by Nigella Lawson
from Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
I am never so innocently happy as when making roast chicken. This is a more work-intensive take on it, but it’s supreme roast chicken for a feast: the bronze-breasted, crisp-skinned chickens come to the table bursting with their sour-sweet rice stuffing. The rice stuffing takes on a deep savory meatiness as it absorbs more flavor than you ever thought a roast chicken could have, but the only problem is you don’t get much more than a spoonful or two per person like this. You do lose some flavor, but it’s worth cooking a batch of the rice mixture in a saucepan, too, in which case use chicken stock (mine is, as ever, concentrated-instant not freshly made, though fresh organic stock from a supermarket package would be a wonderful alternative) rather than water as you need to oomph up flavor. And when the rice in the pan is cooked, fork in a little butter as you add the parsley, sprinkling with more parsley and a few toasted pine nuts in the serving dish.—Nigella Lawson
For the rice stuffing
4 tablespoons butter (plus fat from inside the chicken cavity)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
For the roast chicken
Two 5-pound chickens
2 tablespoons soft butter
Make the rice stuffing
1. Melt butter along with any gobbets of fat from the chicken’s cavity in a wide saucepan (one that has a lid). Process or finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the pan with the butter, frying over a medium heat until the onion softens and begins to color.
2. Discard bits of the rendered chicken, add the rice and chopped cherries, and give everything a good stir so that the rice becomes slicked with the fat. Add the water and a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil, then clamp on the lid and cook at the lowest heat possible for 15 minutes. While the rice is cooking, preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
3. When the rice is ready, by which I mean all the water will be absorbed and the rice be more or less cooked, fork through the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Make the roast chicken
1. Spoon the cherry-studded rice into the cavities of both chickens, and secure the openings with two or three cocktail sticks. The easiest way to do this is to pinch together the flaps of skin from each side of the cavity and make a stitch to hold them with a cocktail stick.
2. Rub the secured chickens with the butter and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The skin should be golden and crispy and the meat cooked through; test by piercing the chickens between thigh and body and if juices run clear, the chicken’s ready. The reason why the chickens take longer than you would normally give them is twofold: in the first instance, the rice stuffing impedes the flow of hot air; in the second, roasting two chickens in the oven tends to make each take longer to brown.
3. Pull out the cocktail sticks and let the roast chickens rest before carving.
Recipe © 2004 Nigella Lawson. All rights reserved.