ROAST CHICKEN with Apple-Sausage Stuffing,
Pan-Reduced Sauce and Roasted Vegetables

Simple but elegant ... a perfectly roasted chicken, tender and juice, with crackly crispy skin. One chicken will serve two people generously; roast two of 'em for a dinner for four. Remember to start with a very HOT oven, no less than 475°F.

This recipe was partially adapted from a roast chicken technique by Mitchel London, from the August/September 1994 issue of Fine Cooking magazine.

The roast chicken

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Use an oven thermometer to monitor temperature.

Rinse the chicken well, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the inside cavity of the chicken with kosher salt. If you like rub the outside of the chicken with peeled, halved garlic cloves, and add whole unpeeled garlic cloves to the roasting pan. Crush the peppercorns with the flat of a heavy chef's knife, pounding with your hand, or with the bottom of a heavy pan. Rub the cracked peppercorns all over the outside of the chicken, along with more salt. If you're stuffing the chicken, stuff the cavity at this point. Otherwise, you may insert a few sprigs of fresh herbs into the cavity. For more even cooking and a neater appearance at presentation, truss the chicken: Tuck the wings in under themselves, and pass the middle of a 5-foot length of kitchen string under the tail, making a loose single knot across the drumsticks. Slip the string under the ends of the drumsticks, pulling them together tightly. Bring the ends of the string along the body of the chicken toward the neck end. Position the string so that it pulls tightly across the drumstick-thigh joint. Make a single knot at the neck opening. Bring the ends of the string back up toward the tail, along the first length of string. Tie a single knot catching the loose skin on either side of the open cavity (this helps keep the stuffing in). Pull the string over the drumsticks and tie a tight double knot, catching the tip of the breast. The chicken should be a neat, compact shape, and the cavity should be tightly closed.

Select a large cast-iron skillet, a heavy sauté pan, or any sturdy pan that's large enough to hold the bird and can go from stovetop to oven. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the olive oil, and heat. Put the chicken in the pan over medium heat and turn the chicken to coat it with the butter and oil mixture. Set the chicken on its side and put the pan on the middle rack of the 475°F oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken to the other side and roast another 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 400°F, turn the chicken breast side up, and continue roasting for 25-30 minutes, basting with the pan juices every 5 minutes.

To test for doneness, use a metal-stemmed meat thermometer. Insert into the thickest part of the chicken; the thermometer should read about 160°F. The chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F, but carry-over cooking after the chicken is taken out of the oven should take care of that. Otherwise, stick the tip of the knife into the thigh where it meets the leg and press slightly. The juices should run clear; if they're still red or pink, cook the chicken a little longer. Let the chicken rest for 3-5 minutes before carving.

If you've stuffed the chicken, remove the stuffing from the cavity and place in a serving dish. Carve, serve a breast and a thigh-leg for each person on a bed of wilted spinach, and drizzle with pan-juice sauce. Serve with roasted garlic cloves and roasted vegetables.

Pan-juice sauce

Put the roasting pan with all the drippings on the stove. Tilt to one side and skim off as much fat (clear liquid) as possible, or pour into a defatting cup and pour off the brown juices and cooked-off bits, leaving the fat behind. Start heating the pan over high heat and pour in the chicken stock. With a whisk or wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan and stir into the mixture. Continue boiling over high heat and stirring until the mixture is reduced by 2/3; it should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper, add a pinch of fresh thyme leaves, and serve with the chicken.

Apple-sausage stuffing

Make the cornbread, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the onion, celery and apple. Transfer to a large bowl when fragrant and soft. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until no longer pink; if using andouille, brown slightly, as the sausage is already cooked.

Crumble the cornbread and mix with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl; season to taste. Stuff the chicken, or whatever bird you're using. Remember not to stuff your birds too tightly; any leftover stuffing can be baked in a buttered casserole dish. This will make enough stuffing for one 10-pound turkey, 2 or 3 3-pound chickens, or about 4-6 Cornish game hens.

For the cornbread

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Separately, combine the milk, butter and egg and stir into the dry ingredients just until no lumps are present. Pour into a greased loaf pan or square baking dish and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Wilted spinach

Remove stems from the spinach; wash the leaves thoroughly, a few times if necessary, to remove all grit.

Place the wet leaves into a large frying pan; they will form a high mound but will collapse as they cook. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, place over high heat and shake it until the spinach is tender and wilted, about 90 seconds. Remove from heat, drain off any excess liquid, and serve immediately.

Roasted garlic

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut a slice off the top of each head of garlic, about 1/3 of the way from the top. Drizzle cut surface with a tiny bit of oil. Place the sliced top back on the head, and place in a small baking dish. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the outside of the heads, sprinkle with cheese, and roast until soft and pale gold, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Vegetables

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Trim off any woody stems from the asparagus. Peel the onions and cut them into halves. Scrub the carrots and remove the green tops, but do not peel them. Scrub the parsnips, but do not peel them. Cut the zucchini in halves, lengthwise. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (reserve for vegetable stock).

Arrange all the vegetables in a flat pan or roasting pan in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Turn, brush again with olive oil, and roast another 15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife.


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)