Boned & Stuffed Chicken (this post is not for the faint of heart)

I have been making boneless stuffed birds for years. I think I started with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Roast Goose with Smoked Ham Stuffing and Spiced Peach Gravy. I’m not sure why I even tried to make it boneless. Or maybe I made a boneless turkey from Sunset magazine. In any event, boneless birds have made it to my table for decades. I know that the following picture from 1986 is where I learned how to do the process, though I have other explanations as well. It certainly helped having this practice when I decided to make Julia Child’s Pate De Canard En Croûte a few years ago for an all-French Thanksgiving (ironically, just before I started cooking with French Fridays with Dorie, and of course Cook the Book Fridays).

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I like using this method, since it significantly shortens the cooking time, makes the meat more juicy, and creates a dramatic presentation. For a turkey, I can have the bird in the oven by 12-12:30 and we can still be sitting down to dinner by 5:30 or so. This also has the advantage of freeing up the oven early in the day – nice for when you have nieces who really want to bake pies, but don’t get in until late Wednesday!

On larger birds, I will sometimes debone the legs – either part or all, I usually leave the wings. I made this recently, and thought I’d show some step-by-step photos of the process. But, it really is not for the faint of heart. I know plenty of people who won’t even eat anything on the bone… let alone deboning something themselves!

The bird is placed breast-side down on a cutting board. Using a very sharp, thin knife (a boning knife is ideal of course), slice through the skin along the backbone. One side at a time, carefully separate the skin and meat from the main ribcage/carcass. You’ll scrape the meat from the bones, and move toward the breastbone – the cartilage that separates the two breasts. Be VERY careful not to cut through the skin. You’ll separate the meat from the bones at the breastbone at the last – that’s probably the trickiest part of the entire operation. At the wing socket, carefully cut tendons around the joint, and then carefully separate the wing by snapping it loose. For the thigh, similarly cut the tendons and separate the joint. Repeat this on the opposite side. When you are ready to cut the meat away from the breast bone, be sure to position the skin away from the cartilage/meat, and cut through. I’d rather have a little remaining than to cut the skin – since it needs to remain to hold everything together. And then, if you are removing them, scrape the meat from the thigh bones, and separate at the joint.

Not the most beautiful presentation at this point – but don’t worry if there are bits of meat that aren’t perfectly attached, it won’t matter later. Once deboned, lay flat with the skin side down, and season well. I used Chef Paul’s poultry seasoning (you can make your own or buy it) to season the chicken generously while I made the stuffing. For a more French presentation, pour an ample amount of port and/or brandy over the meat, allowing it to marinate while you prepare the stuffing. Of course, depending on what type of stuffing you’re using. For Thanksgiving this year – it will be a mushroom brioche stuffing.

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I love to make Cajun-Creole cornbread stuffing. I had some jalapeño cornbread left over, so it was easy enough to add some French bread, sautéed aromatics and spices and a little stock. Oh, and a little bacon. The recipe (below) calls for the vegetables to be sautéed in butter. I swapped out for bacon drippings, since I would be skipping the ham that is supposed to be added (sausage would be good too).

This mixture is piled onto the meat-side of the chicken. I always “sew” it up with bamboo skewers, since they are the most likely to be on hand. Once the bird is sewn up, you transfer it to the baking dish, and re-shape it to a bit more typical shape, then season again, with the poultry blend or other seasonings of your choice.

The bird gets roasted for about 1.25 hours at 400 degrees. You can certainly baste or rub with butter, but I never do. It is nice to serve with a gravy, wine sauce or other sweet/spicy sauce, though not necessary.

To carve the bird, you split the bird lengthwise, then it’s easy to carve slices, with some of the stuffing as part of the slice.

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This really is a great technique to learn. It’s easier the larger and meatier the bird is, but even though it takes some concentration – it’s a beautiful presentation, and makes for a delicious, juicy bird.

 

Boned & Stuffed Chicken

1 (5lb) roasting chicken
1 recipe Hearty Poultry Stuffing
1 T+ Cajun Poultry Seasoning
Hearty Poultry Stuffing

1/2 c bacon drippings (or butter)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c chopped celery
4 bacon slices, diced
1 t dried rubbed sage, or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 t dried leaf thyme, or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 t dried rosemary, or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 t dried leaf oregano, or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 t salt
1.5 t minced fresh garlic
1/2 t ground pepper
(1/4 lb smoked ham, coarsely ground)
4 c crumbled corm bread
6 c French bread cubes
2 eggs, slightly beaten
about 1.25 c poultry stock

Melt drippings or butter in a heavy 10” skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, bacon, seasonings and ham. Saute, stirring often until vegetables are wilted and bacon is cooked, about 10 minutes. Place cornbread and French bread in large bowl. Pour vegetable mixture over and combine. Stir in eggs. Add enough stock or broth to make a moist dress tin, stirring to break up corn bread and French bread. Makes about 1 lb. or 8 cups. (Double this for a turkey)

CtBF -Scalloped potatoes with blue cheese and roasted garlic

Wow, these may have been the best scalloped potatoes I’ve ever had!

