got all nicely wilted and kind of pleasantly oily and were otherwise delightful.