Bruce's Blog

a handful of dimes and a jukebox

A while back, I decided to try a recipe by my favorite Italian cookbook author, Marcella Hazan.  I was using the instructions from her wonderful Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  It is really an amazing book, and most of the recipes are so easy and incredible.  It makes me happy that I have it on my iPad as well as having the book (and the original books upon which it is based).

For example, there is a pasta sauce made entirely of onions.  Ok, there is some salt, pepper, white wine and parsley.  And some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano tossed in at the end.  But it’s indescribably good.  One of her most famous recipes is her roast chicken with lemon.  The ingredients are a whole chicken, salt, pepper and two lemons.  It is so good.  Trust me.

So I decided to try her recipe for boned stuffed chicken.  I have a particular fondness for roast chicken anyway.  So I looked over her directions for boning a chicken and gave it a whirl.  It was a total pain and as I recall, I gave myself a huge cut with the knife I was using.  But it tasted amazing.  And I’ve often thought about it, but didn’t want to go through another boning adventure.

One of the things my wife and I have been enjoying lately is the huge number of original The French Chef episodes that have appeared on Amazon.  If you have an Amazon Prime account (I make no money from Amazon, by the way, I’m just a fan) you can watch them for free.  So The French Chef  has lately been part of our standard rotation for the evening’s entertainment.

The other night, Julia boned a turkey on the show.  She decided to use a turkey because the size would make it easier for the TV audience to see what she was doing, but the techniques are the same for boning a turkey, chicken or duck.  She performed this with such alacrity and ease that I thought I’d have another go.  Whole chicken was on sale at Ralphs’ for 79 cents a pound, so if I totally messed it up, it wouldn’t be a big investment lost.

One of the other reasons I decided to give it a try was the hints that Julia gave. For example, use a very short knife.  This allows you the mobility you need when working in a tight space.  Another was to cut the backbone off at the outset.  I have some poultry shears, and I know how to use them, so this was no problem.  But imagine my surprise when I went back to Marcella’s instructions and found she had given the same hints, I had just glossed over them the first time.

Boneless Stuffed Chicken

So with short knife and poultry shears in hand, I set out to bone my bird.  That sounds kind of oddly lascivious somehow.  🙂

To my great surprise, the boning took only about 10-15 minutes, and was easy and straightforward.  No surprises or gotchas.  After boning it, you open it up, and put the stuffing in.  Marcella instructs you to sew up the bird.  I thought about it, but decided not to, because we don’t have an extra strong/big sewing needle.  I think ideally you’d want one of those that’s made for doing jeans or some heavy fabric like that.  So I went with Julia’s method, which is trussing the bird.

After trussing it, I roasted it pretty much as normal roast chicken.  I decided to keep the bones in the leg and wings, because it’s just not worth it trying to remove them — not really big enough to make stuffing them worthwhile, in my opinion.  Plus it makes it into kind of  a stealth boneless chicken.

As you can see, it pretty much looks like your garden variety roast chicken.  With some string marks. 🙂

One of the things that is so much fun about it being boned is the ease of carving it.  The legs and wings are no longer attached by bone.  They are hanging on by skin and good wishes.  So it’s a quick flick of the knife to get them off.  Then you can just slice your bird like it’s a meatloaf.

Sliced chicken

This is essentially Marcella’s recipe for the meat stuffing:
2/3 cup bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup milk
1 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons parsley chopped very fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic chopped very fine
pepper (fresh from the mill, naturally)
2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

You soak the bread cubes in the milk for 15 or 20 minutes. Mix the other items together and then mix in the bread cubes after squeezing all the milk out of them that you can squeeze.

I think any stuffing recipe that you would normally use would work, doesn’t have to be meat. Though it makes for a really interesting contrast. And the leftovers made us some really good sandwiches for breakfast. 🙂

Categories: Cooking

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