Today, I thought I’d use a BLUFbottom line up front. Bottom line – these are amazing! And to be fair, I think that this is one of the times when an amazing-quality ingredient really was worth it.

To back up, there are plenty of French recipes that have you add a blue or roquefort cheese to a dish. I think there are mixed results. Sometimes it’s overpowering, others simply discordant. For this recipe, I decided that I would try to get around all of this – and went to the cheese counter. They were very helpful in providing descriptions. The one I bought said that it was creamy and smooth – wonderful melted. Seemed the perfect cheese for my dish.

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The cheese, if you’re interested is “St Agur Blue”, and is French in origin, though the helpful label says simply that it is made from Cows milk, penicillium roqueforti, salt and rennet. If you’re familiar with the recipe, you can see that I’ve also cheated with the garlic. This is remarkably delicious when added to recipes – and this was to be a week-night meal. I really didn’t have time to roast more garlic – and decided not to use the leftover roast garlic that likely remained tucked alongside the roasted beets from earlier in the week. And no – I didn’t even peel the potatoes! I did, however harvest some chives from the garden!

Simply put, layers of thinly sliced potatoes lay the groundwork for the chives, cheese, salt, pepper and roasted garlic. I made three layers. And then poured the half & half (with a dash of cream, yes) on top. I skipped the heating of the cream – it was going into the oven.

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I covered mine for about half of the time. The dish was pretty deep, so I think it took a bit more than the hour at 375 degrees. I uncovered it to get the nice crust – pushing the potatoes under the cream as I did so.

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This creates a dreamy dish of terrific flavors – all blend well, but have their subtle counterpoints in the dish. To say we loved it would be an incredible understatement. I served it with a simple, perfectly-grilled steak. Yes, I should have had a salad, and it would be terrific with this too.

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This is such an incredibly simple and fast dish to prepare – all of the time is spent while the potatoes bubble and simmer away in their cheesy-creamy bath. So while decadent, this is an easy dish for a show-stopping weeknight meal, or of course a special occasion. Not for everyday, but certainly is simple enough that it could be so.

To find out how others made their potato recipes, you can check the links out at Cook the Book Fridays.

CtBF – Baked eggs with kale and smoked salmon

Ramekins filled with baked eggs and other items are always a treat. Individual servings are always fun! This particular version includes sautéed kale with a good dose of garlic, smoked salmon and some cheese, along with house-made garlic crumbs to top it off. 

I chose baby kale, since kale doesn’t really really get very tender with a short sauté. I also chose some “hot smoked” salmon, instead of the standard soft lox-type. Since we wouldn’t be using it all for breakfast, that was more appealing to me in other guises. 

Essentially, make the bread crumbs – seasoning with a good helping of garlic and thyme. Sauté the kale in more butter, and more garlic. Assemble the ramekins and bake until the whites are set, but the yolks are still a little runny.

I served these with some crispy toast soldiers. We thought it ended up being the perfect amount as well – with just one egg (I can’t imagine eating 3 eggs in this!). Both the plain and smoked salmon versions were enjoyed. 

If I were making this again, I probably would substitute spinach. Or maybe beet greens, which I think would be delicious. The goat cheese was good, but I might sub that out – oh, wait! That’s what makes this preparation such a great one. The versatility. Each person can have the combination that most appeals! 

CtBF – Sardine Spread (rillettes de sardine)

This is an “extra” post for CtBF, since there was a 3rd Friday in September (that I am late for!). The idea was to have optional recipes that included ingredients that might not appeal to everyone. This week: Sardines. My rough calculation is that a bit over half of the group actually like sardines, and many of us have made a similar version when we cooked our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Sardines aren’t normal fare for me, though I don’t mind them, but I was reminded why I don’t really make this dish. It’s because it’s not very pretty. The same dish made with salmon…so much prettier.

I had found a can of sardines at an international food market, knowing that sooner or later, I would be making something like this. I had a hard time finding ones that didn’t have a bunch of flavoring – as it turned out, these were “spicy”.

See – not pretty. BUT, these get mixed (sans as many bones as you can easily remove) with a mixture of butter and cream cheese, and then some other items – like capers – and you can never go wrong with them! Unusually, this had lime juice in lieu of lemon – a nice touch.

It’s not pretty. But it is very delicious. We had this as part of a grazing meal watching football. The flavor is quite wonderful. And I skipped the cayenne called for in the recipe because they were “spicy” to begin with. I didn’t do this – but I bet this would be good stuffed inside those little fresh multi-colored sweet peppers you can find at the store these days – or in some other case that would compliment the flavor while giving it a bit nicer look.

To see what my other fearless bloggers thought of this dish, you can find links to their posts at Cook the Book Fridays.

CtBF – Gazpacho

imageIn My Paris Kitchen, gazpacho is described as more of an icy salad than a thin soup or juice. I like mine that way too – this one is maybe a bit of a combination. I was happy to see this right now, because tomato season is winding down, and so it would be perfect timing – and too late soon enough.

I did a recommended combination of techniques – diced the other vegetables (cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion), but used a few pulses in the processor for the tomatoes that had been peeled and seeded, along with a bit of bread – presumably for body. I used a few different types because I wanted the absolute most ripe ones possible.

