Squash Stuffing, Roast Chicken and Chicken Soup

from Daniel Larkin 4:39 PM (16 hours ago)
to Jamey Bennett

What’s up, dude?  How’s the double shift lifestyle been treating you?  Work seems to be picking up, as long as the engineers can stay on top of the scheduling.  I’m hopeful that a five day work week is around the corner, so fingers crossed.

In food news, though, I’m officially obsessed with roasting chickens.  Being married to a vegetarian, I don’t come across too many occasions to cook a whole bird, but I got a wild urge to roast one last week and followed through.  When I get into the mood for chicken, it’s usually accompanied by a craving for stuffing.  I’ve adapted a pretty solid vegetarian stovetop stuffing recipe so Jenny can jam on it too.  We had a regular Thanksgiving.

So in order of everything, here’s a quick rundown of the stuffing.

Stuffing

For the bread, I raided the freezer and ended up with about 6 hoagie rolls (white, wheat and sesame) and two hamburger buns.  I cut them into cubes between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch, and toasted them in the oven at 250º until they were nice and dry.
Other ingredients are

  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1/2 butternut squash
  • Real maple syrup
  • Half a large yellow onion
  • One rib of celery
  • One medium carrot, or about 8 baby carrots
  • Garlic
  • Vegetable stock
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme and sage

I cut a butternut squash in half, peeled the solid top, and cut it into 1/4-inch thick slices.  (I stopped about an inch short of the stem) I brushed the slices with real maple syrup, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and then roasted them at 450º until they were cooked but still firm.  When the slices were cool enough, I cut them into 1/4-inch cubes.  Immediately after I pulled the squash from the oven, I threw a handful of chopped walnuts into the oven on a separate pan and roasted these for a few minutes.

In buttered pan, I sauteed the chopped onion, chopped celery, chopped baby carrots, and three cloves of garlic minced.  I also included about a 6-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, about five 4-inch sprigs of thyme, and three sage leaves, all chopped finely.  Oh yeah, and salt and pepper.

When all of this looked about done, I added the roasted walnuts, the par cooked squash cubes, a little more butter and a light drizzle of male syrup.  I sauteed this for another minute and pulled it off to cool.

Then in a large stock pot, I combined the dried bread cubes and vegetable mix – tossing by hand until everything was mixed.  When it was time to cook, I slowly heated the pot on the stove and gradually added vegetable stock until I found the right consistency.  The key is to go slowly, because you can alway add more liquid, but you can’t remove it without cooking the whole thing to mush.

But it’s chicken time.

I would be willing to bet that my approach to roasting a chicken is similar to yours.  Buy a good bird, and just don’t screw it up with a bunch of extras.

All I did was wash it, drizzle the skin and cavity with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed it with a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and a few sage leaves.  I also cut a lemon in half, squeezed some juice on the skin, and then stuffed the two halves in the cavity, with the larger end plugging the bird’s ass.  I roasted the chicken in a disposable aluminum pan for 105 minutes without once basting it.  It was seriously the most moist white meat I’ve ever eaten, and the hint of lemon and herbs was fantastic!

Hold on, now there’s soup!

I collected all the extra fat and liquids from the roasting pan and put them in a large metal container.  I quartered the bird and put the main carriage (skeleton) in with the juices, lemon and herbs and set this all in the fridge.  I ate on the chicken for four days, and every time I would finish a quarter, I would toss the bones and extra meat in with the carriage and juices.

A few days after finishing the chicken, I removed as much meat as I could from the carcass and bones and set it aside on a plate. I put the bones in a two quart pot topped off with water; then I began the boil.  I also included half of the lemon in the mix, but I took out a lot of the herbs.  When I had lost roughly 1/3 of the liquid to evaporation, I added about 8 oz of homebrewed ESB and kept boiling.  (I’ve made similar soup using A LOT more homebrew, but I was running low this time.)

I salted the stock lightly and tasted often.  When I had the flavor I was looking for, I strained off the liquid and picked off whatever meat had separated during the boil.  Then I threw the bones away.  Since I had just strained the liquid into a separate jar, I used the two quart pot to sauté some carrots, celery and onion in butter.  When the veggies were almost done, I added all of the meat into the mix and cooked it a bit more.  Then I just added the stock back in and simmered everything for about 10 more minutes.

Jamey, this might have been the best soup I’ve had in years.  The light lemon flavor and the fat of the olive oil and butter were a perfect match.  The chicken meat was tender, and I could have drank the broth all day.

It’s a long email, I know.  But next time you roast a chicken, this is a guaranteed way to perfect soup.  My initial plan was to add noodles, but I never missed them.  Who needs chicken noodle soup when chicken soup is better?

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