Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stuffing-Topped Chicken

This past Friday was a damp, drizzly, cool fall day. I guess that the end of summer had to come sometime, and the weather forecasters had been calling for this change, but it still depressed me a bit. After all, I had thought that the summer weather would last for a while longer-- weather forecasts are often wrong, correct? Oh well.

I needed to go out on errands, among these was to buy more paint for our front porch project, so I braved the drizzle. The autumn colors in the trees have been incredible this year due to the perfect combo of dry conditions, wet conditions, cool nights, warm days, etc. and even a grey day didn’t dull the brilliance of these as I drove to Lowe’s. I wish that I had brought my camera with me several times as the contrast between a steel-colored sky and the bright gold and orange leaves was gorgeous.

For dinner, I was in the mood for something warm and hearty. This was the perfect day to try a recipe I had marked in the October issue of Eating Well.

Jack and I do not eat red meat and the biggest hurdle preventing me from eliminating chicken from our diet can be directly blamed on my grandparents. :) My Mom’s parents had a poultry processing business (it was small; they woke up at 4am daily to pluck chickens and I cannot imagine doing anything even similar) and, later, a hatchery. I loved to visit them when I was a kid and, since the hatchery was practically in their back yard, I would go to “work” with them. Every so often, as an adult, I will open the large glass door of the refrigerated section in Sam’s Club which holds the 36-packs of eggs, and inhale. That aroma is very nostalgic for me! Anyway, my “job” was to pack the pee-wee eggs into cartons. My Grampa, who had been blind since he was a child, would sort the eggs by touch. Gram sometimes “candled” the eggs. She sat in a dark-curtained booth and watched as the eggs came by singly on a conveyor belt, their interiors illuminated by a large light bulb behind them (luckily, candles were no longer being used). Any egg with spots or defects inside, or cracked shells, were discarded.

As you may imagine, I ate a lot of chicken and eggs while growing up. Our big family dinners almost always featured a roasted, stuffed chicken or capon, or fried chicken. Gram made, hands down, the absolute best fried chicken in the history of the world. And eggs are one of my favorite breakfasts (I do use less yolks now, though, about one egg white to each whole egg).

When I saw the recipe for Stuffing-Topped Chicken, I became nostalgic. The rainy evening was perfect for trying this recipe. Although it was not Grams’, or even Mom’s, stuffed roast chicken, this was a very good recipe and I will definitely make it again with a few small changes.

One important change that I will make is to actually buy fresh celery. The only time of the year that I seem to buy this vegetable is just before Thanksgiving and it usually lasts until after Christmas. For the other 11 months of the year, I am able to do without. I have found that ground celery seed lends a similar flavor, and I don’t have to clean the slimy celery out of my crisper after I forget about it for several weeks. However, I believe that the fresh celery is absolutely essential to the stuffing in this dish. The shallot can be subbed with onion (I upped the quantity a bit to 1/3 cup) and a small, minced garlic clove.

I also used boneless, skinless chicken breast meat and cooked it for a tad shorter than the recipe, which called for chicken thighs, required. And I added 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley to the stuffing.

Although I scaled the recipe down for Jack and me, the next time I make this I will use extra chicken broth and flour to make more gravy. Although Jack said that he actually expected the stuffing to be a bit on the dry side, and it wasn’t, I would have liked more moisture in the dish (and a little additional gravy for the mashed potatoes).

Cubes of savory bread stuffing on top of chicken pieces and gravy,
what a delicious
meal for a cool fall evening!

Stuffing-Topped Chicken

Eating Well, October 2008

Here’s a one-skillet version of chicken and stuffing made with wholesome ingredients. We use chicken thighs because we love the rich flavor of dark meat, but boneless, skinless breast works too. Serve with Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Makes 4 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 45 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
5 slices whole-wheat country bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt-free poultry seasoning (see Shopping Tip)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (see Tip)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups quartered mushrooms (6 ounces)
1/3 cup dry white wine or dry sherry

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add celery and shallot; cook, stirring, until the shallot begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add bread and poultry seasoning; cook, stirring, until the celery has softened and the bread begins to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the stuffing to a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup broth; set aside. Wipe out the pan.

3. Toss chicken with 2 tablespoons flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1 1/4 cups broth with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken (shaking off any excess flour) and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

5. Increase heat to medium-high; add wine (or sherry) and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes more. Spoon the reserved stuffing over the chicken mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until the stuffing begins to crisp, about 4 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 401 calories; 17 g fat (4 g sat, 9 g mono); 77 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 30 g protein; 4 g fiber; 481 mg sodium; 515 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Folate & Magnesium (15% daily value).

2 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 2 starch, 3 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat

TIP: Shopping tip: Look for “salt-free” poultry seasoning near other spice mixes. If you can only find poultry seasoning with salt, reduce the salt to 1/8 teaspoon.

Tip: To trim boneless, skinless chicken thighs, we like to use kitchen shears to snip the fat away from the meat. After trimming, you’ll have four 4-ounce portions.