Other than the veggies, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and some piment d’Esplette – and a tablespoon of vodka. We’re told the vodka makes the soup taste even colder. Unsure about that one.

I thought it would be a lot easier to serve in a pitcher – I thought it would be beautiful in a Mexican glass one I have.

The gazpacho is to be served with herbed goat cheese toasts. I didn’t make new – already had some. And made some garlicky toasts. Also, a little avocado to go on top along with some olives – very tasty with the gazpacho too.

This was a big hit. Delicious refreshing, and with the toasts, substantial enough for dinner. Certainly a great way to use tomatoes when you’re a little tired of salsa (really?) or fresh tomato sauce. Altogether a great recipe!

MDS – a disease you can fight

A very different topic today on the blog. No pictures of pastries or new garden delights. I have some friends who have a son that is fighting this disease – MDS. The link will take you to a site where you can get an immense amount of information about this disease, but I want to offer you a punchline first: by registering, getting a kit so that you can swab some cheek cells, get tested and if you are a match – donate some blood. You can save someone’s life. You might be able to save my friend’s life too – but so much more. No bone marrow donation – it’s just a little blood. If you’re a match.

Here’s a bit more information, and I have a link for you at the end.

My friend has developed a condition called MDS. It is a rare Bone Marrow Disease. Currently his MDS is in the precancerous stage, but left untreated it will almost definitely develop into Leukemia. At this time the only cure for MDS is a bone marrow transplant. At present he is working with the doctors at Stanford University and Be The Match to search for donors around the world who are registered. The only criteria is that you have to be between the ages of 18 and 44 to register. We realize that many may not meet the age requirement but we hope you will pass this on to anyone who will. When you join the registry (see info below), they will send you a registration kit to give a swab of cheek cells. They will tissue type the sample you provide and use the results to match you to patients. If you are chosen as a match for our son, the donor only has to give blood instead of using bone marrow and will save his life. The process is completely free. If you are 44 – 61, you can still donate, but the odds become worse and you have to pay to have it done. So if you or anyone you know might want to donate and possibly save a life, please respond using the following info or pass this on… please keep it going. It would be greatly appreciated. Contact Information is bethematch.org or call (800) 627-7692.

I would love for people to get tested. For my friend, for others who need this treatment. I had no idea that it was so easy and non-invasive. I am well aware that it won’t be for everyone, but this is an opportunity to make a difference, be a blessing and maybe even change someone’s life.

CtBF -Spiced meatballs with Sriracha sauce

From when I first opened My Paris Kitchen, I noticed this recipe. Maybe it was the Sriracha. Maybe it was the picture of the author eating a sandwich on the street. Or maybe it was the lengthy story that went with it. I don’t know. What I do know is that I wanted to make it, and was pleased to see it come up on our calendar now.

Apparently this is a riff on an iconic merguez sandwich found in Paris. This version relies on a homemade “sausage” made into meatballs. The sauce is a simple combination of mayo and Sriracha. The recipe notes that you can use ground lamb, beef, or a combination of both – and notes this should not be lean. I chose lamb because I can get it locally, and I was pleased to find out that it had been freshly ground so that was my pick.

This ended up being a weeknight recipe, and I forgot to take pictures – but really, there wasn’t a lot to see. A lot of spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, allspice, sumac, paprika), along with salt, Sriracha, garlic and chopped cilantro. That all gets mixed together, then the lamb was mixed in. I let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour (the recipe says it can sit in the refrigerator for up to 3 days – I thought that a little rest couldn’t hurt).

We had the option to bake or fry – I thought that baking (and only for 12-15 minutes!) seemed like a lot easier way to go – especially since I could put them on parchment. So I used a scoop to make the balls pretty even, and put them on the sheet. I was very pleasantly surprised that they didn’t put out a lot of grease, and they cooked nicely in the short time. Despite the short cooking time, they had a nice brown crust.

I was probably fixated on the picture of David eating a sandwich on the street – and while, if I thought about it – that was probably a baguette – I thought that Naan would be a great wrapper. I couldn’t get the small ones that I like – so sufficed with the larger ones. Heated on a grill, they are my favorite wrapper – including for hot dogs! Anyway, I served these a couple of ways – “deconstructed” as shown below..img_0968

and as a sandwich, as shown here.img_0964img_0965

Both worked great. And I sort of deconstructed the sandwich to eat it anyway.🙂

These were a big hit. The sauce was terrific. I probably used a little less Sriracha to match my crew’s tolerance, but otherwise, everything was wonderful and tasty. Not a bite left!

I was surprised that they meatballs definitely tasted like “sausage”, so I think that he got the recipe right in re-creating at home. I didn’t taste the lamb very much, and was a little sorry about that – but I also thought that it was probably better than ground beef would be. Maybe a bit chunkier grind. The texture was terrific. The flavor was great. We didn’t miss any frying (or the mess after), and loved the sauce. I definitely could see these as an appetizer as well – as actually recommended in the recipe. All in all, a big hit. It was fun to make something where I really didn’t know what to expect. You can find out what other bloggers thought of this weeks recipe at Cook the Book Fridays.