Roast Chicken, recipe can be adapted to roast turkey (see notes)
Roast Chicken, recipe can be adapted to roast turkey (see notes)

Roast chicken with lemon and leek stuffing

A recipe from What to Cook & How to Cook It

Preparation: 1 hour

Cooking: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Serves: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

1 large free-range chicken, about 4 lb

2 organic lemons

1 head garlic

Several sprigs fresh thyme

1 tbsp butter

2 onions

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling

2 slim leeks

5 oz crustless white bread, about 5 slices

1 handful fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley

1 handful fresh sage

1 medium egg

6 strips smoked bacon

1 tbsp all-purpose flour scant

½ cup dry white wine

1 ¼ cups chicken broth salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. If the chicken has an elastic string around it, snip it off and throw it away. Remove the bag of giblets from the cavity. Set the bird in a heavy-based roasting pan so that it fits fairly snugly. Finely grate the zest from the lemons, then set the zest aside. Halve one of the lemons and put one half inside the chicken cavity (the big hole between the legs). Cut the garlic head in half through the middle. Put one half of the garlic, plus a couple of the thyme sprigs, inside the chicken. 

Tie the chicken’s legs together: draw a long piece of string under the breast meat then around to the legs, then tie with a bow. Spread the butter over the breast and legs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a few thyme leaves. Finally, cut 1 onion into chunky slices and scatter around the bird. Drizzle everything with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Put the chicken into the oven and roast for 1½ hours. Drizzle the second half of the garlic with a little oil and add it to the pan halfway through cooking. 

While the chicken cooks, make the stuffing. Trim and discard any tough green leaves from the leeks and rinse them well. Slice the white and pale green part thinly into rounds, then thinly slice the second onion. Place a frying pan over low heat, add the remaining oil, then the onion and leeks. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. 

Tear the bread into big chunks and put into the bowl of a food processor with the parsley and sage. Strip the leaves from the stems of the remaining thyme, then add to the bowl.

Pulse to make fine, herby crumbs. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon half into a small bowl and lightly beat the egg into another. Stir the bread crumb mixture, lemon zest and juice, and the egg into the cooked leeks and onions, and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Stretch each bacon strip a little by holding one end of a strip, then running the edge of a knife along its length. It will increase in size by about 50 percent. Repeat with each strip, then cut them in half to make 12 pieces.

Lightly oil a baking pan. Shape the stuffing into golfball-sized balls, then wrap each one in a piece of bacon. Put the balls into the pan with the loose bacon ends down so that they don’t unravel as the stuffing cooks.

When the chicken is ready, the onions and garlic will have caramelized into the fat and juices in the pan, creating the basis of a tasty gravy. Lift the bird out of the pan and onto a serving board or platter using two wooden spoons. Put 1 spoon into the cavity of the chicken to lift it from the pan, and use the other to support its weight. Catch any juices that come out of the chicken in the pan below as you tilt it. Let the chicken stand for 20 – 30 minutes. Don’t cover the chicken, or the skin will get soggy. Don’t worry, it will stay hot. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Put the stuffing balls in the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start the gravy. Degrease the gravy by spooning any excess fat from the roasting pan, then set it over low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to make a thick paste, then add the wine, stirring constantly. Let it come to a boil as you stir, until you have a thickish, smooth mixture and the raw wine smell has faded.

Add the broth gradually, stirring constantly, until you have a thin, lump-free gravy. Keep stirring and simmering until the gravy thickens. If you like, strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a warmed measuring cup and cover the top to keep in the heat. Press the onion against the mesh of the sieve to extract as much of its flavor as you can. Add any resting juices that have collected under the chicken, too.

Serve the chicken with the stuffing balls and gravy, along with the soft roasted garlic, ready to squeeze onto your plate and mash into the juices.

IS IT COOKED?

To check whether the chicken is cooked, wiggle the legs a little— if they feel loose, this means that the meat around the joints has cooked. Next, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. Pull it out and look at the juices; if they’re clear, the chicken is ready. If they’re pink, return to the oven for 15 minutes, then test again.

TO ROAST A TURKEY

To use this recipe for a 10 – 12-pound turkey (enough to serve 8 with leftovers), coat the turkey with 4 tablespoons butter and roast, covered with foil, at 375°F for 20 minutes per pound. Uncover the turkey for the last 90 minutes of cooking. Double the stuffing recipe and cook it while the turkey rests for at least 30 minutes. Double the gravy quantities, and be sure to add all of the resting juices to the gravy. Serve with cranberry sauce and your favorite vegetables.