Bruce ZabovCooking Corner

Stuffing for a 3-pound Chicken

by Bruce Zabov

cooking-cornerWith North American Thanksgiving holidays and Christmas coming up I thought this would be a good time to go over a basic stuffing recipe you can individualize as you wish. Too, the availability of the packaged stuffing mixes can be pretty variable and being able to whip up your own reduces your dependency on its being available or not. And YOU get to decide on its fat and salt content as well. This is the season weight tends to increase as we feast and it can help to be aware of what we’re feasting on.

You can make stuffing ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you stuff the bird and put it in the oven — but don’t stuff the bird more than a few hours ahead of roasting time. Plan on about 3/4 cup of stuffing for each pound of poultry– for example, 9 cups of stuffing for a 12-pound turkey, or 4 cups for a three-plus pound chicken.

If you should end up with more stuffing than will fit into the bird or make more to have extra, place it in a greased casserole dish and bake it along with the bird, basting with pan drippings when you baste the bird. The stuffing lover in your group (like me) will be glad you did. Season the cavity of the bird and pack the stuffing in loosely — it may burst the skin if you overdo it. And truss the bird with heavy string to keep it from drying out. Snip the string just before carving to help retain poultry shape.

To store stuffing after the bird is roasted, remove it to a separate container and fridge it for a few days or freeze it if it will be longer than that. It’s always nice to have it on hand for a quick dinner or to add a bit to turkey soup especially. And for that quick dinner I mentioned you can put it into a casserole dish, top with chicken pieces, add pepper, salt and a little butter, bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes and sit down to a Deep South “Chicken and Dressin’ ” dinner.

The usual recipe calls for dry bread or bread crumbs but you can also use croutons, cracker crumbs, crumbled corn bread, rice or barley. My favorite is a mix of white, whole wheat and cornbread cubes. Taste and correct the seasoning before you stuff the bird.

But let’s get on with the upcoming feasts and prepping the bird you plan serve.

Stuffing for a Three Pound Chicken (makes about 3 cups)

4 cups day old bread or bread cubes dried in a low oven

1 small to medium onion, peeled and chopped

1-2 stalks celery, washed and diced

2 TBS butter or margarine

salt and pepper to taste

2 TBS fresh chopped or 1 TBS dried mixed herbs such as thyme, sage, marjoram

1-1/2 C stock or bouillon

Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and saute the onion and celery until softened. Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl, pour on the liquid, and toss lightly to combine. Increase or decrease the amount of liquid for a more moist or dry stuffing.

Stuff and roast the bird at 325 degrees for 15 minutes per pound. To test for doneness cut a deep slit in the meat between breast and thigh. The juices should run clear and golden.

My caution here is simply not to fool around eating possibly under-done poultry. A meat thermometer doesn’t cost much and ensures well-done poultry, and, believe me, you do not want yourself or anyone you’re sharing with to run the risk of food poisoning or a parasite. To be sure of doneness, use a thermometer. Please.

Insert the thermometer in the thigh or breast, making sure the tip of it is not touching bone. Done meat in the thigh will read out at 185F and the breast at 170F. Allow the bird to rest for 15 minutes before removing the stuffing, then carve the bird and serve the feast!

Variations: 1/2 C raisins and 1/2 C chopped walnuts; giblets simmered for 45 minutes, drained and chopped; 2C chopped fresh mushrooms sauteed with the onion and celery; 2C oysters chopped in bite-size pieces. Just a few ideas to prompt thoughts of your own…

Next month: Turkey Hash ( what else??)